What is Openness and How Does it Affect Behaviour?
Your inner openness
Here’s a test. Stop reading this for a moment and take fifteen minutes to think of as many uses as you can for a brick. Yes, a brick – a small rectangular block typically used to form walls and such. Go on, have a think.
Done? Fantastic. You’ve just completed a round of the “Unusual Uses task,” and tapped into your inner openness.
What is openness?
Openness, or openness to experience, is a personality trait that addresses a person’s creative side. If you score highly on openness, you’ll almost certainly have generated a lot of potential uses for that brick – and many of them are probably unusual and bizarre. A brick as a book-end? A footstool? A doorstop? A bed for a barbie doll? A device for breaking into a safe?
People who are open, think divergently. They come at things from unusual angles, find meanings that others can’t see. Unsurprisingly, particularly high scorers on openness tend to be drawn to the arts, and are often artists by profession. Open people don’t just like going to galleries – they like going to galleries and reading fiction and going to the theatre and enjoying a good concert. They like new ideas, they enjoy thinking about spiritual and philosophical issues, and they generally don’t give a damn for fitting in and doing what everybody is doing.
Open people seem to have a brain that makes strange connections between things. While the non-open person might hear the word “shark,” and think “Jaws,” or simply just scream, the open person thinks “soup” (because of shark fin soup), or “cartilage” (because this is inside of the fishy beast – and they’re thinking way outside the box!).
Our ancestors probably valued people who were open because they aided survival by approaching problems from a completely different point of view. It was probably a particularly open person who first looked at a wolf and saw it not as food but as a potential ally. While the many were chewing on wolf meat, the rare open few were looking at man’s new best friend.
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