Personality Psychology

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Updated: Jun 20, 2022
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Nivia is a Taiwanese woman in her 20s. She grew up with traditional Taiwanese parents and an older sister who likes to explore. Her childhood was spent in Taiwan before moving Thailand where she studied in an international middle school. Upon graduation, she returned to Taiwan to study Foreign Languages in university. Nivia’s life revolves around routine. She keeps her living space organized and impeccably clean. She paces herself in tackling assignments and usually completes them before deadline. She is not outgoing and does not participate in many social events.

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However, she is open-minded and uses her multicultural background to establish friendships. Hence, she is never alone; instead, she maintains a tight circle of close friends. When she opens up, she talks extensively about a wide range of topics but is also aware of the consequences of her words and takes into consideration others’ feelings. Moreover, she has been in a stable and loving relationship with her boyfriend. Like regular couples, they would occasionally fight, but they always resolve their conflicts. This is mainly because she prefers agreement over argument, and while her sensitivity to others makes her prone to emotionally upsets, she calms down quickly and forgives readily. She believes that she looks and feels exactly the same as 10 years ago and will be the same in the years to come.

Nivia’s personality could be analyzed using the Five Factor Theory. According to the Big Five (OCEAN) model in this theory, Nivia is high in Openness to experience, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness, and moderate in Extraversion and Neuroticism. The characteristics manifested by her Big Five is in turn changes and is changed by external influence such as culture. She has received both Eastern and Western education (via primary school in Taiwan and an international school in Thailand). Her high Openness to experience helped her mingle with Japanese, Koreans, Thai and fellow Chinese students in Thailand, and make friends in Taiwan. Her high Conscientiousness shows in her desire to be efficient and organized. She labels herself an ambivert – one with a balance of introverted and extroverted features (or moderate in Extraversion). She is not easily overwhelmed by social interactions but gets tired when she socializes a lot. Moreover, she is reserved with most people but becomes active among close friends. Her high Agreeableness shows in how she is conflict-avoidant and likes to go along with others instead of fighting with them. She is moderate in Neuroticism, so while she is sensitive and easily gets emotional, she quickly regains control, contributing to the stability of her relationships.

There may be a biological basis to her personality in the form of genes inherited from her parents. Her parents could be seen as open-minded for taking their children to live and study overseas which exposes them to many experiences. Another clue comes from Nivia’s adventurous sister who is just as open to experience as her, suggesting they may have inherited that trait from their parents. The stability of her personality traits since childhood aligns with the theory. Her Big Five may predict her future vocation; she may be suitable for a job that demands social and organizational skills alongside an open mindset. Indeed, she aspires to such work like fashion business management after finishing her Foreign Languages major.

The Five Factor Theory has its advantages but may fall short of providing a holistic view of Nivia’s personality. The theory claims to be universal, but it may not be applicable to individuals of different gender, culture or social backgrounds such as class. Nivia’s diverse background raises the question of the applicability of the theory. According to the Cross-Cultural (Chinese) Personality Assessment Inventory-2 (CPAI-2), Nivia may be high in Interpersonal Relatedness as she emphasizes developing close and stable relationships. This could be a major aspect of her personality but could not be mapped to the Big Five. Additionally, her Western education makes her think and act like an American sometimes, further complicating applicability of the theory. The extent of influence exerted by nature and nurture is not well-known. We do not know whether inherited genes determined Nivia’s personality, or that her personality was shaped more by her social environment. Also, the theory only emphasizes Big Five but does not look deeply into how her development from child to young adult contributes to her personality and behavior. Factor analysis used to obtain the Big Five (OCEAN), may be an inflexible approach as it overlooks measurements beyond its parameters. The original interpretation that obtained OCEAN could be revised to include more factors. This is why some have proposed the HEXACO model to replace OCEAN (Emotionality (E) replaces Neuroticism (N); there is an additional dimension of Honesty-Humility (H)) so as to give a more comprehensive analysis of personality. 

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Personality Psychology. (2022, Jun 20). Retrieved from