Openness to Experience

Openness to Experience is one of the five behavioral traits which are used to describe human personality in the Five Factor Model (FFM) Opens in new window. It is related to scientific and artistic creativity, divergent thinking, and political liberalism.

The behavioral tendencies typically associated with openness to experience consists in five dimensions (McCrae & John, 1992), including

  • active imagination (fantasy),
  • aesthetic sensitivity,
  • attentiveness to inner feelings,
  • preference for variety, and
  • intellectual curiosity.

A great deal of psychometric research has demonstrated that these dimensions or qualities are significantly correlated. Thus, openness can be viewed as a global personality trait Opens in new window consisting of a set of specific traits, habits, and tendencies that cluster together.

openness to experience tends to be normally distributed with a small number of individuals scoring extremely high or low on the trait, and most people scoring moderately. People who score low on openness are considered to be closed to experience.

These individuals tend to be conventional and traditional in their outlook and behavior. They prefer familiar routines to new experiences, and generally have a narrower range of interests. Openness has moderate positive relationships with creativity Opens in new window, intelligence and knowledge.

Since openness to experience can be viewed as an individual’s need for “novelty, variety, and complexity and an intrinsic appreciation for experience” (McCrae, 1996, p. 326), we speculate that people who score high on the openness dimension are more exploratory and more willing to pursue job Opens in new window and career Opens in new window alternatives than those who score low on this dimension.

In addition, openness to experience may reflect the tendency for people to engage in non-traditional forms of employment, such as telecommuting and virtue business, especially when they have to provide care to children or elders in their mid to late careers.

It is also conceivable that openness to experience may be related to post-retirement employment patterns as well. Specifically, when deciding to engage in bridge employment, individuals with high levels of openness to experience may be less likely to work in the same career field as they did prior to their retirement, but rather in different career fields.