Personal Growth

What Doing a Lot of Chores Says About Your Personality

Based on an informal poll of this Curiosity writer (sample size: 1), not doing chores is the third worst trait to have in a roommate, after not paying rent and not understanding personal space. But according to some researchers, those of us who are hyper-aware of the chores that need doing might have more cause for alarm than the happy slobs. The Big Five personality traits play out in your everyday life in some unexpected ways. You might never look at chores the same way ever again.

An OCEAN of Errands

We've already told you about the Big Five personality traits, but in case you need a refresher, just use the handy-dandy acronym OCEAN. That's O for Openness, C for Conscientiousness, E for Extraversion, A for Agreeableness, and N for Neuroticism. Everybody possesses these traits to some degree — surely you know somebody who is open to almost any experience while also being extremely neurotic about how certain things are done. There has been a lot of research into these traits (and not a small amount of debate about their legitimacy as overarching categories), but like many other psychological theories, testing has largely been limited to student volunteers. Thus, the ways that these personality traits actually express themselves in a person's day-to-day life have been somewhat unknown.

A new study published in the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science's journal Collabra: Psychology addressed that disparity of data with a three-year study that looked into the daily activities of 1,300 German volunteers, average age 51. Each participant had to complete a daily diary tracking how much time they had spent the previous day on any of the following activities: studying, working, socializing, talking on the phone, watching TV, using the internet, reading, and playing sports. Much of what the researchers learned was exactly in line with the Big Five personality trait theory — but some of it was a little surprising.

Free-Range Personalities

The researchers' findings are limited somewhat by the fact that all of their data, including the participants' personality tests, are self-reported. However, it became apparent that out in the real world, clear-cut personality traits could sometimes manifest in unexpected ways.

For example, compare conscientiousness (the trait of being considerate of others and the world in general) with neuroticism (the trait of having low emotional stability and general messiness). You might expect the cleanlier conscientious person would spend the most time on household chores, but in fact, neurotic participants reported doing chores more frequently and for longer than any other subgroup. That might seem surprising, but some have pointed out that the messiness of a highly neurotic personality might result in a person both causing more messes and feeling more distraught by them than another mind might.

That wasn't the only surprise. The researchers also discovered that while people with high openness scores were more likely to report socializing than other personality types were (as you might expect), they also tended to hang out with others for a shorter period of time overall. It's purely speculation, but perhaps more open people are also just more likely to have a packed schedule that makes them too busy to hang with friends.

Want to learn how to adjust your attitude when it comes to managing your emotions and relating to others? Check out Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves' "Emotional Intelligence 2.0," free with a trial membership to Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Clue #4: I added two elements to the periodic table.

Written by Reuben Westmaas July 10, 2018

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