Although one might assume personality is a fixed construct established in childhood, studies have demonstrated that the opposite is actually true by revealing that personality traits actually evolve as we grow older (Kersting 2003). There are five major traits by which every individual’s personality are defined and these are applicable no matter the race of gender of that individual, though there will be variations within these traits across a wide range of ages in addition to the other factors mentioned above. The five traits are labeled simply and each one serves a distinct purpose in creating the overall character makeup that defines us, together they form the building blocks of who each and every one of us is in this world. They are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The recent studies that examined the consistency and development of these traits found that certain ones develop more readily and completely than others, and evolve at different periods in the lifespan of the individual (Kersting 2003).
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The first, but by no means more important than the others, is openness. This is defined by an individual’s willingness to try new things and remain open-minded about life experiences and the world that surrounds the individual (Atkinson et al. 2000). Those who score high in the openness category on personality tests are often interested in art and culture, possess strong imaginations, and generally curious about most things. The opposite holds true for those who don’t score well with openness, as they tend to be more closed off and hold conservative views on life, not so much politically but with experiences in general.
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The next one is conscientiousness and it characterizes the individual with respect to self-discipline, attentiveness to goals, and diligence towards organization and detail. This trait is linked to success in career and in relationships both personal and professional (Kersting 2003). Someone who has strong conscientiousness of their personality is always prompt, pays close attention to specifics, makes sure the job is done right and thinks and cares about making sure their responsibilities are met.
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Extraversion is the next major defining trait of personality and it is gauged by how comfortable an individual feels interacting with the world around them. Some people are more extroverted than others, we all know that one guy or gal who loves to be the center of attention or is always the life of the party. These folks would undoubtedly score higher in this category on a personality test. Extraversion is usually connected to high energy personalities who are always on the go, doing something instead of talking about it (though many will also love to talk out loud and express themselves), and are direct and assertive in just about every situation.
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Agreeableness is the trait through which our compassion and concern for our fellow man and woman is measured. People who score high with this trait have agreeable natures, genuinely care about the well-being of those around them, and often show tender, kind emotions and strong generosity in all things (Atkinson et al. 2000). People who are often empathetic and helpful are characterized by this trait, which can show signs of change in the individual as they get older, making them more agreeable than they were in the younger years. (Kersing 2003).
Finally, there’s neuroticism which is marked by feelings of anger, anxiety, disillusionment and a general sour disposition. Those who have a strong neuroticism trait tend to have mood swings, become depressed, and are prone to becoming irritable or stressed easily. Though you may have an image of Larry David in your head right now, neuroticism is similar but not the same as neurotic. (Atkinson et al 2000). Scoring high on the neuroticism part of the personality test indicates an emotional instability more than it does an overall cynical and bothersome view of the world.