Openness, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Introversion, Natural Reactions


Past readings led me to think about my innate “strengths and weaknesses,” how I might assess them, and what to do with the possibilities for improvements. I searched online for possible assessment tools and started with 123test®. This particular tool, as is the case with other companies, has less interest in self-knowledge than work-related factors and their discovery.

123test® is an international company, headquartered at Radbound University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. The company operates with contributors from all over the world through a network of websites. Their tests are free and fast while also scientifically valid and reliable. Users can go beyond the free start to pay for fuller analysis and documentation. 123test®’s “highly successful” development scheme follows.

  • Using scientific literature as a theoretical basis for tests.
  • Collecting massive amounts of empirical data to ensure representative sampling.
  • Drawing upon the skills and experience of PhD level test developers.
  • Generating valid reports through ‘expert systems’ based on empirical findings.
  • And some other stuff we prefer not to say.

Though their battery of assessments focuses on employment-related skills, I chose as my own basis, the most generic and fundamental personality test, though they also have DISC and Jung tests.

Test results for the “big five personality factors” hinge on responses to 120 statements. The system requires all 120 responses; otherwise, it does not compute the results. Responders can strongly disagree, disagree, take a middle position, agree or strongly agree. The instructions come with the caution about the middle: “Try not to use the ‘Neutral’ option too often.” Directions identify use of ‘Neutral’ as when “you are neutral about the statement, if you cannot decide, or if the statement is about equally true and false.” I am so glad for this level of possible response.

After taking the free online test and getting results, I went back to the 120 questions and tabulated how I answered.

  1. Strongly Agree – 10
  2. Agree -18
  3. Neutral – 28
  4. Disagree – 14
  5. Strongly Disagree – 50

I wondered if this pattern identified me as a contrarian.

As with the many inventories I have taken in the last 40 years, answers depend on one’s understanding of the terms of the statements offered. I always find myself asking a couple starter questions. What does each combination of words really mean? How does the statement apply to my generalized or usual experience?

In this case, if I am to avoid the neutral option as much as possible, why does it mount up to equal the total of agreements and why is it some measure less than half of the disagreements?

For one thing, several statements cause me to strongly disagree. For example:

2. I make friends easily. What is a friend? For me, friends are those you know well or very well on the road to fully knowing one another. Many such friends in my life may still be friendly and understanding, but relatively incidental. I am not sure that we make friends so much as find them. None of friend-making is easy. As with most things I have a high standard for what makes the term. In short, though to be highly prized, friends are few: the rest are acquaintances.

11. I often feel sad. How often is often? For me often is frequent, at least routine or regular. I know horrible things are constantly happening around the world, but I don’t see myself being sad about them unless I deliberately dwell upon such misfortunes. I work to maintain a positive attitude despite obvious existing ignorance, intolerance, and cruelty.

46. I am afraid to draw attention to myself. Afraid? Well, I was afraid when a child since there were so many things where my performance ability was non-existent to poor – games, sports, singing, art work, mechanics, penmanship. It was best to stand on the sidelines or take myself out of the picture. I’m still reserved but often actually on stage as a speaker, entertainer, or panelist – all done in support of some other goal. However, I never want or feel the need of attention for attention’s sake. I like to think I am doing my part where asked or needed.

57. I have a lot of fun. As I have written several times in the past, I have a very low regard for fun which to me is a great distraction and an inferior human experience. Instead, I hold up enjoyment, a blessing more rare and worthy than fun. Enjoyment follows from excellence and achievement in myself or my realization of others’ magnitude. I admit that many things are fun or delightful – positive comedy, laughter, the cleverness of children, dancing and picnicking – and these soon also bring enjoyment. Mostly I abstain from games, parties, or any entertainment trivial, demeaning or at someone’s expensive, especially concussive sports or athletics that thrive on drugs.

Among the statements are some that are so reprehensible, they prompt from me an automatic Strongly Disagree. Such as, “I use and manipulate others to get my own way” (9); “I over indulge and go on ‘binges’” (21); “I am very spontaneous – I act without thinking” (29); “I don’t mind cheating to get ahead” (39). The list goes on. Who would admit to such things as “I shout and yell at people” (49); or, “I make rash decisions” (60)? And that is only statements from the first half.

I used the Disagree response when the statement is largely untrue but applicable in some situations. 47. I never sit still – I’m always on the go. Here I took ‘sit still’ and ‘on the go’ as metaphors translating to not doing or doing something. Use of ‘never’ and ‘always’ verge on the impossible or the absent so far. I am active at one thing or another during my waking hours, most frequently 8 hours at my desk. I also go for walks, bicycling, exercise, and attend movies, theaters, concerts and watch a small amount of tv. I’m on FB with a limited number of family and “friend” contacts. I email at length with three of my long-term and closest friends. With my three siblings, I join in round robin email communications.

62. I avoid coming into contact with people If I can help it.  Disagree. I do not usually walk up to strangers and start a conversation, something I question because it seems to me imposing. I don’t so much avoid people as live in a situation where acquaintances are just that or I am, otherwise, by myself doing what occupies me – thinking, reading, researching, writing – all solitary occupations.

The relative number of middle responses, a split between agreement and disagreement, is often due to the random status of situations, the mixture of happening and not happening.

42. I try to be in charge – to lead others. It’s tough enough to be in charge of one’s self, and I’m more interested in cooperation than leadership. In most opportunitiess, I wait to see who goes first. I only volunteer when I see I have a suitable skill or appropriate background on some aspect of a project. I favor most those things I can do on my own – thinking, researching, problem solving, concept-formation, or writing. Facilitation is my principle group skill, followed by administration at the direction of the group.

48. I prefer to stick with things I know. At basis, I am constantly mulling things over and most of my opinions, however lasting, are open to change or alteration. Most of what I know develops within the enlarging context which I endeavor to learn. I deliberately strive for good decisions, based on some studied evidence, and the search for increasingly relevant knowledge.

55. I get the job done and carry out my plans. Yes and no. Most of what I am working on requires a long process due to several factors. I am a slow starter and must have enough background information and clear understanding before I set to work. I have multiple interests and want to know in depth whatever has my attention. I live in a constant stage of revision as I seek some fuller and final satisfaction. The priority of deadlines captures most of my projects so that the less public endeavors fall to the bottom. I have attempted a dozen novels, a few of which came to an end, but I am not satisfied with any of them. I am working on the 13th which has taken so far a year and a half to establish the foundations, but likely will take another six months before I set to developing the story. Story depends on tension: because I do not hold with conflict as the basis of story-logic, the setting of tension requires my deepest and prolonged thinking.

65. I handle tasks methodically. And method means …? Webster’s Collegiate sees method as a procedure or process for attaining an object. More specifically, a systematic procedure, technique or mode employed by a particular discipline or art. That’s me, by and large, due to my focus on reading and thinking, learning and experience in library and information services, predilection and practice. However, I berate myself that I am not methodical enough, nor persistent enough. Often I lack focus. As I age, I tire more easily and divert myself by turning from one task to another. I rage with myself that I have let too many years go by unproductively; that is, without a finished product.

Alas, I find that I can only Strongly Agree with a few statements – 10 of 120; that is 8.33%. They follow.

3. I have a vivid imagination. I substitute “lively” for “vivid.” I try to keep my imagination going, thinking of alternatives, making up stories when I am awake in bed.

8. I think art is important. Why would this be a question?

15. I keep my promises. I do, or try to do, given the time they might require to fulfill.

17. I am always busy – always on the go. This is the flip of 47 above.

20. I work hard. If hard means attentively, then yes. Of greater pertinence, I see myself doing work that is itself “hard” in that much of it is without precedent, or even a ready model.

23. I enjoy reading challenging books and articles. Of course: what use is learning that is not challenging? I go to clearance book sales at the end when there is little or less remaining, making it easier to find what others ignore, and wind up with the likes of Alter, Ancient Israel, the former prophets (2013); Murray, The Problem of God (1964); Collins & Makowsky, The Discovery of Society; 3rd ed. (1984); Gardner, Morale (1978); Late Nineteenth-Century American Liberalism (Filler, 1962); Kersten & Pearlstein, Close to Home: the American experiment in freedom (2000); Brooks, The Well Wrought Urn [the structure of poetry] (1947). And those are among the less challenging works I read. When I bother to worry, my worries range over the decline in learning and the loss of access to serious sources such as these. Though I have given decades to intellectual freedom issues, I have become repulsed by the vacuity of most media and its decline from the central elements of our lives together. My mind goes back to 1959 when reading Huxley, Brave New World (1932) and his portrayal of mass culture for a manufactured population. Why have we not benefitted from his prescience?

51. I rarely over-indulge. What a imprecise statement, less so than the binge in  21 above. Indulgence appears here without context and in terms further clouded by the relative vagueness or rare. Whatever. I determined it as something going on that ought to be avoided.

67. I prefer to be alone. This is most certainly true. As a confirmed INTJ, solitude is the source of my strength.

87. I love life. Certainly, considering the alternative.

97. I avoid crowds. Another way of saying 67.

Given all my kvetching about the way questions are phrased, I must say that I concur with the results.

Big Five Results

  1. Openness to Experience: 74% (High Range). I am imaginative, open-minded, and experimental.
  2. Conscientiousness: 54% (Middle Range). On the bell curve, I am above the 40% average of the middle towards conscientious, disciplined, efficient, and well-organized.
  3. Agreeableness: 53% (Middle Range). Similarly towards compassionate, eager to please, good natured.
  4. Extraversion: 8% (Low Range). Here I am at the bottom of the low range towards being reserved, formal, serious, and quiet.
  5. Natural Reactions: 5% (Very Low Range). As reported, I tend to be not easily upset in stressful situations and relaxed.

Each of these alignments in my personality are well-recognized by me as central to my life, my preferences and habits. The results clearly and markedly parallel other inventories taken and reported on the MY TYPE page.

Now I am on to reflecting about my strengths and weaknesses.

Slightly revised, 12 January 2016.

© Copyright 2015 by Roger Sween.

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