Social consequences of experienti...
Psychological Bulletin 1996, Vol. 120, No. 3, 323-337 In the public domain Social Consequences of Experiential Openness Robert R. McCrae Gerontology Research Center, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health Openness to Experience isone of the 5 broad factors that subsume most personality traits. Openness is usuallyconsidered an intrapsychic dimension, denned in terms of characteristics of consciousness. However, different ways of approaching and processing experience lead to different value systems that exercise a profoundeffect on social interactions. In this article, the author reviews the effects of Openness versus Closedness in cultural innovation, political ideology, social attitudes, marital choice, and interpersonal relations. The construct of Openness and its measures could profitably be incorporated into research conducted by social psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, and historians. Part of the excitement surrounding the recent rise of the five- factor model of personality (FFM Digman, 1990 Goldberg, 1993) is due to the fact that it offers a new basis for integrative literature reviews. The model holds that the common variance among almost all personality trait constructs can be summa- rized in terms of the five recurrent factors of Neuroticism, Ex- traversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Con- scientiousness. Personality measures developed in diverse theo- retical contexts have in fact been shown to be related to these five factors (McCrae & Costa, 1996). The FFM thus offers a powerful conceptual tool for distinguishing between nominally similar constructs and recognizing the similarities among ap- parently different constructs, reducing the fallacious "jingle" and "jangle" (see Block, 1995) of personality scale labels. The heuristic value of the FFM has been shown���to cite two exam- ples���in reviewsofjob performance (Barrick & Mount, 1991) and behavior genetics (Loehlin, 1992). In this article, I seek to extend the integrative scope of one of the factors, Openness to Experience (Openness), to include constructs that have arisen more or less independently inseveral branches of the social sciences. By tracing conceptual similari- ties and reviewing empirical links, I hope to show that experi- ential Openness has important consequences for a wide range of social behaviors. One aim ofthis review, then, isto alert social scientists to a common dimension of human nature relevant to many different disciplines. A second aim isto deepen understanding of Openness itself as a dimension of personality (McCrae, 1993-1994, 1994). This factor is the most controversial of the five (De Raad & Van Heck, 1994), confused with intelligence (e.g., Goldberg, 1981) Portions of this article were presented at the Nags Head Conference on Personality and Social Behavior, June 19-24, 1995, Highland Beach, Florida. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rob- ert R. McCrae, Personality, Stress, and Coping Section, Laboratory of Personality and Cognition, Gerontology Research Center, National In- stitute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, 4940 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21224. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet email@example.com. and trivializedas "bookishness" (Wolfe, 1993, p. 284). I argue that it isbetter understood as a fundamentalwayof approaching the world that affects not only internal experience but also in- terpersonal interactions and social behavior. Intrapsychic and Interpersonal Aspects of Openness Which one of the five basic dimensions of personality is most relevant to an understanding of social phenomena? That ques- tion mightseem to invitea debate about the relative importance of Extraversion versus Agreeableness or Dominance versus Affiliation. These two pairs of dimensions are alternative axes for the circumplex that is thought to organize all interpersonal traits (Leary, 1957 Wiggins, 1979). However, from many per- spectives, the personality dimension that most centrally influ- ences social and interpersonal phenomena is Openness. That assertion may seem paradoxical because Openness is usually portrayed as an intrapsychic dimension, describing in- dividual differences in the structure and functioning of the mind. Openness is manifested in "the breadth, depth, and per- meability of consciousness, and in the recurrent need to enlarge and examine experience" (McCrae & Costa, in press). The in- trapsychic aspect of Openness has been described at length in a series of reviews (Costa & McCrae, 1978 McCrae, 1993-1994, 1994 McCrae & Costa, 1985, in press) that show that Open- ness is a broad and general dimension, seen in vivid fantasy, artistic sensitivity, depth of feeling, behavioral flexibility, intel- lectual curiosity, and unconventional attitudes���traits mea- sured by the Openness facets of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R Costa & McCrae, 1992a). The domain of Openness includes a wide variety of ostensibly dissimilar constructs, including intuition (Myers & McCaulley, 1985), thin mental boundaries (Hartmann, 1991), and typical intel- lectual engagement (Goff & Ackerman, 1992). Table 1 lists some of the empirical correlates of Openness. This diverse and relatively unfamiliar dimension can perhaps best be communicated by an illustrative case study.Highlyopen people often claim to be exceptional (McCrae, 1994), and some of them are. A vivid example is provided by Jean-Jacques Rous- seau (1781/1953), whose autobiography contains prototypical examples of Openness (see Table 2). So active washis imagina- 323
SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF OPENNESS 325 social questions of the day, he became a philosopher who showed a predictable independence ofjudgment. But his obser- vation that "man wasborn free, and he is everywherein chains" (Rousseau, 1762/1968, p. 49) was more than merely a fresh perspective on monarchical government it wasalso a manifesto for political change. The social consequence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's experiential Openness is known to history as the French Revolution (Durant & Durant, 1967). I do not wish to revive the discredited view that history is determined by the personalities of a few great individuals (Carlyle, 1841/1966), but I do argue that personality traits affect social interactions large and small and, in particular, that traits in the domain of Openness have powerful and pervasive influences. These effects can be seen in culturalchange, political affiliations, patterns of friendship and family, and dyadic in- teractions. A consideration of Openness in all these areas illus- trates a second, interpersonal aspect of Openness that has been relatively neglected in its conceptualization. The idea that the structure of the mind can affect social be- havior is certainly not new. It was perhaps most extensivelyde- veloped by Rokeach and his colleagues in the classic volume, The Open and Closed Mind (Rokeach, 1960). In that work, Rokeach argued that, regardless of ideological content, a rigid cognitive organization of attitudes and values leads to predict- able social consequences, includingprejudice and authoritarian submission. He also showed that dogmatism was related to a wide range of psychological variables (e.g., aesthetic sen- sitivity), thus anticipating later conceptions of the dimension of Openness. Although Rokeach's Dogmatism scale has been justifiably criticized (Altemeyer, 1981 Christie, 1991) and one of his central premises���that authoritarianism is as common on the left as on the right���has not been well-supported by sub- sequent research (Stone, 1980), there is a very real sense in which this reviewcan be seen as a contemporary elaboration of his basic ideas. Macrosocial Influences: Cultural Change, Social Attitudes, and Political Affiliation Cultural Innovation Not all social changes are as dramatic as the French Revolu- tion, but all societies change, and cultural evolution has long been a major topic in anthropology. By and large, anthropolo- gists have emphasized features of the culture that promote or discourage innovation (Plog, Jolly, & Bates, 1980), but some have focused on psychological characteristics of innovators. In his classic statement, Barnett (1953) noted that individuals differ in their propensities and abilities to veer across the normal boundaries of acceptable deviation . . . these differ- ences predispose some of them to a hesitant and retractile attitude toward experimentation with the new, while others are much more adventurous and intrepid. In short, some people, for whatever rea- son, are temperamentally more conservative than others, (p. 20) E. M. Rogers (1983) discussed the diffusion of new ideas from innovators through early adopters to late adopters and "laggards." Earlier adopters are characterized by greater empa- thy and imagination, an ability to deal with abstractions and to cope with uncertainty, lower dogmatism, and more favorable attitudes toward change, education, and science. In contempo- rary American corporate culture, successful change agents are known to be higher in Openness (McDaniel, 1992). For better or worse, in the past century most cultural change has been in the direction of modernization or westernization, and it is reasonable to hypothesize that individuals willing to consider new ideas and new ways of living would most readily adapt to such changes. Some data support that hypothesis.Yik and Bond (1993) administered Chinese adjective scales to 414 high school students in Hong Kong they also asked the students to rate themselveson a 7-point scale from extremely Chinese to extremely Westernized. That item was unrelated to measures of emotional stability, application, restraint, helpfulness, and intellect, but it wassignificantly related to scales measuringAs- sertiveness, r = .22, Extraversion, r = .30, and especially Open- ness, r = .40. Political Ideology: Liberalism and Conservatism Not all change entails rejection of traditional values, as the recent rise of nationalist and fundamentalistmovementsshows. Reactionary change may sometimes appeal to open individuals (like the poet and fascist Ezra Pound), but in general it appears that, within Western societies, open individuals have an affinity for liberal, progressive, left-wing political views, whereas closed individuals prefer conservative, traditional, right-wing views (Trapnell, 1994). Indeed, a case can be made for saying that variations in experiential Openness are the major psychological determinant of political polarities. Historians and political scientists might scoff at the idea that social movementsand political affiliations are reflectionsof per- sonality traits. Regional, religious, and especially social class differences are often far more important in determining politi- cal loyalties. Changing economic cyclesand demographic shifts affect social and political views,and charismatic leaders and cat- astrophic events reshape the social structure. Politics is not a matter of enduring dispositions but of ever-shifting alliances and oppositions. Yet there are recognizable patterns that endure beneath shift- ing political fashions, and the most conspicuous of these is the distinction between liberalism and conservatism. The basis of these two perspectives is ultimatelynot political, sociological, or economic but psychological. It is precisely because liberalism and conservatism transcend any political party that one can note shifts by each party toward the left or right it isalso for this reason that the Westernworld so quicklybecame accustomed to the notion that old guard communists in the former Soviet Union constitute the right wing in the newdemocracies. Liberal and conservativehave psychological meanings that are more en- during and universal than the specific political and social atti- tudes they influence. There is ample evidence that political conservatism is in fact related to psychological conservatism. As Table 3 shows, indi- viduals with conservative social and political attitudes���mea- sured in most of these studies by Wilson and Patterson's (1968) Conservatism Scale���tend to be characterized by a number of related featuresthat go beyond ideology. Conservative individ- uals tend to be unadventurous, behaviorally rigid, socially con-
326 McCRAE Table 3 Some Psychological Correlates of Sociopolitical Conservatism Variable Study N Gender Sensation seeking Principled moral reasoning Intolerance of ambiguity Rigidity Sexual humor Nonsense humor Value obedience Value broadmindedness Preference for visualcomplexity Social conformity Note. M = men W = women. *p.05. **p.0\. tP-05, Pearson & Sheffield ( 1 975) Levin &Schalmo(1974) Lapsleyetal.(1984) Fincham& Barling (1979) Ruch&Hehl(1983) Sidanius(1978) Ruch&Hehl(1983) Ruch&Hehl(1983) Ruch&Hehl(1983) Feather (1979) Feather (1979) Rump & Walker(1982) Schneider(1985) Brief etal. (1994) Comreyetal.(1978) one-tailed. 41 43 57 83 96 55 143 195 143 143 143 558 357 558 357 25 80 80 457 90 109 M W M W W M W M W -.63** -.47** -.28* -.33** -.25* -.22t .28** .27** .26** .28** -.27** .33** .45** -.39** -.43** -.52** -.34** -.30** .29** .53** .49** forming, and conventional in their moral reasoning they enjoy jokes about sex but not nonsensical humor they prefer simple and regular visual designs. The studies in Table 3, incidently, report data from South Africa, Germany, Australia,Great Brit- ain, Sweden, the United States, and Russia, suggesting consid- erable cross-cultural generalizability for the psychological cor- relates of political ideology. All the variables listed in Table 3 are conceptually related to Openness, but there is no empirical evidence that Openness as it is construed within the FFM is related to an appreciation of nonsense humor or a preference for visual complexity. In a study of New Zealanders, however,Joe (1974) reported that so- ciopolitical conservatism wasrelated to high needsfor order and cognitive structure and low needs for autonomy, change,sen- tience, and understanding���all known correlates of Openness (Costa & McCrae, 1988a). More directly, Riemann, Grubich, Hempel, Mergl, and Richter (1993) correlated political atti- tudes in a German sample with scales from the short version of the NEO-PI-R the general Conservatism factor was strongly related to Openness, r = -.57, W = 184, p .001. Similarly, Trapnell (1994) reported correlations between NEO-PI-R Openness facets and the Wilson-Patterson Conservatism Scale that ranged from ���.21 for Fantasy to -.64 for Values, W = 789, /x.OOl. A consideration of the behaviors that lead to attributions of liberal or conservative tendencies illustrates the psychological essence of these viewpoints. Positions on manifestly political is- sues like trade with Mexico or military intervention in Bosnia are often not very diagnostic. However consider two reactions to Michelangelo's David: Spectator A is stunned by its power and beauty Spectator B is shocked by its full frontal nudity. Surely no one would hesitate to label Spectator A the liberal and Spectator B the conservative or to make predictions about their stances on a variety of social and political issues. Yet it is difficult to articulate a rational ideology that explains why aesthetic responses or sexual mores should predict positions on the need for a capital gains tax cut or increased military spend- ing. The unifying element is not ideological but psychological, reflecting differences in Openness. If Openness is seen in the need for novelty, variety, and com- plexity and an intrinsic appreciation for experience, then Closedness to Experience (Closedness) is manifested in a pref- erence for familiarity, simplicity, and closure and in a down-to- earth utilitarianism. Given these basic features of experiential style it is clear that closed individuals will tend to draw sharp lines between in-group and out-group and prefer the former to the latter���tendencies that lead to ferventpatriotism. They will follow the rules they were taught, including obedience to au- thority. They will expect that others also follow the rules ifthey do not,they will advocate strict punishment, not because they are vindictive but because punishment is the simplest way to enforce conformity. They will have little use for intellectuals or scholars���practitioners of the aptly named "liberal arts"��� whose work is of questionable utility.They will regard sex with suspicion, as a dangerously powerful stimulus that must be ta- booed to maintain psychic equilibrium and social order. Psychologists and psychiatrists, who tend to be liberal (Bachtold, 1976 Eagle & Marcos, 1980), may regard that as an unflattering description. Many conservatives would not: Open and closed individualsdiffer markedly in what they consider so- cially desirable. Conservatives would point out that sex reallyis dangerous (as epidemics of unintended pregnancies [Ambuel, 1995] and notorious crimes of passion demonstrate) and that the threat of punishment really can deter crime (Watson, 1986)���as the pristine streets of Singapore attest. The stable, orderly, harmonious society conservatives envision would be