Summary: Researchers make strides in mapping the complex interplay between human cognition and personality traits.
This study synthesized data from over 1,300 studies globally, representing 2 million participants, to examine how personality traits and cognitive abilities intertwine.
Findings reveal a direct link between cognitive prowess and activity levels, mental health’s impact on knowledge accumulation, and a strong positive correlation between cognitive abilities and open-mindedness. This study revolutionizes our understanding of human individuality, shedding light on the diverse tapestry of the human mind.
- The study drew upon data from over 1,300 studies across 50 countries, involving over 2 million participants.
- Active and energetic individuals were found to have superior command over various cognitive abilities, including knowledge acquisition and memory retrieval.
- There is a strong positive relationship between cognitive abilities and open-mindedness.
Source: University of Minnesota
In a new landmark study, University of Minnesota research shows surprising links between human cognition and personality — pillars of human individuality that shape who we are and how we interact with the world.
Personality influences our actions, emotions and thoughts, defining whether we are extroverted, polite, persistent, curious or anxious.
On the other hand, cognitive ability is the umbrella that reflects our capability for navigating complexity, such as articulating language, grasping intricate mathematics and drawing logical conclusions.
Despite the prevailing belief that certain connections exist — for instance, introverted individuals are often perceived as more intelligent — scientists lacked a comprehensive understanding of these intricate connections.
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, synthesizes data from over 1,300 studies from the past century, representing more than 2 million participants from 50 countries and integrating data from academic journals, test manuals, military databases, previously unpublished datasets and even proprietary databases of private companies.
This monumental endeavor presents an in-depth examination of the full pantheon of personality traits and cognitive abilities, spanning across a multitude of cultures and demographic groups. It features an array of 79 personality traits — from modesty to agreeableness — alongside 97 cognitive abilities — from reading speed to memory.
“Knowing how personality and intelligence are related allows us to ponder the much deeper question of why,” said Deniz Ones, a co-author of the study and a professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts.
“These findings revolutionize our understanding of human diversity and individuality. Only by knowing ourselves can we fully tap into our potential.”
Key findings include:
- Individuals who are active and energetic tend to have a better command of various cognitive abilities. Most notably, this includes extensive knowledge, efficient memory retrieval and enhanced information processing. Regardless of the subject, active folks tend to know more about it.
- People who tend to experience high levels of depression or anxiety may find it more difficult to accumulate knowledge or reason logically.
- Those who were more industrious and compassionate tended to have better verbal and quantitative knowledge skills. This discovery suggests an exciting connection between personality traits and how we learn.
- There are robust, positive relationships between many cognitive abilities and open mindedness (i.e., receptivity to fresh ideas).
“It took over 13 years and a team of over 30 volunteers to seek out, translate, enter and analyze the over 1,300 studies,” said Kevin Stanek, a co-author of the study who previously led the College’s Personality and Intelligence Lab.
“We’re extremely grateful to the research team as well as the broader set of thousands of scholars, librarians and companies who contributed their time and data to piece together this mosaic.”
A surprising revelation from this research was the consistency of research methods over the past century. Contemporary personality research often still employs self-reporting of agreement with written items.
To counter this stagnation, the authors are working on research to explore the use of innovative methods such as sensor studies and generative AI for assessing personality traits and cognitive abilities.
About this cognition and personality research news
Original Research: Closed access.
“Meta-analytic relations between personality and cognitive ability” by Deniz Ones et al. PNAS
Meta-analytic relations between personality and cognitive ability
Cognitive ability and personality are fundamental domains of human psychology. Despite a century of vast research, most ability–personality relations remain unestablished.
Using contemporary hierarchical personality and cognitive abilities frameworks, we meta-analyze unexamined links between personality traits and cognitive abilities and offer large-scale evidence of their relations.
This research quantitatively summarizes 60,690 relations between 79 personality and 97 cognitive ability constructs in 3,543 meta-analyses based on data from millions of individuals. Sets of novel relations are illuminated by distinguishing hierarchical personality and ability constructs (e.g., factors, aspects, facets).
The links between personality traits and cognitive abilities are not limited to openness and its components. Some aspects and facets of neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness are also considerably related to primary as well as specific abilities.
Overall, the results provide an encyclopedic quantification of what is currently known about personality–ability relations, identify previously unrecognized trait pairings, and reveal knowledge gaps.
The meta-analytic findings are visualized in an interactive webtool. The database of coded studies and relations is offered to the scientific community to further advance research, understanding, and applications.