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Mind

What's your personality type? Find out what makes us the way we are

''Personality is a good predictor of a number of things and research suggests it is fairly enduring over our life span.''

By Sarah Marinos
Are you someone who is highly organised, reliable and hard-working? Or do you have a laidback, whatever-will-be-will-be approach to life?
Do you fire up and get angry quickly, or do you opt for a gently does it approach when navigating a tricky situation?
After studying the traits, attitudes, values and qualities of more than 1.5 million people, US researchers have come up with four personality types which they say describe most of us.
Why does this matter and why is knowing our personality type important?
Well, our personality type has wide ranging impacts on our life – from the quality of our relationships and our job prospects to our level of education and the state of our physical and mental health.
"Personality is a good predictor of a number of things and research suggests it is fairly enduring over our life span – it doesn't change a lot," says Dr Bradley Elphinstone, a lecturer in Psychology at Melbourne's Swinburne University.
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Personality types are defined using the 'big five' personality traits.
These are: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
People who score higher in the neuroticism trait are more prone to being anxious and worried. "Neuroticism can be associated with higher stress and more mental health concerns," explains Dr Elphinstone.
Those who have a strong extraversion trait are outgoing and social – introverts are more likely to be reserved and to prefer their own company.
Openness to experience refers to being willing to try new things and agreeableness is the much-desired personality trait of being cooperative, warm and optimistic.
Conscientiousness is also often highly regarded as a trait because it signals diligence and hard work.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK have found that some of these traits are more helpful than others when it comes to good health.
They studied 121 people who completed a personality test that measured each of the big five personality traits. The people in the study also provided a blood sample that was tested for two groups of genes found in white blood cells – one group was linked to inflammation and the other group is involved in antiviral activity in the body.
Being an extrovert was significantly associated with an increase in the pro-inflammatory genes while conscientiousness was linked to less pro-inflammatory genes.
"In other words, individuals who we would expect to be exposed to more infections as a result of their socially orientated nature – extroverts – appear to have immune systems that we would expect can deal effectively with infection," explains Professor Kavita Vedhara from the University of Nottingham School of Medicine.
"While individuals who may be less exposed to infections because of their cautious dispositions have immune systems that may respond less well. We can't, however, say which came first. Is this our biology determining our psychology or our psychology determining our biology?"
Research has also drawn links between personality traits and our health-related quality of life.
US researchers analysed 76 personality studies and found some interesting links between personality type and health risks.
People who were more extroverted, open and optimistic, and who had greater self-esteem all enjoyed a better health-related quality of life.
Perhaps not surprisingly, higher levels of neuroticism were linked to poorer health.
A new study from Northwestern University in the US has amassed more than 1.5 million individual personality profiles and used them to describe four new key personality types.
So, what are they and what are the defining traits of each?
Dr Elphinstone says whichever of these four personality types we belong to, there are positives in each.
"There's no need to think that you have a 'bad' personality," he explains.
"If you have a neurotic trait, that doesn't mean you're a failure. It can be a strength.
"For example, people who are more neurotic make more use of health services. So, they might pick up on a lump in their body and get it checked while someone who is not so neurotic might have a 'she'll be right' attitude.
"In that case, neuroticism is an advantage."
Dr Elphinstone says accepting we are all different and being aware that people won't always see the world through our lens, can make for happier social, personal and working relationships.
"You can have two people with identical personality types but if one person always worries about keeping up with the Joneses, their wellbeing will be lower than people with different aspirations," he explains.
"Accept and embrace who you are and if you do feel any aspect of your personality is getting in the way of living well – seek out a psychologist and get some advice."

What's your personality type?

The average personality
If you're an average personality you are less likely to be open and lean towards a tendency to worry, but are steady in most other traits and areas of life.
"Being low on openness to experiences isn't necessarily a bad thing – these are people who are happy going back to the same restaurant because that's where they are comfortable," says Dr Elphinstone.
"They are people who may worry about things a little, but they are reasonably outgoing, get on with people and work pretty hard – but they are not workaholics.
"They lean towards the conservative side and are happy to go along with the status quo."
The role model personality
The role model personality scores highest on openness and they keep a cool, calm and collected attitude, making them ideal leaders and employers.
"They stay calm under pressure and don't get caught up worrying about things," says Dr Elphinstone.
"They like to be out there, talking to people and getting other perspectives, and they are open to considering new possibilities.
"They are less likely to get stuck in a certain way of doing things that is not effective and are hard-working, diligent and lead from the front."
The self-centred personality
If you fall into this personality type you won't score very highly when it comes to agreeableness and conscientiousness.
"These people don't get along so well with others and are less hard-working or less concerned about doing the right thing by others," says Dr Elphinstone.
"They sit in the middle when it comes to neuroticism and aren't particularly anxious. They score higher for extraversion and are happy to get out there and enjoy themselves, but they have less concern for others."
The Northwestern University research found that there is a dramatic fall in the number of self-centred personalities as we age.
The reserved personality
The reserved personality scores low when it comes to the extraversion trait – they tend to be more introverted, shy and don't have a burning desire to be out and socialising.
"They are happy spending time in their own company or with a small group of people," says Dr Elphinstone.
"They are agreeable and conscientious, so they are not anti-social. But they are often less worried about meeting the expectations of others so don't feel they have to be out there socialising."
Reserved personalities get on with others and, like the average personalities, they are hard-working.
The Northwestern University research found women are more likely than men to fit this personality type.

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