The second instalment of The Big 5 & Me, out of five instalments of course. In this article, I’ll be looking at what Conscientiousness is, how I rate on the scale for this trait, and how I perceive myself in regards to Conscientiousness.
You can read my other instalments on the Big 5 through the links below, the ones that are published already at least:
With the brief introduction out of the way, let’s jump right into the topic of Conscientiousness.
What is Conscientiousness?
Much like Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness is a trait many would perceive positively. It is associated with being organised, efficient, thorough and self-disciplined. Think of it as the Bruce Lee of the Five Factor Model, need I say more?
Of course, I’ll say more. Conscientious people are often seen as the hard-working student or employee, the overly organised and time-aware friend who always arrives early, or possibly that colleague who always keeps his/her desk spotless and uniform. Sometimes we playfully mock people for these characteristics, but secretly a lot of us wish we were as methodical as these Conscientious individuals.
Conscientious people aren’t only associated with organisational skills, they’re also primed for achievement and dependability. Those high in this trait are in the perfect position to do well in whatever they put time and effort into, you can also be damn sure that they’ll get something done right when it’s needing done.
What kind of behaviours are associated with being Conscientious? That’s what we really want to know. Well thankfully, Hirsh, Deyoung & Peterson (2009) set out to find out exactly that. They took a multitude of everyday behaviours and attempted to correlate those behaviours with Conscientiousness.
Below you’ll see some of the behaviours that were less likely to be manifested by those with a higher Conscientiousness:
Do note that the higher the negative number shown in brackets, the less probable that someone of high Conscientiousness would exhibit the behaviour.
I can only imagine that behaviours like telling a dirty joke, and swearing around others were less likely behaviours because conscientious individuals are thought to be more involved in planning their actions, meaning they don’t act as spontaneous.
The good news for team conscientious is that subjective happiness in life is has been seen to be positively correlated with conscientiousness (Steel et al, 2008). This makes sense when you consider that there’s also some evidence for conscientious people being more likely to succeed in the workplace and in academia than low scorers in conscientiousness (Higgins et al, 2007). Doing well in regards to the individual’s career naturally has a domino effect on meeting personal goals and increasing quality of life in terms of bringing in more hard-earned cash, thus subjective happiness is bound to increase, at least up to a point.
It’s not all money and success however, there’s evidence out there that suggests that while the conscientious may have that little extra advantage in work and academics, well, put it this way, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Boyce, Wood & Brown (2010) found that individuals high in conscientiousness may endure more than two times the suffering when it comes to becoming unemployed than low-scorers of conscientiousness. So maybe job security is a pretty important factor if you happen to be conscientious.
One last disadvantage of being conscientious before I move on is specifically for the ladies out there. A study by DeYoung et al (2002) found a negative correlation between conscientious in women and fertility. Who would’ve thought being conscientious would affect your ability to have children? Albeit, it’s likely not significant enough to actually harm anyone’s chances of conceiving.
How I Rate on the Conscientiousness Scale
Below again you’ll see my results from the Five-Factor Model, you can go and take the test too at OutOfService.com and compare yours with mine. Let’s focus on the conscientiousness score:
Well, would you look at that, “you are well-organized, and are reliable”, music to my ears. My narcissism aside, I’m personally very happy with being in the 74th percentile for conscientiousness, I mean, who wouldn’t want to be described in such a manner?
While I don’t organise my books or games in alphabetical order and don’t stop my desks from dropping into organised chaos, I do believe myself to be a pretty reliable person. Punctuality and being prepared for what’s coming next are important things to me, I’d be even more anxious than usual if I wasn’t ready for whatever might crop up in any given scenario. Of course life always has surprises, but you can still work towards becoming the type of person who is always in a position to deal with those surprises.
With that, I think I’ll reflect on how I see this trait in myself.
The Conscientiousness Trait & Me
Truth be told, I didn’t think I would score high in conscientious at all when I first read about what the trait means. However, I think this may be because conscientiousness is more colloquially known for its ties to organisation and neatness, rather than its other aspects such as reliability and goals of achievement.
I often don’t bother to organise my physical belongings, clothes find themselves piled in a heap, books lay in many different places in my room(s), and stuff that doesn’t get used very often is bundled together in a box of mixed objects that no-one would want to organise, it’d be too much hassle of course. I’m also terrible for keeping track of my appointments and upcoming events, I would use a calendar if I could be bothered to hammer a nail into the wall to hang the damn thing, but alas I’m too lazy… With these types of things at the forefront of my mind when thinking about conscientiousness, I paint the picture of myself as not being very conscientious at all. However, people often forget the other sides of conscientiousness that aren’t part of the ‘organised/control-freak’ stereotype.
This other side is the want to achieve, being a reliable person, being efficient and accurate, and planning ahead for events and scenarios. This, my friends, is my element.
I’ve always been a very staunch believer of the phrase “If you’re going to do something, then do it right“. I don’t believe in just doing enough to get by, that’s boring and isn’t challenging or stimulating. If doing something right means putting in hours upon hours to meet a deadline, it becomes my biggest priority sometimes; as if nothing else matters at that particular point in time. This sort of outlook on challenges is something I’m actually very glad I possess, and I think anyone can develop it, conscientious or not.
As with every personality trait, I think it is about honing the strengths that may come from having that trait as part of who you are. It’s also about looking at where your weaknesses lay and developing those to grow as a person. This means while I may gain some advantages from a high conscientiousness, like higher reliability and drive towards achievement, I also have to develop my weaknesses that come with this trait, like falling harder when I fail.
Enough about me though, where do you rank on conscientiousness and the other 4 traits? I’d like to know, leave something interesting below and let’s chat! (Click here to take the test!)
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