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Big Five Personality Traits and Age sample essay

The aim of the present study was to investigate the comparison between the big five personality traits and males and females between 15 to 30 years and 50 years and over. 26 females and 26 males completed a Big 5 Personality Test online, using the internet. The hypothesis that, males and females, between the ages of 15 to 30 years, would score higher in Openness to experience and Extraversion than males and females who are 50 years and over, was supported. It was concluded that Openness to experience and Extraversion were higher in those who were between the ages of 15 to 30 years old than those who were 50 years and older. Based on these findings it could be generalised that people between the ages of 15 to 30 are more imaginative, outgoing and energetic than those who are 50 years and older, whereas those who are 50 years and over are more organised, reliable, kind and modest.

Introduction

Age-related differences in personality have captured the attention of many people. Personality can be defined as “an individual’s unique pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour that are relatively stable over time and across situations”. (Grivas & Carter, 2010) Costa and McCrae (1999) had developed a five-factor model to explain the five big factors that make up a personality, the five factors are: Openness to Experience (includes traits such as imaginative, curious, artistic, excitable, insightful and unconventional), Conscientiousness (includes traits such as organised, thorough, efficient, competent, reliable and self-disciplined), Extraversion (includes traits such as outgoing, sociable, talkative, energetic, assertive and adventurous), Agreeableness (includes traits such as cooperative, compliance, sympathetic, kind, affectionate, forgiving and modest) and Neuroticism (includes traits such as tense, anxious, moody, irritable, impulsive, self-conscious and vulnerability). Past research had been conducted to investigate age differences in personality across the adult life span in five different cultures.

Costa and McCrae (1999) used samples from Germany, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, and Korea and found that Extraversion and Openness to experience were lower in older participants than younger participants whereas Conscientiousness and Agreeableness showed the reverse pattern. Neuroticism was found to be lower in older participants than younger participants in Germany, Portugal, and Korea whereas age differences were not detectable in Italy and Croatia. (Donnellan and Lucas, 2007) At present, a comparison between the five factors and age has not been investigated in males and females between the age of 15 to 30 years and 50 years and over. The aim of the present study was to investigate the comparison between the big five personality traits and males and females between 15 to 30 years and 50 years and over. It was hypothesised that males and females between the ages of 15 to 30 years would score higher in Openness to experience and Extraversion than males and females who are 50 years and over.

Method

Participants- The sample consisted of 52 participants (26 males and 26 females). Participants were put into 2 groups depending on age. 13 males and 13 females were between 15 and 30 years of age, and 13 males and 13 females were 50 years or over. Materials- A Big 5 Personality Test was completed online, which was accessed at the following website: http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/ Procedure- Participants provided written informed consent and were informed of their withdrawal rights and confidentiality of their personal details. Participants were to complete a Big 5 Personality Test online which was accessed on the website. Participants received a score out of 100 for each of the traits. Data was collected, summarised and interpreted.

Figure 1: Mean scores on each of the five personality traits. As shown above, on average participants between the age of 15 to 30 scored 58 on Openness to experience and participants who are 50 years and over got a score of 30. Participants who are between 15 to 30 years of age scored 50 on Conscientiousness whereas participants who are 50 years and over got a mean score of 75. Participants 15 to 30 years scored 66 on Extraversion and participants 50 years and older got a score of 35. Participants 50 years and over got a mean score of 60 on Agreeableness whereas participants who are 15 to 30 years got a score of 45. Participants who are 15 to 30 years of age got a mean score of 53 in Neuroticism and participants 50 years and older got a mean score of 45.

Discussion

The hypothesis that, males and females, between the ages of 15 to 30 years, would score higher in Openness to experience and Extraversion than males and females who are 50 years and over, was supported. These findings show that the younger age group (15-30 years) scored higher in Openness to experience and Extraversion whereas the older age group (50+ years) scored higher in Conscientiousness and Agreeableness. The group consisting of 15 to 30 year old participants scored higher in Neuroticism but had close mean scores to those in the 50 years and over group. The results were similar to the evidence found by Donnellan and Lucas (2007) that “Extraversion and Openness to experience are negatively associated with age whereas Agreeableness is positively associated with age. “ Future research should focus on exploring the five-factor model in different age groups with varying cultural backgrounds.

The present study has a number of limitations; a limitation could be that the online test may not be valid so it does not accurately access personality. It is uncertain whether an adequate sample size was obtained. In addition, possible extraneous variables may have also played a role, including the participant’s mood at the current time of completing the online test and personal characteristics such as their motivation to complete the online personality test. These extraneous variables should be minimised or controlled for in future studies focusing on the five factors of a personality.

In conclusion the present study found that Openness to experience and Extraversion were higher in those who were between the ages of 15 to 30 years old than those who were 50 years and older. Based on these findings it could be generalised that people between the ages of 15 to 30 are more imaginative, curious, outgoing, excitable and energetic than those who are 50 years and older, whereas those who are 50 years and over are more organised, reliable, kind, affectionate and modest. However, the findings of the present study should be considered with caution, given the number of limitations discussed above.

References

Costa, T.R. & McCrae, R.R. (1999) Age Differences in Personality Across the Adult Life Span: Parallels in Five Cultures. Developmental Psychology, 35, 466-477 Costa, T.R. & McCrae, R.R. (2010) Theories of Personality – Costa and McCrae Five-Factor Model. Psychology for the VCE Student Units 1&2 5E, 531-534 Donnellan, M.B. & Lucas, R.E. (2007) Age Differences in the Big Five Across the Life Span: Evidence from Two National Samples. Psychology and Aging, 23, 558-566 Grivas, J. & Carter, L. (2010) Ways of Describing Personality. Psychology for the VCE Student Units 1&2 5E, Chapter 12

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