Personality is a very complex and fascinating topic among psychologists and researchers. It is a very complex and never fully understood concept and that is why it has been a topic of interest for so many years. In personality, there is a five-factor model that is the basis of foundation of personality. The five factors include neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The five-factor model is still undergoing research and many experiments have been conducted to try to fully understand the basis of personality. Many researchers such as McAdam’s and his theory of the life narrative and Jung’s theory which circles around the midlife crisis have adopted researches under personality. The life narrative for example is how we perceive our life through experiences. We create a beginning, middle, and a perceived end for ourselves based on the experiences we have endured and the memories we have created. Personality is a wonderful and beautiful concept, it gives each individual a unique perspective on life and creates an unorthodox environment. It allows others to find peace in certain groups and although it causes conflicts in some, the beauty lies in finding your membership in certain associations. Personality is important to study because it allows us to see why and how people act in certain situations. Personality is the reason for some conflicts and why certain people connect with other people. It also shows us how some people are resilient to specific situations and how they develop a strong sense of independence. The purpose of this literature review is to analyze the five-factor model and create a better understanding of personality, this includes neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
The first topic in the five-factor model is neuroticism. Neuroticism in psychology is associated with fear, frustration, envy, and loneliness. It has six facets which are anxiety, hostility, self-consciousness, depression, impulsiveness, and vulnerability. Older adults struggle to cope with neuroticism all the time. A study done by Rebecca E. Readya, Anna M. A. kerstedta, and Daniel K. Mroczekb states that the emotional well-being in older adults relies largely due to high risks of neuroticism. The researchers conducted an experimental study that evaluated older adults and determined how the personality trait of neuroticism predicts emotional complexity and well-being ten years later. The goal of the study was to determine if neuroticism is a strong indicator of emotions that came with increasing age in adulthood. Data was collected over the ten-year study and the researchers found that higher levels of neuroticism in older adults predicted less emotional complexity. Neuroticism predicted a low emotional well-being as well as an increase in poor emotional outcomes after a stressful event in the older adult’s life. The researchers saw that older adults that did succeed in life and had an overall better well-being had different coping skills than those who had a poor quality of life. The coping skills included altered leisure activities to cope with altered physical demands on the body, older adults kept their social life alive and thriving to prevent loneliness, and older adults were resilient and able to cope with loss and other struggles in their life. The researchers were able to determine that older adults thrived more and had an increased quality of life when they dealt with their neuroticism in a healthy manner. They were able to see the coping strategies the older adults used and were able to see correlation between higher quality of life and certain types of coping strategies. Neuroticism is a big indicator of quality of life in older adults and is very important to be studied in the five-factor model of personality.
Extraversion is characterized as sociability, talkativeness, excitability, and assertiveness. Researchers Aron S. Buchman, Patricia A. Boyle, Robert S. Wilson, Sue E. Leurgans, Steven. E. Arnold, and David, A. Bennett conducted an observational cohort study to examine the effects of motor function and its decline and the personality trait extraversion. A total of 983 older adult participants were in the study and were studied over a 5-year time period. The older adults were measured at the start of the experiment with a baseline study and were given 18 motor measures over the next 5 years to determine the results. The researchers assessed motor function by looking at different muscle groups in the body such as a person’s grip, arm abduction, arm flexion, arm extension, knee flexion, knee extension, and the quality of the muscle groups. Researchers also evaluated their abilities to use their muscle groups in given activities and assessed their functions throughout the study. The experimented determined that increased levels of extraversion showed slower decline in motor function over the years. When the extraversion scores were lower than the average adult individual, the motor functions of the adult would drop drastically and drop 8% faster than an older adult who had a high level of extraversion. An older adult’s ability to socialize, make friends, and be outgoing with their peers shows increased signs of motor function and an overall higher quality of life. The older adults who had high levels of extraversion also reported that they were happy and had a high quality of life. Decline in motor function is correlated with loss of independence, depression, adverse health consequences, and decreased self-esteem. A person’s ability to maintain their independence is huge and a high level of extraversion increases a person’s ability to be independent. Being able to have high level of motor function allows older adults to enjoy the sports they love, participate in leisure activities free of pain, and allow older adults to perform activities of daily living with little to no help from anyone.
Openness to experience is the third factor in the five-factor model of personality. This factor includes having an active imagination, attentiveness to one’s feelings, intellectual curiosity, and having wide interests. A cohort study was done to see whether low openness to experience showed cognitive decline over the years in older adults. Researchers Paula G. Williams, Yana Suchy, and Matthew L. Kraybill examined older adults ages ranging 58-87 and determined whether a low personality factor of openness to experience was related to a decline in cognitive function. The experiment was conducted using a personality assessment, depression screening, and instruments that determined cognitive status and cognitive decline. The experiment was able to get a baseline in the beginning of the experiment and showed the older adults cognitive functions before the experimented had started. The results showed that low openness to experience showed a decline in cognitive functioning. Low scores on openness to experience showed older adults with rigidity and dogmatic thinking. Older adults who were unwilling to change their views whether it be political, religious, or even adopting new leisure activities showed a faster decline in cognitive functioning than older adults who had a flexible and open mind to new ideas and experiences. A person who can have a unique imagination and discuss topics without much controversy and respect the opinion of others was seen to have a slower decline in cognitive functioning. The personality trait of openness to experience is very important to maintain and should be educated to preserve cognitive functioning in older adults.
Agreeableness in psychology has six facets which are trust, altruism, honesty, modesty, cooperation, and sympathy. Agreeableness is seen as an important trait in the five-factor personality model because it is often associated with better relationships, dealing with problems more efficiently, less prone to diseases, and higher levels of love and cooperation with others. In studies, it has been shown that women have a higher level of agreeableness when compared to men. Researchers Swantje M., Jenny W., Johanna D., Sandra D., Peter E., Jule S., Ilja D., Elisabeth S., Gert G. W., and Denis G. conducted an experiment to see how agreeableness varies upon the older aging population. Agreeableness is seen to increase throughout a person’s lifetime. There were benefits to agreeableness personality factor, and at the same time there were negatives. The benefits of being agreeable were developing a sense of trust with others, being able to sympathize with others, and receiving the aid of others when in need. The negatives of agreeableness seen in the study were people who scored low on agreeableness were pessimistic, harsh or callous, critical of others, and others were less likely to aid those who scored low on agreeableness. Older adults with low agreeableness were also seen as paranoid or suspicious and this lead to a decrease in social life and social networking. Agreeableness is an important personality trait in the five-factor and shows that in the right context and its use, it may lead to a higher quality of life in older adults.
The last personality trait in the five-factor personality model is conscientiousness. Conscientiousness is awareness of the impact a person has on the people and the environment around them. People who exhibit this personality are generally more goal oriented and ambitious in their motives. They are more motivated in their academics and in their work. In a study of personality development in older adults, researchers Christian Kandler, Anna E. Kornadt, Birk Hagemeyer, and Franz J. Neyer analyzed the personality trait conscientiousness. The study looked at older adults ages 64-85 years of age. The older adults were assessed, and the data acquired was based on their perceived control of life and their personality development over the years. The older adults were examined and monitored closely for traits that resembled conscientiousness. For example, older adults became aware of losses in cognitive and physical functionality, and the result was they were warier of health-risks and the dangers of everyday life. Some adults took this notion in stride and were able to cope and develop strategies to combat the effects of aging. Some adults were not able to be aware of their surroundings and their debilitating conditions. The adults that were more aware of their physical limitations were able to become selective in their activities and investments in their relationships. Over time, the older adults who were aware of the decline showed better improvement of their quality of life than those who were less aware of the physical abilities and their cognitive decline. The more effort a person put into their stability and prevention of decline, the better their overall quality of life was later in the years. The researchers determined there was a decrease in a perceived sense of control and it was correlated to a low level of conscientiousness.
The purpose of this literature review is to analyze the five-factor model and create a better understanding of personality, this includes neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. There were many limitations in some of the research articles, for example some of the limitations were some experiments did not focus on older adults past the age of 80, some articles had limited diversity amongst the population, and some had a small sample size. Some questions that still remain and need to be answered are “what lies at the end of age-based changes in neuroticism and lack thereof?” and “why might personality and cognitive decline across multiple time periods related to recent changes in openness?” The topics that still need to be studied are the temporal ordering of personality-health associations, the effects of the environment and an older adults ability to improve their personality due to the environment, and for people high in neuroticism, we still need to study how to intervene in the process in order to guard against late-life depressive symptoms. Further research is necessary in order to prevent depressive symptoms such as anxiety, loneliness, depression, and a loss of independence. Older adults struggle with these emotions and we need to educate them and ourselves in order to give the best quality of life an older adult can achieve. Prevention is key and further research is necessary because we will all become older adults one day and we need to prevent depressive symptoms as much as possible in order to maintain cognition, motor functions, and have a higher quality of life.