Forget your Enneagrams and star signs: Here are the real personality types
Science has at last cracked the code of personality, and it turns out you belong to one of four distinct clusters
Since Hippocrates first suggested personality types might exist in the 4th century BC there have been attempts to group people by their character traits.
But despite the claims of self-help gurus and pseudo-psychologists, scientists have largely dismissed the idea that humans can be pigeonholed into a handful of defined dispositions. Until now.
Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois sifted through data from more than 1.5 million questionnaire respondents and found that at least four distinct clusters of personality types exist: average, reserved, self-centred and role model.
And there’s good news for parents of teenagers. As people mature their personality types shift, with older people growing more conscientious and agreeable than those under 20 years old.
The researchers claim the findings are so important that they challenge existing wisdom in psychology.
“Personality types only existed in self-help literature and did not have a place in scientific journals,” said study author Luis Amaral, the Erastus Otis Haven Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern Engineering.
“Now, we think this will change because of this study.”
The concept of personality types is controversial in psychology, with hard scientific proof difficult to find.
Previous attempts to define character groups were largely based on small research groups, which could not be replicated.
But the researchers decided to take advantage of a new phenomenon of people taking online quizzes to try to learn more about their own personality.
The new study used answers from four online questionnaires, including the BBC Big Personality Test.
“The thing that is really, really cool is that a study with a dataset this large would not have been possible before the web,” added Amaral.
“Previously, maybe researchers would recruit undergraduates on campus, and maybe get a few hundred people. Now, we have all these online resources available, and now data is being shared.”
From those datasets the team plotted the five widely accepted basic personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
After developing new algorithms, four clusters emerged. Average people, who are high in neuroticism and extraversion, while low in openness. Reserved people who are emotionally stable, but not open or neurotic, as well as role models and self-centred individuals.
“The data came back, and they kept coming up with the same four clusters of higher density and at higher densities than you’d expect by chance, and you can show by replication that this is statistically unlikely,” said co-author William Revelle, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
“I like data, and I believe these results. People have tried to classify personality types since Hippocrates’ time, but previous scientific literature has found that to be nonsense.
“Now, these data show there are higher densities of certain personality types,” said Revelle, who specialises in personality measurement, theory and research.”
To be sure the new clusters of types were accurate, the researchers used a notoriously self-centred group – teenaged boys – to validate their findings
“We know teen boys behave in self-centred ways,” added Amaral. “If the data were correct and sifted for demographics, they would they turn out to be the biggest cluster of people.”
Young males were found to be over-represented in the self-centred group, while females over 15 are vastly under-represented.
The research was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
– © The Daily Telegraph
The four personality tapes
• Average: Average people are high in neuroticism and extraversion, while low in openness. “I would expect that the typical person would be in this cluster,” said Martin Gerlach, a postdoctoral fellow in Amaral’s lab and the paper’s first author. Females are more likely than males to fall into the average type.
• Reserved: This type is emotionally stable, but not open or neurotic. They are not particularly extraverted but are somewhat agreeable and conscientious.
• Role models: They score low in neuroticism and high in all the other traits. The likelihood that someone is a role model increases dramatically with age. “These are people who are dependable and open to new ideas,” Amaral said. “These are good people to be in charge of things. In fact, life is easier if you have more dealings with role models.” More women than men are likely to be role models.
• Self-centred: These people score very high in extraversion and below average in openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. “These are people you don’t want to hang out with,” Revelle said. There is a very dramatic decrease in the number of self-centred types as people age, both with women and men.