Melissa Dahl – The 5 Personality Traits That Make for a Better Life

There are many paths to a good life. Some are just more rigorously studied than others.

Across many years — and many peer-reviewed papers — psychology researchers have time and again identified two personality traits that tend to correlate with greater well-being: One is extroversion — as in, the more extroverted you are, the more likely you are to be happy and satisfied with your life. The other is neuroticism, though, perhaps not surprisingly, for this trait the relationship works the other way: The lower your score in neuroticism, the higher your overall well-being tends to be. These findings are based in what’s known as the Big Five, a widely used model for studying and understanding five major dimensions of personality: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. (For more on that — and to get an idea of your own personality — you can test yourself here, in this quiz put together by Jesse Singal and Ashley Wu for Science of Us in December.)

But people are complicated, perhaps more complicated than these five aspects of personality can adequately represent. An alternative model of personality splits each of those five aspects into two, and a compelling new paper examines these ten traits to gain a more nuanced portrait of the “personal paths to well-being,” as study co-author Scott Barry Kaufman phrased it in a recent column for Scientific American. (The paper itself was published late last year in the Journal of Personality, and Jessie Sun was the lead author.) Five of those traits, Kaufman writes, were “broadly related to well-being,” meaning that if “you score high in ANY of these 5 personality aspects, you are probabilistically more likely to have high well-being across multiple aspects of your life.”

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