This may come as a surprise to many readers, but I am not a very agreeable person.
The Big Five Aspects Scale is a personality test that measures 5 dispositional factors that tend to show the greatest variability across humans in terms of how individuals react, think and feel. There is not a whole lot of variability in how humans react to their hands being put in fire, or freezing cold water, for example, but there is tremendous variability in whether either of those experiences makes you cry, or makes you fearful of fire or water in the future.
So the Big Five are not the ONLY five, they are just the most important five, and they tend to be the most predictive five no matter what your culture, class, gender, age or education. This is not to say that things like gender or age don’t influence how your personality forms, or can’t be used to predict how you will react: they most certainly can be, but gender (etc.) doesn’t influence which five personality aspects are most important.
Those five traits are:
Compassion and Politeness
Industriousness and Orderliness
Enthusiasm and Assertiveness
Withdrawal and Volatility
Openness to Experience
Openness and Intellect
Happiness, mostly. Satisfaction. The sense that life is good. Meaningful. That you matter. You can create a hierarchy of needs, like Maslow, or Rogers, but those are details, really. You need food. Okay, how does your personality influence your ability to get food and then move on to fulfill other needs? How much do you care about other people’s needs?
Me? Not so much.
According to the Big Five Test (you can take the test here), I am very low on agreeableness.
People with exceptionally low levels of agreeableness are seen by others as markedly competitive, colder, tougher and very much less empathic. They do not easily see the best in others, and are not particularly tolerant (an attitude that is much valued by agreeable people). They are very much less concerned about the emotional state of others, are uncommonly willing to engage in conflict, and will happily sacrifice peace and harmony to make a point or (if conscientious) to get things done. People may find them painfully straightforward and blunt. They tend very strongly towards dominance, rather than submission (particularly if also below average in neuroticism).
That rings true for me. Women tend to be much higher in agreeableness than men, so the fact that this test measures both men and women as a single population means that in a population of only women, I would score even lower. For comparison, the mean percentile for women is 61.5 and the mean for men is 38.5. My 3.0 is very disagreeable indeed, and very uncharacteristic for women.
Agreeableness has two dimensions: compassion and politeness. I am very low on compassion, which means I am not typically swayed by helplessness or cuteness.
I have no fear of making other people engage with negative emotions. The upside is that I am unlikely to harbor resentment or hidden anger. You don’t have to guess what’s pissing me off now, I will most assuredly tell you. I am also exceptionally low on politeness.
I am highly likely to challenge and confront authority rather than demure to it. Again, most women score considerably higher on compassion and politeness than men do, and politically, liberals tend to score higher on both than conservatives.
Conscientiousness is a predictor of ‘obligation, attention to detail, hard work, persistence, cleanliness, efficiency and adherence to rules, standards and processes’. I am merely average here.
People of average conscientious levels generally do their duty, although they are not sloggers. They are reliable, but waste some of their time and have some proclivity to procrastinate (particularly if they are also above average in neuroticism). Most of the time, however, a person of average conscientiousness will deliver what he or she promises, and usually close to or on time and schedule. They are reasonably decisive, neat, organized, future-oriented, and reliable. They can maintain focus, but have some trouble fighting off distraction.
Ha ha, I call this ‘mom brain’. Surprisingly, women score slightly higher on conscientiousness than men, but only by a very small amount – 51.5 (W) vs 49.5 (M). When you break the factor down, you can see how this result is obtained. Conscientiousness has two dimensions – industriousness and orderliness. Men are more industrious and women are more orderly. My personal score puts my industriousness very high, which means I like to always be busy doing something. Idle hands are the devil’s playthings, after all.
I have a high tolerance for chaos and mess, though. I don’t fuss too much about things being orderly. I’m in the 4th percentile for giving a shit about drawer organizers.
The personality study notes that the differences between orderliness can account for some of the seemingly perennial housework battles between men and women. ‘Women are more orderly than men. The mean percentile for women in a general population (women and men) is 54.5. For men it is 45.5. This may account for some of the trouble in relation to housework between women and men. Since women are, on average, more orderly, household disorder will trigger disgust and discomfort in them faster. This may happen with sufficient frequency so they end up doing a disproportionate share of such work (even though if they waited a bit longer their less orderly partners, often men, might end up equally troubled and motivated to fix the problem). Orderly people are more likely to have items such as event calendars, drawer organizers, laundry baskets, irons and ironing boards in their immediate environments’.
I run my household on the immutable rule that the person who cares the most is the person who gets to do the work. If ordering the throw cushions precisely is important to person X, then person X gets to order the damn throw cushions. The rest of us reserve the right to not give a shit. Right now the nine year old cares where the throw cushions go on the couch, but we are wearing her down with non-compliance. She is making a valiant effort, though. I’ll give her that. She picks up and organizes a lot of cushions.
The next big trait is Extraversion, and I score very high. My energy comes from other people and I very much enjoy the company of others, even though I don’t really care how they feel. That’s kind of odd, isn’t it?
People with very high levels of extraversion are very enthusiastic, talkative, assertive in social situations, and gregarious. They are highly energized by social contact, and crave it. They find great pleasure in planning parties, telling jokes, making people laugh, and taking part in community activities. They typically have positive memories of the past, high levels of current self-esteem (particularly if they are low in neuroticism), and experience far above average optimism about the future.
Neuroticism is widely misunderstood in popular vernacular, I think. When James Damore said that women were more neurotic than men in his Google memo, women who don’t know what neuroticism means reacted negatively, which is what neuroticism means, thus proving his point. Neurotic doesn’t mean you’re a crazy cat lady with imaginary ailments, it means you are sensitive to negative emotions like sadness, pain or fear.
I am very low on the neuroticism scale.
I rarely focus on negative emotions, and I don’t typically experience anxiety or depression. I’m not an irritable person, although I can definitely get angry. According to the test, people who score low on neuroticism ‘cope very well, don’t worry, and recover quickly. They’re very good at keeping their head in a storm, and they almost never make mountains out of molehills’. I would say this is very true of me.
Damore, of course, is absolutely right that women are more neurotic than men. ‘The typical woman is higher in neuroticism than 60% of the general population of men and women combined. In part, this may be why women report more unhappiness in their relationships, at work, in school and with their health than men, on average’.
Neuroticism is composed of withdrawal and volatility. I am exceptionally low on withdrawal, which means I pretty much never experience the kinds of negative emotions other people experience.
‘People with exceptionally low levels of withdrawal feel sad, lonesome, disappointed and grief-stricken very infrequently – and, if they do, feel those emotions briefly and to a much lesser degree. Their lives tend to be markedly free of doubt, worry, embarrassment, self-consciousness and discouragement, even in the face of genuine threat and punishment. They are resistant to and rarely worried about social rejection, and almost never feel hurt or threatened. Even when actually hurt, frightened, or anxious, they recover strikingly easily and remarkably quickly’.
Women and liberals are higher in withdrawal than conservatives.
I’m a little more volatile than likely to withdraw, but still much less volatile than other people.
My mood is generally pretty stable. I’m cheerful most of the time. ‘Individuals moderately low in volatility tend to not to vary much in their mood. They are not particularly irritable, and feel lower levels of disappointment, frustration, pain and social isolation. People find them easy to be around. They express their frustration, disappointment and irritability quite reasonably and not very often. Even when stirred up and upset or angry or irritated, they calm down quickly. They are less argumentative than average and rarely lose their composure’.
Women tend to be more volatile than men, but there is no real difference in terms of political persuasion. Volatile people can be either conservative or liberal.
I score very high on the final dimension of personality: openness to experience, which is the ‘primary dimension of creativity, artistic interest and intelligence (particularly verbal intelligence) in the Big Five personality trait scientific model’.
People with exceptionally high levels of openness to experience are almost always characterized by others as extremely smart, creative, exploratory, intelligent and visionary. They are extremely interested in learning, and are constantly acquiring new abilities and skills. They are extremely curious and exploratory. They are exceptionally interested in abstract thinking, philosophy, and the meaning of belief systems and ideologies. They live for cultural events such as movies, concerts, dance recitals, plays, poetry readings, gallery openings and art shows. They are very likely to enjoy writing (or even to be driven to write). They enjoy complex, abstract ideas and deeply love to confront and solve complex, abstract and multi-dimensional problems.
Who wouldn’t love that description of themselves?
Of course, my enemies and people who hate my ideas will disagree heartily with that assessment, but I will simply stare down at them, curiously, from my loft up here on Mount Big Brain.
My intellect, not to be confused with IQ, is similarly very high.
This particular test offers a great summary of the difference between intellect and IQ: Intellect is a measure of interest in abstract ideas, while IQ is a measure of processing speed, verbal ability, working memory, and problem solving capacity.
It makes sense that women’s mental capabilities would be reflected more in intellect than IQ: speed is not typically a factor in what women have to do. Think about a simple hunter/gatherer dichotomy. Having rabbit or deer for dinner requires much more speed, memory and problem solving than sitting down to a nice bowl of onions and wild rice. Wild rice are considerably easier to catch and have almost no defensive capabilities at all!
On almost every measure, I am more like a man than a woman, and yet I don’t feel I am a usurper or pretender to the throne. The feminist paradigm that whatever men do is superior and better is foreign to my mind. I don’t feel competitive in that sense, at all.
Are you curious how you would score? The test is called Understand Myself, and it costs $10, but it’s really quite fascinating. If you decide to take the test, feel free to post your results here, and we will discuss, in our typically friendly and cheerful way!
Lots of love,