Being open to experience is the personality trait most strongly linked to high IQ.
People who are open to experience show a special interest in things that are unconventional, new and complex.
Openness to experience is one of the five major aspects of personality, along with conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion and agreeableness.
Recent research has shown that certain sub-components of openness have strong links to high IQ:
- Appreciating beauty,
- having an active fantasy life,
- being emotionally sensitive,
- and wide-ranging curiosity
Strongest of these is curiosity: people who are highly curious are likely to have high IQs.
Curiosity is strongly linked to IQ because higher intelligence drives ‘cognitive hunger’.
Cognitive hunger makes people seek out new experiences.
The conclusions come from a study of 17,415 people in the UK who were given personality and IQ tests and followed up over four decades.
The study’s authors explain their results:
“…childhood intelligence is indeed positively associated with adult trait Openness, even when it was assessed almost four decades earlier when participants were at 11 years.
Intelligence may influence the development of personality in that intelligent people develop habits to satisfy their curiosity and ‘‘cognitive hunger’’ which are an essential ingredient of Openness.”
It is a higher IQ that drives a greater level of openness to experience, the authors write:
“Parents of higher socioeconomic status may foster children’s trait Openness by providing better resources such as choosing good schools and cultural environment (theaters, museums, traveling abroad, etc.); intelligent children tend to use more mental activities (such as abstract ideas, learning new
vocabularies, or math formulas) than those who are less intelligent; school settings (quality of teaching, good facilities) may enhance pupils to engage more in school learning.
All these three factors may influence educational and
occupational achievement, which in turn, may increase
the scores on Openness.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Individual Differences (Furnham & Cheng, 2016).