Openness to Experience: The Gates of the Mind

Some of you may have taken the Big Five-factor personality test at work or school. These consist of Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion/IntroversionNeuroticism, and Openness to experiences. Open people tend to be intellectually curious, creative, and imaginative. They are interested in art and are voracious consumers of music, books, different cuisines, and other fruits of culture. Open people are less susceptible to psychological “blind spots.” People who score low on Openness are considered to be closed to experience. They tend to be conventional in their outlook and behavior. They prefer familiar routines to new experiences and generally have a narrower range of interests. Openness has moderate positive relationships with creativity (both artistic and scientific creativity among professional artists, musicians, and scientists), intelligence, and knowledge.

In general, psychologists tend to assume that Openness is a desirable trait. However, closed individuals prefer their own conservative and down-to-earth approach to life and would rate the desirability of Openness differently. Openness is associated with adverse outcomes, including nightmares, depression, and drug and sex experimentation. Closedness is associated with authoritarianism and difficulty in adapting to change.

In a classic study often selective attention test, researchers showed participants a film clip of several people passing a basketball back and forth and asked them to count the number of passes between players in white and to ignore the players in black. Take this video test yourself. Remember, Openness leads to seeing things beyond what is in front of you. 

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