8 Personality Studies Every Psychologist Should Know

People’s behaviour is explained by a mix of their personalities and the situations in which they find themselves.

People’s behaviour is explained by a mix of their personalities and the situations in which they find themselves.

Personality is the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that characterise a person.

People’s personalities can partly explain their behaviour.

However, the situations in which people find themselves also have a considerable influence.

Here are eight studies on personality that every psychologist should know.

Click the link in each section for a longer description of each of the eight studies on which this article is based.

1. Most people want to change their personality

Most people want to change their personality.

The most desirable changes for people are to be more extraverted, more conscientious and more emotionally stable.

It is easy to see why:

  • Extraverts are generally self-confident and cheerful and can also be impulsive, sensation-seekers.
  • Conscientious people tend to be more self-disciplined and they aim for achievement.
  • The emotionally stable are less likely to experience mental health problems.

2. Perfectionist personality

The personality trait of perfectionism is strongly linked to developing obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Young children who have excessive self-control and perfectionist tendencies have double the chance of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), psychologists have found.

It is important to catch OCD as early as possible in life so treatment can help to reduce compulsions and obsessions.

3. Neurotics are susceptible to stress

People who are higher in the personality trait of neuroticism are more susceptible to stress, a large review of the research finds.

Neuroticism is one of the five major aspects of personality — it runs on a continuum from very stable to very neurotic, with most people in the middle of the range.

People higher in neuroticism are at greater risk of depression as they have a stronger response to frustration, threat and loss.

4. Neuroticism doubles Alzheimer’s risk

Anxiety, jealousy and moodiness in middle age are associated with doubling the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The study followed 800 women for 38 years and looked at the effects of their neuroticism on the chance of developing dementia.

Neuroticism is a personality trait that includes moodiness, worrying and anxiety.

In general, people who are neurotic are more likely to be anxious, depressed, jealous or envious.

5. How to spot a toxic personality

People with toxic personalities have a mixture of arrogance and deceitfulness.

People with toxic personalities:

  1. are willing to flatter others to obtain favours,
  2. to take advantage of others by cheating,
  3. enjoy showing off their higher status to others,
  4. act in an entitled way,
  5. and want to have things others do not.

However, toxic personalities can survive and even prosper in the workplace, and elsewhere, if they have one critical ingredient: social skills.

6. Acting like an extravert

Acting like an extravert makes people feel happier — even natural introverts, research finds.

Both extraverts and introverts report greater well-being after a week spent being more talkative, assertive and spontaneous.

It is the first study to report the benefits of acting like an extravert over such an extended period.

The study also demonstrates that people who are naturally introverted can enjoy this exercise as much as extraverts.

7. Healthy personality traits

Being optimistic, feeling positive emotions and controlling negative emotions are all linked to better mental health, psychologists have found.

The good news is that all three traits can be trained and improved.

Practicing these positive traits can actually change vital brain structures.

Indeed, new research reveals that people with these resilient personality factors have greater brain volume in critical areas of their prefrontal cortex.

8. Agreeableness linked to empathy

People with the personality trait of agreeableness are more likely to be highly empathic.

Agreeable people tend to be friendly, warm and tactful — always taking into account other people’s feelings.

Agreeable people also tend to be trusting, modest, straightforward and compliant.

Psychologists have found that agreeable people are more likely to help others out — and this is partly down to empathy.

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Hello, and welcome to PsyBlog. Thanks for dropping by.

This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

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, 2013) and several ebooks.