Openness to experience is the personality trait most strongly linked to higher intelligence, research finds.
People who are open to experience tend to be intellectually curious, imaginative, seekers of variety and sensitive to their feelings.
Naturally, people who are open to experience like trying out new activities and ideas.
Openness to experience is one of the five major aspects of personality, along with conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness and extraversion.
The study’s author, Dr Scott Barry Kaufman, explains:
“Openness to experience is the broadest personality domain of the Big Five, including a mix of traits relating to intellectual curiosity, intellectual interests, perceived intelligence, imagination, creativity, artistic and aesthetic interests, emotional and fantasy richness, and unconventionality.”
The conclusions come from a survey of 146 people who were asked questions about their personality and intelligence.
The results showed the strongest links between openness to experience and higher IQ.
Being open to experience is so powerful that it is linked to intelligence when measured almost 40 years later.
In particular, two aspects of openness to experience were most strongly related to intelligence.
Firstly, intellectual engagement, which comprises:
- finding abstract thinking pleasurable,
- enjoying coming up with new solutions to problems,
- and liking reading.
Secondly, aesthetic engagement, which can involve activities like:
- going to the cinema,
- drawing or painting,
- and playing a musical instrument.
More intelligent people are particularly appreciative of beauty: they have a strong aesthetic sense.
Along with these factors, insatiable curiosity is also strongly linked to higher intelligence.
The link is probably down to higher intelligence driving ‘cognitive hunger’.
Cognitive hunger makes people seek out new experiences to satiate this hunger.
The study was published in The Journal of Creative Behavior (Kaufman, 2013).