Openness to experience is one of the most important personality traits one could maintain. Being open involves seeking out new experiences and looking into new ideas.
D. W. Fiske, the creator of the Big Five personality model (a five-factor model), included openness as one of the five personality elements that encapsulate human personalities.
There are many immense benefits to becoming more open.
You get to experience the world in new ways, become comfortable with the unknown, venture outside your comfort zone, and become more in tune with your internal emotions.
Additionally, you can better understand which risks are worth taking and when risky behaviors should be avoided. Your knowledge grows, which can be applied in your work and personal life.
Those who score low on openness tend to stay in their comfort zone and rarely challenge their existing ideas.
In this article, we will review the importance of openness and how you can become more open.
What is Openness to Experience? Meaning & Definition
Openness refers to one’s ability to get outside of your comfort zone. Open individuals welcome healthy debate, challenge their own worldview, and seek to know more about the world.
They do not back down from exploration, even if it means trying something new and potentially a bit risky.
Open individuals tend to be receptive to the idea of innovation. They like to see the world from new perspectives, try out new activities, or embrace non-traditional ideas.
Novelty and curiosity are two components that contribute to openness. Such a trait is sometimes referred to as openness trait. Through constant venturing and experimenting, open thinkers tend to have a large knowledge base.
They are also skilled at connecting this knowledge to other ideas and applying it in their daily lives.
On the other hand, those who are less open tend to be closed-minded. They are more likely to favor tradition and routine over innovation and novelty.
When it comes to risks, they are cautious. These individuals prefer to stay inside their comfort zone. This can sometimes lead to ignorance or rigidity.
Change is also poorly coped with people who are not open. For instance, even if they recognize they hate their job, they may stick with it for the sake of it being familiar.
When questioned on why they have certain psychological tendencies, they commonly state, “that is the way it has always been done.”
Common Characteristics of Openness
Everyone has a unique place on the openness spectrum. Thus, the characteristics of openness vary. However, there is a correlation between openness and certain behaviors as well as characteristics.
For example, psychologist Dr. Weisberg and his team noted that high levels of openness if linked with intuitive thinking, curiosity, creativity, innovation, and appreciation of the world around you.
Being adventurous, or simply seeking new experiences, is common for open-minded individuals. Surprises and novelty serve as thrills for them.
Being open is not just about managing positive emotions, though. They are also in tune with their emotions, both positive and negative.
Additionally, those with a high level of openness are typically:
- Creative, as they do have to stick to a traditional mold
- Intelligent, for they gather information during their adventures and challenge their ideas
- Prone to paying attention to detailed mental images
- Interested in learning new things and seeking out new ideas
- Likely to enjoy thinking about abstract ideas and intangible concepts
- Typically liberal and enjoy being with a diverse group of people
- Artistic or musical
- Adventurous, but capable of evaluating risk
Openness is also linked with a more absorbed personality type. Absorption refers to one’s ability to get involved in fantastical or imaginative thinking. It may lead to fantastical dreams or even a higher susceptibility to hypnosis.
How Is Openness Measured?
The human personality is comprised of 5 personality factors. The trait of openness is a personality factor, which with the other four traits, can be quantified with personality tests.
These tests are typically designed around Fiske’s model of personality. They will ask you a series of questions or list a number of statements. You will state how much you agree or disagree with each.
Typically, this assessment of personality centers around your likelihood to do something or the way you think. Sometimes, this involves evaluating internal thoughts or how you think about yourself.
Other times, the test may ask you about what you think of society or the world as a whole. Answer with your true thoughts and the true behavior you predict you would have for the most accurate results.
Some specific questions could be: do you consider yourself artistic? Do you appreciate diversity? What are your thoughts about the arts? How important are innovation and novelty in your life? Could you perform a repetitive job? Do you think of concepts on a deep level?
If you are thinking “absolutely!” when reading these questions, you would likely score a high level of openness in the test.
These tests require you to evaluate your own abilities and thought processes, thus being self-reports. The advantage to this is the convenience and quick turnaround time.
However, most individuals tend to answer in ways that make them look socially appropriate and flattering. They may be less honest on the test to make them look socially acceptable.
Or, people may select answers based on their ideal selves instead of who they truly are.
How to Improve Openness to Experience?
Being self-absorbed or limited can lead to low scores in the openness domain. To boost openness, try to see the world from someone else’s perspective. One way to do this would be through travel.
When you take a trip, stay with the locals. See how they communicate and what they value. This may give you a different perspective on life outcomes.
However, you do not have to spend thousands of dollars on becoming more open. Invite someone with a differing opinion to have a conversation with you.
Instead of worrying about being right and proving your point, try to hear their ideas and why they think what they think.
You do not necessarily have to change your position, either. You simply have to understand the other person’s position, and if it is persuasive enough, change your beliefs.
The role of openness is to start challenging yourself and get out of routine. Identify what you are comfortable with, and try something that is outside of that realm.
If you are particularly worried, ask a trusted friend to come with you. For instance, if you are afraid of heights, take a friend with you on a roller coaster. Or, if you are scared of snakes, take your brother with you to a snake exhibit.
Even small tasks like changing your daily routine help you become more open. Instead of always watching a specific news channel, try changing to another news channel with a different perspective.
Trying a new hobby would be another engaging way to become more open. Specifically, artistic endeavors such as sculpting, drawing, and playing an instrument contribute most to the growing openness trait.
They help you express your emotions and become more in tune with your inner thoughts through reflection.
How Does Openness Influence Behavior?
Openness tends to be viewed as a beneficial trait. One reason why this is so is due to the link between openness and inner motivation.
Those with high levels of openness prefer to challenge their beliefs and seek knowledge.
They enjoy finding out about the world and different perspectives. Their eagerness for novelty leads them to adventures and experimenting.
Through such adventures, they learn to adapt quickly, think critically, and evaluate risks. Such lessons can be applied in their careers and relationships.
As positive as openness is, it also has some flaws. Since new activities provide open people with thrills, they tend to seek out risky activities.
However, some studies see an inverse relationship between certain risky behaviors, such as taking drugs, and openness.
Openness to experience would often correlates with increased creativity. In fact, many peer-reviewed studies have noted this is an especially strong link.
Only one element of creativity was not tied to increased openness, which was increased creativity in the math and science sphere.
In general, being open leads to pursuing creative activities, such as artistic or musical hobbies. Creative people are also more likely to be innovative or think in a unique way.
Studies have also found that openness contributes to artistic success the most. Creativity is a basic personality trait that is nearly required in the scientific and artistic fields.
Learning and Knowledge
Open individuals are constantly seeking out new information. They love to become more knowledgeable and have insights into new ideas.
Openness is one of the basic personality factors which is linked with increased intelligence.
It is specifically connected to crystallized intelligence. This form of intelligence involves using all the knowledge you have in your day-to-day life.
Openness is also tied to a need for cognition. This simply refers to one’s need to think deeply, involve yourself in philosophical discussions, or engage in mentally challenging tasks.
People who are cognitively oriented enjoy puzzles and problem-solving. They like to analyze perspectives, debate, and brainstorm solutions to pressing issues.
When analyzing ideas, they focus on the messages and evidence behind them instead of the deliverer’s likability.
Differences in openness tend to lead to differences in opinions as well. Those who are very open are more likely to be politically liberal. They enjoy being with a diverse group of people.
They accept people of different ethnic backgrounds, religions, races, and so on.
On the contrary, openness is linked with a decreased tendency of supporting conservative leadership or right-wing authoritarian ideas. They put less of an emphasis on tradition and family values.
However, a singular personality trait cannot determine someone’s political affiliation or worldview. Choosing a political party is about more than just openness and acceptance.
While many believe personality traits contribute greatly to political affiliation, some studies point to genetics as the primary driver.
Being open can also impact your relationships. While it may not be the most impactful element of your personality, there is a causation between openness and specific sexual experiences.
Those who score high on openness tend to be more knowledgeable about sex before performing it. They are more open to experimenting as well. Openness tends to bring sexual satisfaction to relationships.
It plays a role in determining how often couples have sex, too.
10 Examples of Openness to Experience
People apply the openness trait in a multitude of ways. Some incorporate openness into their everyday life.
It could fuel them during the workday and play an important role in their idea formation, decision-making, and so on.
Others use it more subtly.
List of 10 Examples
Here are a few examples of open individuals can use this important characteristic:
- An individual is extremely afraid of heights. To get outside of their comfort zone, they decide to try skydiving. The next day, they go on a roller coaster to try new experiences and expand their comfort zone.
- While watching a congressional debate, a man takes notes on the pros and cons of each candidate’s policy proposals. He does not pay attention to their likability, and his vote will go to the most rational candidate.
- A lady noticed someone was getting left out of the office parties. The person being left out has a mental disability. She invites her to come to her house and celebrate with her. Later, she brings this injustice to her manager’s attention.
- When on a trip, a family prefers to stay with the locals instead of staying in a fancy, Western-style hotel room. They experience the world through the native family’s eyes.
- A science teacher takes on an artistic hobby. She enjoys expressing her inner emotions through painting and sculpting. She feels like she becomes more in tune with her emotions.
- An executive seeks to experiment with a new way of engineering the product. Previously, they have only done the engineering in a specific manner. Now, the executive wants to try an approach that has never been done before.
- A teenager is raised believing a certain set of morals. As he grew older, he notices how other beliefs may have a more positive impact on his mental health and the health of the planet. So, he changes his worldview.
- A boyfriend is asked if they can experiment with new sexual experiences. He stays cautious and reads information on what she suggests they perform. After ensuring they are safe, he agrees.
- During the night, a woman has fantastical dreams. She imagines trying new things and performing out-of-this-world activities. She carries the same open attitude even when being awake.
- A girl likes to read, not because she was told to, but because she enjoys gathering knowledge. She compares authors’ descriptions of historical events and looks for discrepancies. Additionally, she gathers a new appreciation for and perspective on peace after reading about war.
Frequently Asked Questions About Openness
How can I be more open to experience?
One way to become more open to new experiences is to step outside of your comfort zone. Try to identify an activity that scares you or one that challenges your previously held beliefs.
If you are scared of heights, try to go on a roller coaster. If you have a strict routine, try switching a small element of it.
If you always watch a certain news channel, try watching another one.
When traveling, experience the local’s way of life. It will likely differ from your own and may challenge your beliefs or cause you to become more grateful.
What is the opposite of openness to experience?
The opposite of being open to experience is being unwilling to leave your comfort zone. This can lead to ignorance or being closed-minded.
Since being open to experience usually involves welcoming diversity and enjoying new experiences/novel ideas, routine and conservative thinking are not typically linked with being open.
Adapting poorly, holding into your beliefs despite evidence to the contrary, and disliking change are also considered the opposite of openness.
Why is openness to experience important in the workplace?
Openness is crucially important in the workplace. If you are overly traditional as an employee or leader, you are less likely to notice inefficiencies in your strategies.
By experimenting and trying new, innovative techniques, you can gain a competitive advantage over your competition. Additionally, openness ensures that everyone in the workplace feels like they belong.
No one is left out, regardless of their ethnicity, skin color, age, race, religion, and so on. This leads to happier employees, a boost in productivity, and a positive company culture.
Is it good to be open to experience?
Generally, openness to new experiences is a positive trait. It has a multitude of benefits. For example, openness leads to experimenting with new ideas and experiences.
You learn about how cultures and could gain a greater appreciation for what you have. Also, you are not limited by your comfort zone if you are open. You can try innovative, non-traditional techniques in the workplace.
In your relationships, you can experiment freely, as you are not limited by tradition. Also, being open leads to more acceptance and diversity in the workplace and in your friend groups.
Open people tend to be more intelligent and score higher on crystallized intelligence than the average person.
Is openness to experience genetic?
Openness to experience is generally seen as influenced strongly be the environment and one’s experiences.
Your parent’s beliefs, for instance, strongly influence how open you are as an adult. More liberal parents tend to raise open children.
Teachers who encourage diversity and acceptance also play a role in raising open children.
Neuroticism and openness do have a small link to genetics, according to some studies. However, it is still recognized that upbringing and personal experiences play the largest role in developing this trait.
Does openness promote creativity?
Openness is strongly correlated with creativity. Those who are open tend to be more artistic.
They typically have a strong understanding of their inner emotions, and one of the ways they connect with their inner thoughts is through art.
Because open people are more imaginative, they are more likely to pursue creative activities.
Creative thinking also plays a key role in innovation and experimentation.
The latter two personality traits are aspects of openness, so one can assume openness promotes creativity and vice versa.