Everyday People

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

Psychologists have explored personality from every conceivable angle except one: What do people with particular personality traits actually do, in terms of everyday activities? First, let’s measure your personality: Compared to other people broadly similar to you (in terms of age, class and gender) are you more or less

Extraverted (=being the life of the party)

Agreeable (=easy to get along with)

Conscientious (=get jobs done right away)

Openness (=interested in new experiences and ideas).

Now, what does this predict about you (on the basis of a new study of 765 people from the University of Rochester, which asked about 400 everyday activities)…

If you are extraverted, you’re more likely than average to have recently drunk spirits, been running, used your phone while driving, told a dirty joke, tried to get a tan, played golf, discussed money-making schemes, decorated a room and used a sauna (hopefully not all at the same time). If you’re introverted, you’re less likely to have done these things

If you are agreeable, you’re more likely than average to have recently sung in the shower, but less likely to have been drunk (the opposite if you’re disagreeable)

If you are conscientious, you’re less likely than average to have spent at least an hour daydreaming, sworn at others, bought or read a book (perhaps you’re too busy!), eaten a spicy breakfast (who does that?!), had an overdue fine or chewed a pencil

If you are open, you’re more likely than average to have spent at least an hour daydreaming, mediated, bought a book, sat around the house naked, read poetry, bought organic food, produced a work of art, done some car maintenance, and made compost (not necessarily in that order).

Many of these links are as predicted, but some are more surprising. What, for example, is the link between extraversion and a penchant for DIY? Why do conscientious people like a spicy breakfast (does it fire them up for hard day’s work). And – perhaps most surprising of all – who’d have thought that open adventurous types share a passion for making compost: probably the most boring activity there is?

A fully referenced version of this article is available at benambridge.com. Order Are You Smarter Than A Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £12.99) for £11.04 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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