Main The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic, and...
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8 RELIGION Some people don’t believe in any beings or forces that are beyond the laws of nature. They reject the ideas of a God or gods, of souls or spirits, of miracles or magic powers. But other people are utterly certain of their beliefs in supernatural forces, and these beliefs may pervade almost every aspect of their lives. The topic of this chapter is religiosity. We’ll consider the role of personality in explaining which people will be religious and how they will express their religiosity. We’ll also examine how religions encourage the expression of certain personality characteristics. But we should begin by explaining why religiosity is not itself a personality characteristic. First of all, a person’s religiosity depends ultimately on his or her beliefs about the supernatural or spiritual world; by contrast, a person’s level of a personality disposition doesn’t depend on any particular set of beliefs. Also, religiosity often involves following a way of life that is meant to achieve harmony with some higher power—typically God, or the universe itself. A religious way of life involves a wide range of behaviours that wouldn’t otherwise go together—for example, a given religion may prescribe various rules about what to eat or when to work or whom to marry.1 By contrast, the behaviours associated with a given personality disposition usually share some obvious similarities; for example, the X factor of personality involves behaviours such as leading, entertaining, and socializing with others. Personality and Religious Beliefs So, who believes in the supernatural, and who doesn’t? In modern countries, personality characteristics give us only vague hints as to which people will be believers. There is a weak tendency for people who are nicer or more soft-hearted to be more likely to believe in some supernatural forces. In a study we conducted with our graduate student Babatunde Ogunfowora, we found that belief in the supernatural was modestly associated with higher levels of the H, A, and E factors.2 O; ne potential reason for these associations is that nicer, more soft-hearted people like to believe there is something more to life than mere physical existence. For example, they like the idea that people have souls that will survive their bodies, and they like the idea that people who are separated by death will meet in an afterlife. By contrast, people who are lower in H, A, and E—people who are not quite so nice, or a bit less soft-hearted—may lack this motivation to believe in an afterlife and may even take some satisfaction from rejecting those comforting beliefs. Still, the relations between personality and supernatural beliefs are rather weak. (In case you’d like some numbers, the correlations of H and A and E with belief in the supernatural are only in the .20s.) This means that many people don’t fit the trend: you can find a lot of very nice, soft-hearted people who reject any belief in the supernatural, and a lot of not-so-nice, hard-hearted people who accept such beliefs quite decidedly. The link between soft-heartedness and supernatural beliefs comes from our own data, but other researchers have found similar results. In a review of over 60 previous studies, Vassilis Saroglou found that, on average, religious people are slightly more soft-hearted than non-religious people.3 Now, given that personality and religiosity are related, you might wonder which one influences the other. Do personality traits influence religiosity, or do religious beliefs influence personality? So far, the evidence is very limited, but it mostly favours the former direction of influence. When researchers have followed people over many years, they’ve found that personality traits early in life predict religiosity later in life, more than the other way around.4 One other hint that personality influences religious beliefs comes from the pattern of sex differences in these variables. On average, women are somewhat more soft-hearted than men and slightly more likely to believe in the supernatural. If we control for the sex difference in soft-heartedness, the sex difference in supernatural beliefs is reduced by about half. But if we instead control for the sex difference in supernatural beliefs, the sex difference in soft-heartedness is diminished only slightly. This pattern of results suggests that women are somewhat more strongly attracted to supernatural beliefs by virtue of being somewhat more soft-hearted than men.5 The idea that religious people tend to be soft-hearted is partly consistent—but only partly—with some claims from a 2006 book by the social scientist Arthur Brooks.6 He noted the results of a survey that indicated that religious Americans (i.e., those who go to their house of worship nearly every week) donated three-and-a-half times more money to charities than did non-religious Americans ($2,210 versus $642). He also stated that the greater generosity of religious Americans persists even when one considers only those donations that were made to non-religious charities. Technically, this statement is true, but the gap between religious and non-religious Americans in secular giving, as reported by Brooks, is quite small: religious Americans donated only about 10% more than did non-religious Americans to secular charities ($532 to $467). So, religious Americans give more—but only slightly more—money to secular charities than do non-religious Americans. This small difference is about what you’d expect given the modest link between religiosity and soft-heartedness.7 Relatively few people reject all supernatural beliefs. Even in countries where most people don’t belong to an organized religion, most people still believe in some supernatural beings or forces. But if personality is only modestly related to belief in the supernatural, what is it that determines which people will be hard-core skeptics, rejecting all supernatural beliefs? One candidate is exposure to science. The very mission of science is to explain our surroundings—including the origins of humans, of life, of the Earth, and of the universe—in terms of laws that solely involve natural causes. So as you might expect, scientists are much more likely than other people to reject supernatural beliefs. In one study, 41% of US scientists indicated that they did not believe in God or any other higher power, as opposed to only 4% of the US general public.8 A similar study found that the proportion of disbelievers was 45% for scientists in general and a remarkably high 72% for members of the National Academy of Sciences, whose members are highly accomplished scientists.9 Of course, this still leaves many scientists—even many distinguished scientists—who do believe in the supernatural, including some who are devoutly religious. But the proportion of scientists who are skeptics is clearly very high. The above findings leave open the question of whether it’s really the study of science that makes scientists reject belief in the supernatural. It might be instead that scientists are simply the kind of people who would have rejected supernatural beliefs even without any study of science. But the personality characteristics of scientists can’t explain their lack of religiosity. As we noted above, personality characteristics are at most only a small part of the story, and in any case scientists aren’t so much different in personality from people in general. (The data from Goldberg’s sample of Oregon community residents indicate that people with greater interest in scientific careers tend to be somewhat high in the O factor, and slightly low in the “soft-heartedness” factors of H, A, and E. But the differences are small.) But if the skepticism shown by scientists isn’t due to their personalities, you might wonder whether it’s their intelligence that’s responsible: after all, scientists tend to be smart people. But there’s only a modest link between having a high IQ and rejecting the supernatural. One recent large-scale study of US teenagers found that the average IQ among atheists was about 5 points higher than that of the population in general. This means that although atheists are somewhat smarter on average than non-atheists, the difference is not large; for example, more than one-third of non-atheists would have a higher IQ than the average atheist. (In the same study, by the way, agnostics averaged about 3 IQ points higher than the general population. Jews and Anglicans or Episcopalians had average IQs 1 or 2 points higher than those of the atheists, and the average IQ among Catholics was about equal to that of the general population. The more “liberal” Protestant denominations were slightly above average, and the more “dogmatic” Protestant denominations somewhat below average.)10 Taken together, all of the above findings suggest that scientists’ individual characteristics—their levels of IQ and the major personality factors—aren’t the main reasons for their lack of supernatural beliefs. Instead, their skepticism about the supernatural is probably due mostly to their intensive study of science and their commitment to the scientific method. Traditional Religion versus Mystical Spirituality: The Role of O Now let’s move on to our second question about religion and personality. Among people who do believe in the supernatural, how does personality relate to the style or form of their beliefs—to the way they express their religiosity or spirituality? Here it’s the O factor that plays the most important role. The O factor doesn’t tell us much about whether or not a person will believe in the supernatural. People who deny the existence of any and all supernatural forces or beings—people who don’t believe in God or souls or spirits or magic or anything outside the natural world—are about equally likely to be high or low in O. What the O factor can tell us, however, is what kind of supernatural beliefs people are likely to hold. On the one hand, low-O people who believe in the supernatural tend to have traditional religious beliefs. Low-O persons prefer strict adherence to the beliefs and practices of the mainstream religious community. For example, in societies having a Christian religious tradition, low-O persons (or at least those low-O persons raised in religious households) are inclined to accept the literal truth of the Bible—to believe in the creation story as given in Genesis, in the existence of God and Satan and heaven and hell, and in the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As you might expect, these low-O believers are very socially conservative. On the other hand, high-O people who believe in the supernatural tend to have what we call mystically spiritual beliefs. For example, in Western societies, high-O persons are inclined to adopt a variety of magical, occult, or paranormal beliefs, including beliefs in astrology, witchcraft, ghosts, extrasensory perception, and psychokinesis. They’re also inclined to adopt teachings from Eastern religions such as Buddhism or Hinduism or from the spiritual traditions of Native American peoples. In general, high-O persons are attracted to new religious movements that emphasize spiritual searching by the individual. These high-O believers, unlike the traditionally religious low-O believers, are inclined to be slightly liberal on social issues. The O factor thus has moderately strong—and opposite—links with these two forms of supernatural beliefs. In one large-scale study, Gerard Saucier and Katarzyna Skrzypińska found that O correlated about –.25 with traditional religiosity and about .40 with mystical spirituality.11 So even though O can’t tell us whether a person will accept or reject the existence of supernatural beings or forces, it can give us some clues as to which kinds of supernatural beliefs he or she would be more inclined to hold.12 The links between O and religious or spiritual beliefs give an interesting insight about the history of religious movements. People who start a new religion or who become its enthusiastic early converts are likely to be high in O. People who maintain an established religion or who become its most devout defenders are likely to be low in O. Reasons for Religious Observance: The Role of H We’ve explained how it’s the O factor of personality that plays the biggest role in explaining the style or form of people’s beliefs in the supernatural—whether people will be religious traditionalists or spiritual mystics. But the H factor also plays a part in the domain of religion. As we mentioned in the previous chapter, high-H people are slightly more likely than low-H people to be religious. And as we mentioned earlier in this chapter, a likely reason for this link (and for the similar links of the A and E factors with religiosity) is that soft-hearted, sympathetic people tend to favour the ideas that people have souls that will survive their bodies and that people who are separated by death will meet in an afterlife. But besides having a modest link with religious and spiritual beliefs, the H factor is involved in the reasons people have for expressing those beliefs. Consider two people who both belong to the same church or other religious group. Both of them attend religious services regularly, both of them donate money to their religious group and its causes, and both of them observe the rituals of their religion. But the two have utterly different reasons for their outward adherence to the rules of their religious community. For one of those people, these visible signs of religious commitment are genuine expressions of his or her deepest beliefs. For the other person, the same behaviours are merely for public consumption, intended simply to project an image of respectability and to make contacts with people of high status in that community. This person might believe in the tenets of his or her religion, but this belief isn’t what motivates his or her public religiosity. Now, most people who belong to a religious community won’t be such clear-cut cases as our two examples above; instead, most will have some mixture of these two reasons for their public displays of religiosity. But some people are clearly more sincere than others in their religious observances. And as you would guess, it’s high-H people whose expressions of religious devotion are more genuine, and low-H people whose expressions are more cynical. That said, you can think of some circumstances in which it wouldn’t work this way. Imagine a highly religious and highly conformist society that essentially ostracizes people who don’t go through the motions of religious observance. In such a society, even high-H non-believers might reluctantly decide that they have no choice but to pretend to be religious. The link between the H factor and the motivation for religious observance applies to religious leaders as well as to followers. Most people who enter the clergy are genuinely religious, and people who indicate a strong interest in religious vocations are, on average, rather high in H.13 Nevertheless, there are reasons why at least some low-H people are attracted to the career of religious leader. A religious vocation could provide a path for achieving some position of high status. For example, within a large denomination, one could hope to navigate one’s way into the top positions of the hierarchy of religious authorities. And even within small, local religious communities, there is the prospect of wielding considerable influence over one’s congregation. In the cases of very low-H people, there is also the potential for financial or sexual exploitation of one’s followers. Such cases are well known among established religions but are perhaps especially prevalent among new religious cults. And of course, low-H people with sufficient charisma and organizational skills can aspire to become the next great televangelist, soliciting donations from a vast population of unquestioning followers. Do Religions Promote High H? The H factor influences the expression of religiosity; conversely, religious teachings can be designed to influence the expression of the H factor. Most religions encourage the ideal of behaving as a high-H person—being honest and humble in dealings with others. Virtually every major religious tradition has its counterpart of the Golden Rule, often paraphrased from the King James Bible as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But the crucial difference among religions is in how widely this ideal is to be applied: Is everyone to be treated fairly, or only the other members of one’s own group? Some religious teachings encourage believers to act as high-H persons toward co-religionists but as low-H persons toward outsiders. Consider the Old Testament: in the Book of Deuteronomy, the Ten Commandments instruct believers not to commit murder or theft or adultery or perjury. Later chapters of Deuteronomy, however, instruct believers to commit genocide against various other religious groups. For example, “when the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations … then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy” (Deuteronomy 7:1–2, NIV). Likewise, “do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them … as the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deuteronomy 20:16, NIV).14 (We should mention, by the way, that religions have no monopoly on genocide: most of the state-sponsored mass murders of the 20th century were inspired by non-religious ideologies.) In some religious traditions, by contrast, the imperative to treat others fairly is truly universal, with no distinction drawn between co-religionists and outsiders. Consider the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers. This sect separated from the Church of England during the 17th century and subsequently spread to other areas of the world. Among the defining features of the Quaker movement are its testimonies, which provide principles for how to live. For example, the Testimony of Simplicity urges believers to avoid ostentation and materialism, and hence encourages high-H behaviours. Note that these Quaker testimonies are meant to govern one’s interactions with Quakers and non-Quakers alike. The Testimony of Integrity emphasizes telling the truth (and avoiding even indirect deceptions) as well as fair dealing: early Quakers gained reputations as honest businessmen through their practices of paying decent wages to their (non-Quaker) workers and setting fixed prices when selling goods to their (also non-Quaker) customers. The Testimony of Peace encourages pacifism and hence forbids aggression against outgroups. Among the early settlers of North America, the Quakers were known for their peaceful relations—and their scrupulous adherence to treaties—with Native Americans. The Testimony of Equality holds that all persons have equal rights and hence forbids exploitation of outgroups. As early as the 18th century, the Quakers declared their opposition to the slave trade and to slavery itself, and contemporary Quakers continue to advocate for human rights. Why do some religions encourage high-H behaviours only within the group, whereas others encourage high-H behaviours toward everyone? It may depend in part on whether the religion is suited for high-O people or low-O people. The more dogmatic or fundamentalist movements—low in O—require obedience and conformity; they draw strong distinctions between “us” and “them,” with especially strong moral obligations toward the former but few if any toward the latter. By contrast, the more liberal or progressive movements—high in O—aren’t much concerned with obedience and conformity; they draw weaker distinctions between us and them, with moral obligations extended toward all. As we’ve seen in this chapter, the H factor is implicated in several aspects of people’s religious beliefs. In the next chapter, we’ll consider three domains in which H is even more strongly involved: money, power, and sex. 3 HEXACO: THE SIX DIMENSIONS OF PERSONALITY As we explained in the previous chapter, there are six broad categories of personality characteristics—the HEXACO personality factors. This means that we could summarize someone’s personality rather well by assessing his or her level on each of those six dimensions. But this leads to the same kinds of questions that we used to ask ourselves about the Big Five. What do these personality factors mean? And why should these factors be the basic dimensions of personality? In this chapter, we’ll try to answer these questions. We’ll start by describing in more detail the characteristics of people who have higher or lower levels of each of the six HEXACO personality factors. Then, for each of those six dimensions, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having a higher or lower level, both in modern life and in the human evolutionary past. Table 3–1 shows general descriptions of each of the six factors. For each factor, the left and right sides of the page show the characteristics of people who have very high levels and very low levels, respectively, of that factor. Keep in mind that each of these factors is a dimension—a continuum. For the sake of simplicity, we describe people as being “high” or “low” on a given dimension, but don’t take this to mean that people come in two distinct groups. Instead, most people are somewhere in between, with relatively few people at very high or very low levels. In fact, the distribution of people’s levels on each factor is fairly close to what statisticians call the normal distribution—the familiar bell-shaped curve (see Figure 3-1). TABLE 3–1 Descriptions of Persons with High and Low Levels of the HEXACO Factors Honesty-Humility (H) High Low • avoid manipulating others or being false • flatter others, pretend to like them • scrupulously fair, law-abiding • willing to bend rules for personal gain • wealth and luxury not so important • want money and expensive possessions • don’t consider themselves superior • feel entitled to special status and privilege Emotionality (E) High Low • fearful of physical harm • not deterred by physical danger or pain • worry about minor matters • little anxiety even in stressful situations • like to share concerns with others • don’t need emotional support from others • feel empathic concern towards others • little sentimental attachment to others eXtraversion (X) High Low • see positive qualities in self • consider self to be unpopular • confident leading, speaking in groups • feel enthusiastic and upbeat • enjoy social interactions • avoid small talk, prefer to be alone • feel uncomfortable with attention • don’t feel lively or dynamic Agreeableness (A) High Low • do not hold grudges, not resentful • find it hard to forgive • lenient in judging others • critical of others’ shortcomings • flexible in opinions, accommodating • stubborn in defending point of view • patient and even-tempered • feel anger readily when provoked Conscientiousness (C) High Low • orderly with things and time • disorganized surroundings and schedules • work hard to achieve goals • avoid difficult tasks or challenging goals • pursue accuracy and perfection • don’t mind incompleteness, inaccuracy • prudent, careful decision making • act without thinking of consequences Openness to Experience (O) High Low • appreciate beauty in art and nature • intellectually curious • use imagination in everyday life • like to hear unusual opinions • indifferent to artistic and aesthetic pursuits • uninterested in natural or social sciences • avoid creative activities • not receptive to unconventional ideas One way to understand the HEXACO dimensions is to consider each as a contrast between two opposite strategies for interacting with one’s surroundings. By “strategies” we don’t mean conscious or calculated choices. (You could think of tall and short as two contrasting strategies of height, but this wouldn’t imply that people choose their own height.) What we mean is that opposite poles of a personality dimension represent opposite ways of dealing with some aspect of life. There are some times and places in which people having the “high” pole of a dimension would be better suited to their environment; in other times and places, the low pole would be better. If instead the high pole of a given dimension was always better than the low pole, or vice versa, then pretty much everyone would have about the same level of that dimension—there wouldn’t be much variation in that aspect of personality.1 Below, we’ll be interpreting each of the six HEXACO trait categories as a contrast between two strategies—two opposite ways of dealing with some important feature of life. For each of the six, we’ll consider the pros and cons of having high or low levels of the dimension. In describing these trade-offs, we’ll consider the consequences of the dimensions in modern life: researchers have examined the links between personality and outcomes in various aspects of life, such as career, relationships, and health. But we’ll also speculate about how personality dimensions would have mattered before the modern era, both in the recent (historic) and the distant (prehistoric) past. [image: image] FIGURE 3–1 The Normal Distribution Engagement and Endeavour: Openness to Experience (O), Conscientiousness (C), and Extraversion (X) First, consider the O, C, and X factors. Look in Table 3–1 at the descriptions of high and low scorers on each of these three dimensions, and ask yourself this question in each case: Which side of the factor seems “busier”—which one implies more activity or engagement of some kind? We think you’ll agree that for all three factors, it’s the high side. For O, C, and X, persons with a higher level of the dimension tend to be more actively engaged in a certain area of endeavour than are persons with lower levels. What makes the three trait categories different from one another is that each involves a different kind of endeavour. To start, let’s consider the Openness to Experience traits. The common element of the high-O traits is the tendency to engage in idea-related endeavours: high-O people become deeply absorbed in contemplation of art and nature. They want to understand the human and natural world. They generate new ideas and look for new solutions to old problems. They’re receptive to ways and customs that seem unfamiliar and strange. This engagement with ideas means that high-O people tend to learn, discover, and create a lot more than low-O people do. In modern society, people who are high in O tend to acquire a wide general knowledge and a large vocabulary. They like to travel widely, exploring new physical and cultural environments. They pursue occupations that demand creativity, whether as an artist or as a researcher.2 A high level of O would have provided some advantages in the human evolutionary past. Other things being equal, a person who learned more about other peoples and languages, about different natural environments, and about new tools and skills would have had a better chance of gaining the resources needed to survive and reproduce. But being high in O would also have had some drawbacks. One is risk of physical harm: high-O activities such as exploring new lands, trying new ways of doing things, or expressing unusual opinions all carry some dangers.3 Another potential drawback is the energetic cost of doing these high-O activities and even of being switched on all the time—of continually thinking and imagining. (The brain accounts for about 2% of an adult human’s body weight but about 16% of the body’s energy consumption.)4 Now let’s turn to the Conscientiousness traits. The common element of these characteristics is the tendency to engage in task-related endeavours. High-C people organize their time and their physical surroundings. They work hard and long. They pay thorough attention to details. They think through their options systematically and carefully. High-C persons can gain some important benefits from their task-related engagement. This is evident in several ways in modern life. People high in C tend to perform better in school and on the job than people low in C. Because they are able to inhibit their impulses, high-C people are less likely to smoke, use drugs, or drink excessively. They are also less likely to be involved in serious accidents, and much less likely to lose their money by gambling or spending recklessly. Consequently, high-C people tend to be better off financially and tend to live longer and healthier lives than low-C people do.5 In pre-modern times, the work ethic and foresight of high-C persons would have meant a larger and more consistent food supply and better capacity to deal with various disasters. These benefits would have been greatest in environments where working and planning had the potential to generate benefits. But if instead there had been little chance to get more food or prevent disasters, then high C would have been less advantageous. The main disadvantage of high C is probably its energetic cost. People who do more physical work will require more energy to fuel their bodies, and people who make the mental effort of planning and inhibiting impulses will require more energy to fuel their brains. (Interestingly, there is some evidence that acts of self-discipline do deplete the brain’s reserves of glucose.)6 In pre-modern times, when food supplies were less secure than they are today, these energy costs might actually have outweighed the benefits, especially if one lived in an environment where hard work and planning did not always pay off.7 Next let’s consider the eXtraversion traits. Here the common element is the tendency to engage in social endeavours: high-X people assume that other people like them.8 They’re comfortable stating opinions and leading others. They like to make friends and to interact frequently with them. They exude a cheerful enthusiasm. The social engagement of high-X persons tends to make them desirable partners for all kinds of interactions. In modern settings, high-X people tend to be the most popular members of their peer group, be it a college dormitory, a social club, or a workplace. They’re also more likely to become leaders of such groups. And they’re generally seen as physically attractive and hence as more sexually desirable.9 In the human evolutionary past, people high in X would generally have had more friends, allies, and mates—and a better choice of friends, allies, and mates. This network of social resources could have improved a person’s odds of surviving and reproducing. But one downside of high X is that it probably carries some important energetic costs, if people who maintain a lively, upbeat state consume more energy than those who are more passive. Another disadvantage is that people who attract positive social attention likely also attract competitive hostility from those who covet that positive attention. This can translate into some risks of physical harm.10 According to our interpretations above, you can probably imagine what would be the personality of someone who combines high levels of all three of O, C, and X. Such a person will come across as highly engaged and “switched on”; in contrast, a person low in all three factors will seem rather inert. But because the O, C, and X factors are uncorrelated with one another, few people are very high in all three or very low in all three. Altruism versus Antagonism: Honesty-Humility (H), Agreeableness (A), and Emotionality (E) Now let’s turn to the H, A, and E factors (see Table 3–1). Unlike the situation for O, C, and X, there’s no clear tendency for either pole of H, A, or E to be busier or more engaged than the other. Instead, H, A, and E each involve a contrast between an “altruistic” tendency (at the high pole) and an “antagonistic” tendency (at the low pole). But these three factors relate to altruism and antagonism in different ways. First, the Honesty-Humility factor: high-H traits share a common element of not exploiting others. People high in H avoid manipulating or deceiving people. They don’t cheat others or steal from them. They don’t feel entitled to take advantage of people, nor do they particularly want to have more than other people do.11 This reluctance to exploit others shows itself in various ways. High-H people are much less likely to commit crimes of various sorts. They generally give others their fair share even when they could get away with not doing so, and even when the others are strangers. They are much more likely to favour ethics over profit and much less likely to be sexually unfaithful or sexually exploitive. (We’ll discuss all of the above in more detail in Chapter 9.) An important benefit of being high in H is that by treating people fairly, one can gain the benefits of future cooperation with others. In other words, when you don’t take advantage of others, people generally come to trust and cooperate with you. The cooperation of others can make a more satisfying life in modern society, but in many pre-modern settings this “bank account” of cooperation could be crucial for improving the odds of surviving and reproducing. The low-H person, by contrast, undermines the goodwill of others, thereby losing their cooperation and even provoking their active retaliation.12 The cost of being high in H is obvious enough. If your conscience simply won’t permit you to exploit others, you miss many opportunities for personal gain—opportunities where there is little chance of suffering negative consequences. The high-H person doesn’t exploit others even when there is no chance of being detected and even when the potential victims are powerless to retaliate. Next, the Agreeableness factor: the common element of high-A traits is a tendency to get along with others even when they may be hard to get along with. High-A people forgive past injustices rather readily. They’re lenient in their judgments of others. They’re flexible in letting people have things their own way. They’re slow to get angry even when provoked. This tendency to be tolerant and patient has some interesting consequences. High-A people generally report being happier with their marriages—and so do the spouses of high-A people. They also have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease as well as a better chance of recovery from it.13 The main benefit of high A—whether in modern life or throughout the evolutionary past—is that it maintains the benefits of cooperation. In many cases, a person who seems to be treating you badly actually turns out to be a rather nice person. If you have the high-A tendency to continue (or resume) cooperating, you won’t miss out on the gains of ongoing future cooperation with that person. But the disadvantage of being high in A is that it also allows you to continue cooperating with people who truly are trying to exploit you.15 BOX 3–1 Herding, Farming, and the Optimal Level of A Here is a possible example of how the optimal level of A could depend on the relative benefits of cooperation and costs of being exploited. Consider the contrast between a herding society (based on livestock) and a farming society (based on crops). Livestock such as sheep and cattle are very mobile, so it’s easy for rustlers to round them up and drive them away; to deter this potentially disastrous kind of exploitation, herding societies favour lower levels of A. In contrast, low A is less advantageous in a farming society: it’s much harder for a would-be thief to harvest a field of crops and carry them away, and there may also be more opportunities for cooperation (think of the old-fashioned barn-raising bees). Some researchers have used the contrast between herding and farming societies to explain the differences between the cultures of White settlers in the southern and northern United States: the South, whose upland areas were settled mainly by herders, has been known for its “culture of honour,” in which minor insults can spark feuds.14 The H and A factors thus represent two distinct aspects of the tendency to be cooperative: high-H people cooperate with you even when they could get away with exploiting you; high-A people cooperate with you even when you are not really cooperating fully with them. Low-H people undermine cooperation by taking unfair advantage of you, and low-A people undermine cooperation by being too quick to decide that you’re taking advantage of them. Finally, the Emotionality factor: the common element of the E traits is that they promote the survival of oneself and one’s kin. People high in E avoid physical dangers. They worry about potential harms both to themselves and to their families. They seek help and support in times of need. They feel strong empathy and attachment toward their family and close friends. The self- and kin-preservation associated with the E factor shows up in several ways. For example, very high-E people are at risk for what psychologists call “separation anxiety disorder.”16 Although this disorder is usually diagnosed in children, it occurs in adults too: some adults dread being apart for even one night from their spouse or child and worry obsessively about unlikely harms that might befall those persons, such as a freak accident or a kidnapping. High-E persons are also more likely to develop phobias—that is, excessively strong fears of physical dangers, such as animals, blood and injections, collisions and falls, and closed spaces.17 Conversely, very low-E people can have the opposite problems: some of them are indifferent to family ties and incapable of romantic love. Some of them suffer injury or even death because—being undeterred by the prospect of physical harm and pain—they expose themselves to great dangers both at work and at play. The benefit of high E is therefore the reduced likelihood that serious harm will befall oneself and one’s kin. The cost, however, is that high-E persons (and their kin) forgo the potential gains from activities that carry risks to the well-being of oneself or one’s kin. In the human evolutionary past, the ideal level of E would have depended on the local environment. For example, if the only way to make a living was to carry out some dangerous task, lower E would have been better. Or, if there were many avoidable dangers to oneself and one’s offspring, higher E would have been better. The relative value of higher versus lower E also depends on one’s sex. Throughout the human past, the survival of a child depended more on its mother’s survival than on its father’s.18 And for a woman, the heavy biological cost of pregnancy and lactation means that having another child is a much more difficult proposition than it is for a man. (Moreover, a woman rarely has any doubts about which children are her own and which children aren’t, whereas a man has less certainty on both counts.) Consistent with these facts, the average level of E is consistently higher for women than for men. This difference is not huge—there’s a lot of overlap between the sexes in their levels of E, about as much as there is for height—but it’s found reliably across cultures as different as the United States and Turkey, or Korea and the Netherlands. As we mentioned earlier, the E factor promotes strong feelings of empathic concern and emotional attachment, which in turn promote altruism (and inhibit aggression) toward one’s kin. In short, high-E people have a strong inclination toward kin altruism. Now, suppose that an individual has not only a high level of E but also high levels of both H and A—the ingredients of cooperation, or reciprocal altruism. Such a person will be highly altruistic all-around—basically, a very nice person. Conversely, a person low in E, H, and A will be highly antagonistic—a very nasty person. BOX 3–2 Personality and Altruism: H as the Missing Link When we noticed the H factor in studies of personality trait words, we finally understood the answer to a problem that had nagged at us for several years. Back in 1996, when we started working together, we were trying to understand the Big Five Agreeableness and Emotional Stability factors in terms of what biologists call “kin altruism” (i.e., a tendency to be protective and solicitous of your family members and other people who are like family) and “reciprocal altruism” (i.e., a tendency to cooperate with others in general). Basically, we believed that “sentimental” traits (such as empathy and emotional attachment) should promote kin altruistic behaviour, whereas “patient” traits (such as tolerance and even temper) should promote reciprocally altruistic behaviour. When the studies of various languages showed that sentimental traits and patient traits formed neat factors of their own—the E and A factors, respectively—this made perfect sense to us. But the finding of an H factor solved an even bigger problem. Back when we were developing our ideas about personality traits in relation to kin altruism and reciprocal altruism, we realized that something was missing. According to theoretical biology, “reciprocal altruism” should involve two quite distinct kinds of traits. Being a tolerant, patient person makes you a good partner for cooperation, because you aren’t always getting unduly angry at other people. At the same time, being an honest, fair-minded person also makes you a good partner for cooperation, because you aren’t always trying to cheat other people. These latter tendencies didn’t have a place of their own in the Big Five model. But when the sixth factor was found, everything fell neatly into line: there was one factor for traits that promote kin altruism (E), one factor for the “patient” kind of reciprocal altruism (A), and one factor for the “fair” kind of reciprocal altruism (H). As we mentioned above, people who are high in all three of these factors are very nice people. This can also be seen in the results of lexical studies of personality structure, for traits that describe an overall “nice” tendency—for example, sympathetic or soft-hearted—tend to fall partly in the E trait category, partly in the H trait category, and partly in the A trait category. In this chapter, we’ve tried to explain the meaning of the HEXACO personality factors—why these six dimensions are important, and why people differ so widely in these aspects of personality. We’ve argued that each dimension can be seen in terms of two opposing strategies for dealing with one’s surroundings: depending on where and when a person is living, a higher level of a given dimension may work better than a lower level, or vice versa. So far, however, we’ve considered each personality factor in isolation from the others. In the next chapter, we’ll explore the personalities of people who exhibit various combinations of the personality dimensions. We’ll be focusing on people who have low levels of the H factor in combination with high or low levels of the other five dimensions. But before you read about these varieties of low-H people, you might be interested in a couple of fundamental questions about personality: Do people have different personalities because of the genes they inherit or because of environments they experience? And how much do people’s personalities change throughout their lives? We examine these questions in Box 3–3 and Box 3–4. BOX 3–3 Nature and Nurture Suppose that we take a large group of adults from any modern, developed country. These adults grew up in families that differed widely in their levels of income, education, and religiosity, and in their styles of raising children. But these adults still have much in common: they’re all from the same ethnic group and the same generation, and they all went to similar schools and grew up in broadly similar communities. None of them experienced any really severe abuse or neglect when growing up, and none of them were desperately poor. The adults of this group will show the full variety of personalities. For any of the six personality dimensions, some will be very high, others very low, and most somewhere in between. But why are they so different in personality? Is it mainly because of nature—differences in the genes they inherited? Or is it mainly because of nurture—differences in the families and households they grew up in? The answer is one of the most striking discoveries of personality psychology: genes are heavily involved in personality differences, rearing environments hardly at all. How do we know? Researchers have figured this out by measuring the personalities of various kinds of relatives, to find out how similar those different kinds of relatives typically are. For example, suppose we measure many pairs of identical twins (who share 100% of their genes—they’re genetically identical). And suppose we do the same with many pairs of fraternal twins (who share 50% of their genes—the same as for regular, non-twin siblings). If identical twins tend to be more similar to each other in personality than are fraternal twins, this suggests that heredity (nature) has an influence on personality. (Here we’re talking about the genes that actually differ from one person to the next. We’re ignoring all of the genes—the vast majority—that are identical for all human beings.) As another example, suppose that we measure many pairs of biological siblings who were raised together (the usual situation). And suppose we do the same with many pairs of biological siblings who were raised apart (perhaps due to adoption or divorce). If the siblings raised together tend to be more similar to each other in personality, this suggests that the rearing environment (nurture) has an influence on personality. For one last example, suppose that we measure many pairs of siblings who are biologically unrelated (as happens when a family adopts one or more children). If these siblings tend to be at all similar in personality, this suggests that the rearing environment is also involved. When researchers do these kinds of studies, here’s what they find:19 • On average, identical twins are very similar in personality, and about twice as similar as fraternal twins. • On average, biological siblings are only modestly similar in personality, but it doesn’t matter if they were raised together or apart. • On average, adoptive relatives aren’t similar at all in personality—no more than any other biologically unrelated people. All of this tells us that differences in people’s genes do contribute to differences in their personalities and that differences in their rearing environments do not. The best recent estimates are that personality differences are about two-thirds due to genetic differences and almost not at all due to differences in early household environment. This means that if two people have identical genes, they’ll likely have rather similar personalities even if they’re raised in different households. Also, if two people have entirely different genes, they’ll have quite different personalities even if they’re raised in the same household. Keep in mind, though, that these studies probably include very few people who had been severely abused or neglected as children. If there were many such people in the research samples, the results might well show some effects of the rearing environment.20 By the way, these findings don’t mean that there must be one specific gene, or even a few specific genes, that cause people to have higher or lower levels of any given personality factor. Research thus far suggests that personality differences are caused by the combined effects of very many genes, each of which has only a small effect on its own. As for exactly how those genes influence personality—how they act through the workings of our brains—it will likely be a long time before researchers have much more than a superficial understanding. But if personality differences between people are two-thirds due to genetic differences and not at all due to household environment differences, what about the other one-third of personality differences? Well, even though your personality as an adult probably doesn’t depend much on the household or family in which you were raised, it is possible that your experiences while growing up still had some effect. Researchers have suggested some early experiences that might influence adult personality: • Peer, or friendship, groups during adolescence: people might become more similar to their friends in some aspects of personality (thereby fitting in with their peers), or they might become more distinct from their friends in other aspects (thereby being unique among their peers).21 • Birth order—more specifically, a person’s age rank among the siblings raised in his or her family: for example, it has been suggested that later-born children may be more rebellious than earlier-born children.22 Research studies conducted so far suggest that these effects are likely to be small,23 but taken together and in combination with various other influences, they should account for the one-third of personality variation that isn’t accounted for by genetic differences. BOX 3–4 Does Personality Change? The question of whether personality changes is actually two different questions. First, does the average person change in some predictable ways throughout his or her lifespan? And second, do people change in comparison with the average person of their own age group? To see the difference between these questions, consider athletic ability: obviously, the average adult becomes less athletic between age 20 and age 60, but this doesn’t mean that the most athletic 20-year-olds end up as the least athletic 60-year-olds. To get a picture of how the typical person develops, researchers have measured people’s personalities at intervals of several years. Their findings show that most people become somewhat higher in the A, C, and H factors of personality between their teens and their forties. The difference isn’t large—in fact, there are many teenagers who have high levels of these factors, and many middle-agers who have low levels. But the trend is for people to be more responsible, better socialized citizens after young adulthood than they were before it.24 It isn’t yet clear why these changes happen. Perhaps as people progress through young adulthood, changes occur in their biological predisposition for these personality characteristics. Or perhaps the typical changes in life’s circumstances during young adulthood—career, marriage, children, homeowner-ship—simply bring out more of the behaviours associated with these aspects of personality. Researchers have used the same data to get a picture of how people change in comparison with other people of their own age cohort. These data generally show that people’s personality trait levels—compared with the levels of other people from their own age cohort—are highly consistent even over many years. For any given personality trait, a person’s level at (say) 30 years old will very likely be similar to his or her level five decades later, when he or she is 80 years old. (This degree of consistency is somewhat lower during adolescence and young adulthood, when there is a bit more shifting in people’s levels of the major personality traits.)25 Although some people do show important changes in their personality trait levels, most people don’t. 5 CAN YOU TELL SOMEONE’S LEVEL OF H? Think of a casual acquaintance of yours and try to imagine what that person would or wouldn’t do. Cheat on their taxes? Keep the money found in a wallet? Manipulate the boss to get a promotion? Use other people to climb the social ladder? In this chapter, we’re interested in the question of how accurately you can estimate another person’s level of the H factor. Can you tell at first sight whether a person is high or low in H? Or can you never tell, even after knowing them for many years? Personality in Strangers Let’s start with strangers. Researchers have tried to find out whether people can judge the personalities of people they’ve just met. In these research studies, participants are asked to rate a stranger’s personality after just a few minutes of observation—perhaps after a short conversation, or watching the person in a short (and silent) video clip. The results of these studies indicate that people are at least somewhat accurate when it comes to judging strangers’ personality traits, at least for traits associated with the X factor. Apparently, it’s fairly easy to judge how outgoing or lively a person is, even on first encounter. For the other personality factors, including the H factor, you generally can’t judge people accurately when you first meet them. BOX 5–1 Narcissism at First Sight Although people generally can’t tell another person’s level of H upon first meeting, the results of one study suggest that the combination of low H and high X is at least somewhat apparent even to strangers. As we discussed in Chapter 4, people who combine low H with high X are narcissistic. They have a grandiose sense of self-worth and a strong sense of being entitled to others’ admiration and attention. Narcissistic people tend to brag about their achievements and to flaunt their assets (whether financial or physical or otherwise), and they generally convey the attitude that they’re better than you are. One study examined whether people can tell how narcissistic someone is just by looking at a photograph of that person.1 In this study, the photographed people didn’t know that their pictures would be taken, so the images in the photos probably showed their typical appearance. Those photographed people had completed a self-report narcissism scale, and their scores varied widely, ranging from very self-effacing to very self-promoting. When university students were asked to estimate the narcissism levels of all the photographed persons—all of whom were strangers to the students—their ratings were more accurate than chance, with correlations in the .20s. How were people able to judge the narcissism levels of the photographed persons? In part, they noted whether the stranger was wearing flashy, expensive clothing. Also, in the case of a female stranger, narcissism was attributed (usually correctly) to those who showed cleavage, who wore heavy makeup, and who plucked their eyebrows. Still, the level of accuracy wasn’t high enough to be of much practical value; you wouldn’t want to rely much on these clues if you were trying to judge people’s levels of H—for example, in choosing an investment manager or finding a blind date for a friend. Also, these results apply to people who combine low H with high X; it would be harder to identify low-H people who are also low in X (see Chapter 4), because their low-H clues would be much less prominently displayed. But can you ever get an accurate idea of someone’s level of H? Or is the H factor such a subtle aspect of personality that you can never really judge people’s levels very accurately even after many interactions with them? We’ll discuss this shortly, but first a more basic question: How can we figure out whether you’re accurate or not? One way to evaluate your accuracy involves the use of personality questionnaires—or, as they are usually called, personality inventories. Many personality inventories have both a “self-report” form—in which a person responds to statements about his or her own personality—and also an “observer report” form—in which a person responds to statements about some other person’s personality. (See the Appendix for the self-report and observer report forms of the short HEXACO Personality Inventory.) By comparing your observer report about a person’s level of the H factor with that person’s own self-report, we could likely get a good sense of your accuracy. Self-Reports of H: Are They Honest? A little later in this chapter, we’ll give some results indicating how accurately people can judge another person’s level of the H factor. But first, you might wonder whether it makes sense to use a person’s self-report to decide how accurately you’ve judged his or her level of H. Indeed, people sometimes tell us it is impossible to measure the H factor through any kind of self-report inventory. The problem, they suggest, is that dishonest people won’t admit to being dishonest, because their very dishonesty causes them to claim falsely that they are honest. Superficially, this is logical, but the argument is based on a misunderstanding of what the H factor is all about: low-H people are willing to deceive for personal gain, but this doesn’t mean they’re pathologically unable or unwilling to tell the truth. When responding to personality inventories in anonymous research settings, low-H persons don’t have any incentive to lie about themselves. In fact, like other people, they generally find it more satisfying (and a lot easier) simply to describe themselves frankly and accurately. In such settings, low-H people are generally quite willing to indicate that they would act in low-H ways, such as cheating or manipulating others to get ahead. Therefore, self-reports of H are likely to be very accurate, at least when these are provided in anonymous research settings. This is evident when we look at people’s scores on self-report scales measuring the H factor. Just as we find for the other five factors, a few people have very high scores, a few people have very low scores, and most people are in between. If low-H people were simply “faking” to present themselves as high in H, we’d expect most people to be “piled up” at the high end of the scale. Also, most of the people who have high self-reported levels of H don’t claim to have high levels of other desirable characteristics. If those people were simply faking, they’d likely be presenting themselves as all-around wonderful people.2 BOX 5–2 Measuring Personality: Self-Reports (and Observer Reports) Work Better Than You’d Think To many people, the idea of using questionnaires or inventories to measure personality—or anything else—seems unscientific. In other branches of science, researchers use instruments that measure variables more objectively. For example, when meteorologists measure temperature or humidity or wind speed, they use thermometers and hygrometers and anemometers. They don’t ask people how warm or humid or windy it is. But personality traits are different from the phenomena studied in other sciences. For one thing, a personality trait is a disposition—a tendency to show a certain style of behaving and thinking and feeling, as shown across a variety of relevant situations and over a long period of time. So if we want to measure someone’s level of a personality trait, we have to capture that disposition—that tendency—and there is no physical instrument that can do this. Although researchers have tried various ways of measuring personality (including direct observations of behaviour in controlled settings), the results indicate that well-constructed personality inventories have the crucial advantage of providing accurate personality descriptions with relatively little time and expense. (“Well constructed” is a key phrase here, because many inventories don’t measure personality accurately.) We can assess someone’s personality in broad outline by getting responses from that person (or from someone who knows him or her well) to a few dozen statements that are carefully developed to tap the traits of interest. But how do we know that personality inventories are actually accurate? Consider several lines of evidence. First of all, scores on well-designed personality inventories are correlated with other variables that ought to reflect (at least to some extent) people’s personalities. For example, when we administer self-report personality inventories to university students, we find that their scores on the C factor predict their grade-point average, that their scores on the O factor predict their level of verbal ability, and that their scores on the X factor predict their popularity with their peers.3 Moreover, people’s scores on personality scales can even predict, to a modest extent, important life outcomes such as mortality/longevity, occupational attainment, and divorce—even when the personality measurements were made long before these outcomes actually happened.4 Another indication that personality inventories are accurate is that there is generally rather close agreement among various observer reports, as made independently by persons who are closely acquainted with the “target” person. In studies of university students’ personalities, there is fairly close agreement between the observer reports from their old “hometown” friends, from their new “university” friends, and from their parents—and all of these observer reports correlate rather well with the students’ own self-reports. The agreement among observer reports is particularly impressive given that in some cases, the hometown friends and the college friends have never even met one another and have known the target person during different time periods and in different social settings.5 All of these findings indicate that personality inventories can provide accurate information. However, none of this is to say that personality inventories will work well under all conditions. In particular, we’d be cautious about using self-reports with people who have an incentive to make a certain impression—imagine, for example, a person providing self-reports in applying for a desirable job or for early parole. Many studies have shown clearly that when people are instructed to “fake good” or “fake bad” on a personality inventory, they can do so.6 But when people respond to personality inventories in anonymous research settings, nearly all of them describe themselves frankly. Knowing Someone’s Personality: H Is among the Last Things You Learn Over the years, we’ve obtained self-reports and observer reports on the HEXACO factors from over 1300 pairs of university students. Some of these pairs were boyfriend and girlfriend, and a few of the pairs were relatives (usually siblings), but most of the pairs were friends, usually of the same sex and often living in the same house. When participating in our research studies, each member of a pair provides self-reports and observer reports in our research labs, without having any chance to consult with the other member. What we’ve found is that, on average, self-report levels of H aren’t any higher than observer report levels. Our university students don’t claim to be any more sincere or modest than their friends say they are. (Note, by the way, that if the students were faking to appear high in H, their self-reports would be much higher than the observer reports from their friends.) And for the most part, if a student has a high self-reported level of H, then his or her friend’s observer report is high also; likewise, if a student has a low self-reported level of H, the friend’s observer report is probably low too. For these closely acquainted pairs of students, the correlations between self-reports and observer reports on the six HEXACO personality factors are all around .50. (For an explanation of what correlations mean, see Box 2–1.) This is a fairly high level of agreement, and it applies to all six factors, including H. When we found that there was such good agreement between self-reports and observer reports of personality, we began to wonder: How long do you need to know someone—and how well do you need to know that person—before you can judge their personality? We checked to find out whether the level of agreement was higher for friends who had known each other for a longer time. The results surprised us: the agreement between self-reports and observer reports didn’t depend on how long the friends had known each other. In fact, the correlations between self-reports and observer reports were as high for pairs who had known each other for only about one year as they were for pairs who had known each other for several years. This was true for all six HEXACO factors, which suggests that people can get a fairly good idea of one another’s levels of H—how sincere or modest they are—within a year. But even if it doesn’t take a long time to learn someone’s level of the H factor, it does take a lot of observation: you have to get to know that person rather well. We had also asked the members of each pair of students to indicate how well they knew each other, using a scale from 0 (not at all) to 10 (extremely well). For most pairs, the level of acquaintanceship was very high, generally between 7 and 10; however, a little more than 10% of our participants indicated levels of 6 or below. We asked for these ratings in order to tell whether the level of agreement between self-reports and observer reports depends on how well people know each other. It does: the correlations between self- and observer reports are generally higher for people who consider themselves to be more closely acquainted. This result probably doesn’t surprise you, but what’s interesting is that it doesn’t apply for every personality factor. Even when the pairs of students know each other only moderately well—that is, when their ratings are 6 or less—they are able to judge each other’s levels of X and E fairly accurately. But this result makes sense in light of some other facts. Apparently, as we noted earlier, you can judge X with at least some accuracy even in strangers,7 and E shows some fairly large differences between men and women, which means that a person’s sex gives at least a rough clue as to their level of the E factor. People can usually make good judgments about X and E even for people whom they know only moderately well. What’s also interesting is that among people who aren’t very well acquainted, observer reports are noticeably less accurate for H (and also for A and C, to a lesser degree) than for the other personality factors. When you don’t know a person well, you may have a pretty accurate idea of his or her levels for the E, X, and O factors, but you’re likely to be less accurate for A, C, and especially H . However, this accuracy appears to increase sharply as people get to know each other better. When we spend a lot of time with a person in a wide variety of contexts, so that we get to know that person well, we can develop a pretty good idea of his or her level of the H factor.8 Of course, the results described above reflect an average across many pairs of people: some persons’ levels of H are more easily observed, and other persons’ levels are less easily observed. Likewise, some persons are better than average at judging someone’s H level, some persons worse. (We’re quite sure that you, for example, are much better than average.) But until you’ve had many opportunities to observe a person in widely varied settings or situations, it’s better to be cautious in judging their level of H, even if you’ve known them for many years. H in the Workplace: Hard to Tell One implication of these results is that some kinds of relationships probably don’t give us enough information to judge other people’s levels of the H factor. Consider the workplace. In Western countries, most people interact with their co-workers only when doing the job itself and rarely in other, more private settings. These situations are much less varied than the ones that we share with our friends and spouses and relatives. Moreover, people usually want to make a certain impression on their co-workers—whether supervisors or peers or subordinates—so they’re more likely to behave in ways that don’t necessarily reveal all aspects of their personalities. We saw this first-hand when Joshua Bourdage, one of our graduate students, collected personality data from pairs of administrative employees at the university. He was interested in examining how employees try to manage the way they’re seen by their co-workers—in other words, their “workplace impression management.” Workplace impression management includes behaviours such as self-promotion (e.g., boasting about your experience or education), ingratiation (e.g., flattering your colleagues so that they will like you), exemplification (e.g., pretending to be busy even when you aren’t), supplication (e.g., pretending not to understand something in order to get someone’s help), and intimidation (e.g., letting others know that you can make things difficult for them).9 The common feature of these behaviours is that people use them to manipulate their co-workers and supervisors. We recruited pairs of employees who had worked in the same department for at least six months. The participating employees came to our lab to give self-reports and observer reports on some scales measuring workplace impression management and also on our personality inventory, the HEXACO–PI–R. Each employee gave his or her reports anonymously and confidentially, and independently of his or her co-worker—the same procedure that we used with our pairs of university students, as described above. In this way, we could see whether the employees could tell how much their co-workers were managing impressions at work. We collected personality reports from about 100 employees. When we first analyzed the data, the results looked very strange: the employees’ self-reports of workplace impression management were almost uncorrelated with the observer reports from their co-workers. It seemed to us that this couldn’t be right; surely the co-workers would notice each other’s impression management with at least some accuracy. But we checked the data set in several ways, and everything was done correctly. Contrary to what we had expected, there just wasn’t much agreement between employees’ self-reports and their co-workers’ observer reports. And these co-workers had generally known each other for some time—more than 18 months in the typical case—which meant that many of them had had ample opportunity to observe their co-workers. Now, you might wonder whether the employees were really being frank about how much impression management they were doing in their workplace. If employees generally deny these behaviours, naturally this will result low correlations with the co-workers’ reports, if it’s the co-workers who are telling us how the employees really behave. But this apparently isn’t the case: the employees’ self-reports indicated just as much impression management, on average, as their co-workers’ observer reports did. (And because the responses were given in an anonymous, confidential setting, the employees had no reason to conceal these behaviours.) Apparently, some employees overestimate how much impression management their co-workers do, and other employees underestimate it. These findings mean that you can’t always tell what’s behind the outward behaviour of your co-workers. Some of those who behave as very good citizens may truly be acting out of good will; others may just be acting. Not surprisingly, workers who did a lot of impression management tended to be low in the H factor. And our findings for the H factor were similar to those for impression management: employees’ self-reports on the H factor were only very weakly correlated with their co-workers’ observer reports. Just as co-workers couldn’t accurately judge each other’s levels of workplace impression management, they also couldn’t accurately judge each other’s levels of H. Now, the levels of agreement for the other personality factors (except X) were generally somewhat lower in the co-worker sample than in the student sample that we discussed above. As we speculated earlier, these differences probably reflected the fact that the co-workers typically weren’t so closely acquainted with each other as were the students (who, as you’ll recall, were usually close friends). But what’s striking is that the H factor showed particularly low accuracy in the co-worker sample. As we mentioned above, the correlation between self-reports and observer reports was about .50 in our student sample, yet in our co-worker sample it was only about .10. Why is it difficult to judge accurately the levels of H of your co-workers? It may be because everyday interactions in the workplace don’t give many valid clues about people’s levels of the H factor. Most workplaces don’t offer many situations that let you see plainly which people are high in H and which people are low. Another reason is that people tend not to reveal their levels of H in the workplace: many low-H people make a calculated effort to come across as upstanding employees, but few high-H people do so, which makes it very hard to tell which people are which. (By contrast, people are less willing or less able to manage their impressions all of the time, so their friends and spouses and relatives will generally get a pretty good idea of their level of H.) Anyhow, the results of our research suggest that it would be easy to trust co-workers too much—or even to trust them too little—based on the limited information you typically get in the workplace. To sum up, people are pretty accurate in judging the personalities of those who are close to them—the persons they know well. And for many aspects of personality, people can still make accurate judgments even for people they don’t know so well—such as their more distant social acquaintances, or their co-workers. But apparently, this doesn’t apply to the H factor: to be really accurate in judging a person’s level of H, you usually need to know that person very well. 7 POLITICS People often say that if you want to get along well with others, you should avoid discussing religion and politics. They say that when you’re meeting your new boss, or your new neighbours, or your future in-laws, it’s better not to start declaring all your opinions about religious and political matters. You’re bound to differ with them on some questions, and those disagreements could lead to a lot of ill feeling. That is probably good advice. Many people take political and religious questions very seriously. Even when people don’t have any personal stake in an issue, they can still have passionate opinions about it. By contrast, people are much less impassioned about factual matters that don’t have any obvious political or religious implications. For example, it took more than 30 years for Richard Dawkins’s seminal science book, The Selfish Gene, to sell a million copies, whereas it took only two years for the same author’s anti-religious book, The God Delusion, to reach the million mark. Likewise, the American linguistic scholar Noam Chomsky is far more famous for his criticisms of US foreign policy than for his groundbreaking scientific work on language acquisition. Why do so many of us care so much about political and religious matters? The most likely answer is that political and religious attitudes reflect our basic values—our ideas about how to live and how to relate to other people and to the world. Because these values are so central to our sense of who we are, it’s satisfying when people agree with our attitudes, and it’s disconcerting when they don’t.1 When people choose partners of any kind, they gravitate toward those who share their political and religious attitudes. For example, as we mentioned at the beginning of the previous chapter, spouses tend to be very similar, on average, in their political and religious views. In the previous chapter, we explained how the major factors of personality—particularly H and O—underlie the two main trade-offs in people’s value systems. In this chapter, we discuss the role of personality in shaping our political attitudes. Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) Researchers who study political attitudes have found that people’s attitudes can be predicted very well by just two variables. Those variables are called Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO). Both are assessed by self-report scales. To give you an idea of what these scales measure, we’ve listed some of the items on each scale in Table 7-1. First let’s consider RWA, which was developed by Bob Altemeyer.2 People who have high levels of RWA show three related tendencies: they conform to conventional norms, they obey the established authorities, and they support aggression by those authorities against people who don’t conform or who don’t obey. In short, high RWA people tend to disapprove of people and ideas that challenge the accepted beliefs and structure of society. In the 16th century they would have disliked the heliocentric theory of Copernicus. In the 19th century they would have disliked Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (come to think of it, many of them still do). High-RWA people in North America today have a predictable pattern of views on political issues: many of them oppose the legalization of (among other things) abortion and doctor-assisted suicide as well as same-sex marriage and recreational drugs. TABLE 7–1 Example Items from the Right-Wing Authoritarianism and Social Dominance Orientation Scales Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) Everyone should have their own lifestyle, religious beliefs, and sexual preferences, even if it makes them different from everyone else. (R) The only way our country can get through the crisis ahead is to get back to our traditional values, put some tough leaders in power, and silence the troublemakers spreading bad ideas. The facts on crime, sexual immorality, and the recent public disorders all show that we have to crack down harder on deviant groups and troublemakers if we are going to save our moral standards and preserve law and order. The established authorities generally turn out to be right about things, while the radicals and protestors are usually just “loudmouths” showing off their ignorance. Our country needs free thinkers who have the courage to defy traditional ways, even if this upsets many people. (R) Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) Some groups of people are simply inferior to others. To get ahead in life, it is sometimes necessary to step on other groups. Sometimes other groups must be kept in their place. We should do what we can to equalize conditions for different groups. (R) All groups should be given an equal chance in life. (R) Note: “R” indicates a reverse-keyed statement, meaning that disagreement contributes to higher scores on the scale. RWA items from Altemeyer (1981, 1996); SDO items from Pratto et al. (1994). Next let’s consider SDO, which was developed by Felicia Pratto and Jim Sidanius.3 People who are high in SDO generally want some groups of people (presumably their own) to have higher status and greater wealth and power than other groups. In other words, they prefer hierarchy to equality, both within and between societies. In the 19th century they would have opposed the abolition of serfdom or slavery (unless, of course, they themselves were serfs or slaves). In the early 20th century they would have opposed workplace safety laws. High-SDO people in North America today generally oppose state-run social welfare systems as well as public funding for health care and for higher education, and they generally oppose assistance for foreign countries and for other ethnic groups. RWA and SDO aren’t strongly related to each other, but both are strongly related to political orientation. When people are asked to place themselves on a scale from “left wing” to “right wing,” or from “liberal” to “conservative,” left-wing or liberal people are likely to score low in both RWA and SDO, and the right-wing or conservative people are likely to score high in both.4 It’s not surprising that the RWA scale predicts how right-wing someone is, but the SDO scale predicts this almost as strongly. For example, one large-scale study of US citizens found that people’s self-placement on a scale from “liberal” to “conservative” correlated over .50 with RWA and about .40 with SDO. Again, what makes this finding especially interesting is that RWA and SDO are not so strongly related to each other—in this particular study, the correlation was a little more than .30.5 We realize that the above results place politically conservative persons in a somewhat unfavourable light. But we should note that some people who hold conservative views are not particularly high in RWA or in SDO. Moreover, some of the correlates of political conservatism are more desirable: conservatives tend to be slightly happier than liberals and to be slightly more satisfied with life; they also tend to have a somewhat greater sense of personal control and personal responsibility.6 Besides being related to people’s general political orientations, RWA and SDO predict a variety of more specific attitudes.7 For example, both are associated with blind patriotism (“My country right or wrong!”) and with support for the war. (Which war? The current one.) Note, however, that RWA and SDO are associated with different reasons for supporting wars: high-RWA persons see the world as a dangerous place in which enemies threaten the values and safety of one’s people, whereas high-SDO persons see the world as a competitive place in which enemies must be defeated for the sake of the status, power, and wealth of one’s people. In addition, RWA and SDO are both associated with dislike of minority ethnic groups, of gays and lesbians, and of women’s rights. The combination of RWA and SDO can predict those attitudes very well—considerably better than either variable on its own.8 Altemeyer has put it this way: if there were a Prejudice Olympics, the gold medal would go to people who are high in both RWA and SDO (the “double highs,” as he calls them), and people high in SDO only or high in RWA only would win the silver and bronze, respectively. People low in both would finish out of the medals, but we think they’d be happy just to have met so many wonderful people from all over the world. O and Right-Wing Authoritarianism How do RWA and SDO relate to the major dimensions of personality? First, as you’d probably expect, RWA is related to low levels of the O factor. This means that people who are more socially conservative—who favour the conventional social structure and conventional norms—tend to be lower in O. As we explained in Chapter 3, high-O people don’t mind things that are new and unusual, so they’re more likely to try eating strange foods or visiting faraway countries or using new technologies. And high-O people especially like new and unusual ideas—perhaps too much, in some cases—so they aren’t strongly tied to conventional notions of how society should be structured. The link between the O factor and low RWA is moderately strong, but it’s far from perfect. You can probably think of some low-O people who don’t have socially conservative views and some high-O people who do. (You could probably find some of the latter in the Vatican and some of the former in Las Vegas.) And even though people with higher levels of O have a predisposition to favour social change, there are many other variables that can influence one’s political perspective. For example, a high-O person who visits some extremely chaotic country might conclude that traditional values are needed to maintain a functioning society even though his or her personal taste is for greater individual freedom. Nevertheless, the point is that lower levels of O usually go along with higher levels of social conservatism. One interesting twist on this trend is that the link between O and political attitudes gets stronger as people get older. Among people in their late teens and twenties, lower O is only weakly related to social conservatism. Among middle-aged people, this link is much stronger. It’s as if one’s level of O exerts a stronger influence on one’s political thinking as one gets older: low-O people gravitate toward socially conservative positions, and high-O people drift away from those positions. In one of our research projects,9 we studied personality and political attitudes in three countries: Canada, South Korea, and the United States. Our hypothesis was that in all three countries, RWA should be more strongly related to O than to any of the other personality factors. The results supported this hypothesis, but the links between RWA and O weren’t the same across the three countries. In our Korean and Canadian samples, the correlation between O and RWA was modest (about –.20); in the US sample, the correlation was much stronger (about –.50). This was a pretty big difference, and it’s all the more striking given that it can’t be explained by cultural differences—the USA is culturally much more similar to Canada than to Korea. But there was an important difference between our US participants and our participants from Canada and Korea: the US participants were much older. All of them were middle-aged adults, most of them university graduates, and their average age was over 50. By contrast, our Canadian and Korean participants were university students whose average age was around 20. So, the difference between the US results and the Korean and Canadian results suggests that as people get older, their levels of O have stronger effects on their social conservatism. Why would the link between low O and RWA become stronger after young adulthood? We can get some hints from research in behaviour genetics, which examines how the differences between people can be explained by their different genes and their different environments (see Box 3–3). According to this research, differences among adolescents or young adults in political and religious views are due in large part to differences among the households in which they were raised.10 In other words, parents’ attitudes have a big influence on the level of social conservatism of their adolescent and young adult children. After young adulthood, however, the influence of parents’ attitudes becomes weaker and genetic influences become stronger. Apparently, what happens is that from young adulthood on, people’s religious and political views become less strongly influenced by those of the parents who raised them. Instead, adults gradually develop attitudes that are more consistent with their personality characteristics—characteristics that have a genetic basis. In the case of socially conservative views, this largely means that the O factor exerts a stronger effect after young adulthood. Consider an 18-year-old who shares the socially conservative views of his or her parents. If that 18-year-old is high in O, he or she is likely to become lower in RWA during later adulthood; if low in O, he or she will probably maintain the parents’ conservative views. The link between RWA and low O explains some interesting facts that you’ve probably already noticed in everyday life. One such fact is that academics and artists tend to be left-wing in their political orientation. Consider academics—specifically, university professors. One large survey found that 44% of US university professors described themselves as liberal and only 9% as conservative (the other 47% were “moderate”). In contrast, a large survey of the general US public found that only 22% were liberals, whereas 35% were conservatives (with the other 43% moderates).11 How does the O factor explain the left-wing political views of professors? People high in O tend to be intellectually curious, and such curiosity is perhaps the defining trait of the typical professor. At the same time, as we saw above, high O underlies socially liberal attitudes, including rejection of traditional religiosity. Thus, it’s not surprising that professors would be politically liberal. One way to view the role of O is by examining differences between academic disciplines regarding how left-wing their professors are. First of all, the most left-wing disciplines are generally those within the humanities and social sciences, such as sociology, English literature, and philosophy.12 People who are interested in these areas of knowledge tend to be very high in O.13 Also, within any given area of knowledge, the more left-wing professors are usually found in the more theoretical or pure disciplines, and the more right-wing professors in the more practical or applied disciplines. For example, professors in economics are more liberal than those in banking and finance, professors in physics are more liberal than those in engineering, and professors in biology are more liberal than those in medicine. In these cases, it’s likely that high levels of O have attracted some persons to the theoretical disciplines and that those same high levels of O also favour a left-wing political orientation. Like professors, artists tend to be very left-wing in their political orientation. (And among professors, those who teach in the fine or performing arts are among the most left-wing, rivalling even the sociologists.)14 As with professors, the left-wing tendencies of artists can be understood in terms of the O factor. Artists tend to be very high in the traits that define O—such as aesthetic appreciation, creativity, curiosity, and unconventionality—and these same traits are together related to socially liberal attitudes and to the rejection of traditional religiosity. Of course, some low-O people have some talent for painting or sculpting or for playing a musical instrument. But being an artist—creating a work of art for the sake of evoking emotions and ideas—is inherently a high-O endeavour. For this reason, highly original works of art rarely emphasize conservative values. And most famous artists—from Pablo Picasso to Charlie Chaplin—have been left-wing in their political views. The O factor also explains some other characteristics of left-wing and right-wing people. For example, one group of researchers wondered whether people’s political views could be inferred from the kinds of possessions they kept in their living spaces.15 The researchers went to a university dormitory and, with the students’ permission, carefully inspected the students’ rooms, counting various kinds of objects. When the researchers examined the rooms, they didn’t yet know the political views of the students. But they asked those students in a separate survey to place themselves on a scale running from liberal to conservative. (This study was done in the United States, so “liberal” and “conservative” mean left-wing and right-wing.) The researchers found that the more liberal students’ rooms had more books and music CDs—as well as a wider variety of books and music CDs—than did the more conservative students’ rooms. The liberal students also had more movie tickets and travel tickets. Notice that the everyday possessions in liberal students’ rooms suggest wide intellectual and artistic interests—expressions of high O. By contrast, the more conservative students’ rooms had more flags (especially US flags) and more sports-related decor than did the more liberal students’ rooms, which suggested a more conventional orientation. The conservative students also had more event calendars, postage stamps, string and thread, and ironing boards and irons—possessions suggesting orderliness and planning ahead. This latter result is consistent with other findings of a modest link between the C factor and political orientation, which we’ll discuss later on. BOX 7–1 Political Orientation, Sexual Orientation, and the O Factor Political orientation is related to sexual orientation. For example, in the 2008 US elections, 80% of gay, lesbian, or bisexual voters supported Democratic Party candidates for the House of Representatives; only 19% supported Republican Party candidates. The corresponding numbers for heterosexual voters were 53% and 44%.16 One likely reason for this pattern is that the Democrats are viewed as much more supportive of gay and lesbian rights than are the Republicans. But even in the absence of these important policy differences, it’s likely that most gay and lesbian voters would still favour left-wing over right-wing parties. On average, gay men and lesbians have higher levels of the O factor than do heterosexual men and women.17 The difference isn’t huge, and even among persons very high in O, the large majority are heterosexual. Still, gay men and lesbians are overrepresented among high-O persons, especially among people in the arts.18 Because higher levels of the O factor are strongly associated with preferences for the political left, most gay and lesbian voters would favour left-wing parties even when matters of sexual orientation are not among the election issues. H and Social Dominance Orientation Now let’s turn from RWA to SDO, the other major political attitude variable. As you’ll recall, high-SDO people favour a hierarchical society in which some groups dominate other groups. The links between SDO and personality are also close to what you’d expect: SDO relates mainly to the low levels of the H factor, meaning that high-H people generally oppose social hierarchies.19 The tendency for high-H people to be low in SDO makes sense in light of the traits that define the H factor, as discussed in Chapters 3 and 4. High-H people are straightforward and fair in their dealings with others, and they don’t want superior status and wealth and power. Therefore, they dislike the idea of stepping on other groups or of keeping other groups in their place. By the way, even though the H factor is a pretty good predictor of egalitarian views, the link isn’t perfect, or even close to perfect. Some people who are low in H might adopt egalitarian attitudes if it’s in their interest to do so—in fact, being the high-profile leader of a left-wing political party might be an attractive prospect for a low-H person who holds no genuine commitment to the principle of social equality. And some people who are high in H (and low in SDO) might decide—rightly or wrongly—that too much economic equality or too much multiculturalism causes problems. High-SDO people share with low-H people a willingness to make decisions that by most standards would be grossly unethical. For example, one study showed that high-SDO students, just like low-H people, reported that they’d be willing to make money by exporting dangerous products to a developing country20—a finding similar to that observed for low-H people (as we’ll discuss in Chapter 9). The same study also examined what happened when decisions were made by pairs of people in which one member of each pair was arbitrarily designated as the leader. The results showed that the pairs most likely to make unethical decisions were those that combined a high SDO leader with a high RWA follower—a combination that Altemeyer has called the “lethal union.” A country whose high-SDO leaders are supported by high-RWA citizens would be a prime candidate for starting aggressive wars—wars that the leaders would cynically justify as necessary for the security of the nation, simply as a way to rally the population. We examined the link between H and SDO in the study we mentioned earlier, based on samples from Canada, Korea, and United States. In all three samples, low H was associated with high SDO. Now, you might recall that the link between low O and high RWA was stronger in the sample of middle-aged US adults than in the samples of Canadian and Korean university students. But in contrast, the correlation between low H and high SDO was similar across all three samples, averaging nearly –.40. It seems that people’s personalities—specifically, their levels of the H factor—influence their attitudes toward social inequality to about the same extent regardless of their age. Again, this wasn’t the case for personality in relation to social conservatism: low levels of O were related to social conservatism only modestly in young adults, but more strongly in middle-aged adults. Why the difference? Apparently, the influence of parents’ attitudes on young people’s attitudes is weaker for issues of social inequality than for issues of social change. Researchers typically find that similarity between parents and their (young adult) children is much stronger for RWA than for SDO.21 If you’re a parent, you may have some important influence on your children’s attitudes toward traditional or modern values, but you probably have much less influence on your children’s attitudes about hierarchy or equality in society. BOX 7–2 Personality and Politics: It Depends on the Context All of the findings we’ve described this chapter have been based on people who belong to mainstream or majority groups in modern societies. But these findings don’t necessarily apply when we consider other groups or other kinds of societies. First, consider low-H people who happen to belong to a disadvantaged minority group. Those people might claim to be ardent egalitarians, denouncing the inequalities of their society. But this egalitarianism would simply be a cynical reflection of their own personal interest in improving their low social status. Such people would still favour hierarchies within their own group, as long as those hierarchies put them at the top. (Low-H people from low-status groups might sometimes favour social hierarchies for the society as a whole, in cases when it’s possible for them—individually or as a group—to move into positions of higher status.) Likewise, consider low-O people who happen to belong to a minority group that is alienated from mainstream society. Those people might well become rebels and dissidents, trying to undermine the authorities and conventions of the mainstream group. But they wouldn’t approve of such dissent within their own group; instead, they would expect the members of their group to obey its rules and leaders. Now consider a different kind of society—specifically, a communist society of the kind that dominated much of the world during the second half of the 20th century. The official ideology of communist countries emphasizes economic and racial equality, so the low-H people of those societies probably wouldn’t openly favour a hierarchy based on social class or on ethnicity. But those people would still pursue status and wealth within the communist system, and they would likely favour an aggressive foreign policy aimed at dominating other countries. Also, because communist societies discourage organized religion, the low-O citizens of those countries wouldn’t be exposed to traditional religious teachings. But those people would still support the conventional norms of morality within their society, and their obedience would be directed toward the Communist Party and its dogma.22 Personality and Political Party Support We mentioned above that you can predict people’s attitudes on many social and political issues by knowing their levels of RWA and SDO. People who are high in both SDO and RWA are the most right-wing (or conservative), and people who are low in both SDO and RWA are the most left-wing (or liberal). (People who are high in one and low in the other tend to be in the middle overall, even though they have quite different combinations of left-wing and right-wing views.) So, does this mean that the supporters of different political parties are different in personality? Given that SDO is related to low H, and given that RWA is related to low O, you might expect supporters of left-wing parties to be higher in both H and O than supporters of right-wing parties. Is this true? The answer differs a bit from one country to the next. In a study of Italian voters, Antonio Chirumbolo and Luigi Leone found that those who voted for right-wing parties were, on average, lower in H and lower in O than those who voted for left-wing parties—a result that follows the above logic exactly. Two other studies in Germany found very similar results.23 As expected, these differences were only modest in size. But some data from US voters—specifically, of middle-class, white, Anglo, mainly Christian residents of Oregon—gave somewhat different findings. The right-wing (Republican) voters did average lower in O than the left-wing (Democratic) voters. Also, the Republican voters averaged somewhat higher in C than did the Democratic voters.24 However, the Republicans and Democrats averaged about the same in H. The lack of any link between H and political party preference in the US study is somewhat puzzling. If low H relates to SDO, and if SDO in turn relates to right-wing (Republican) support, then you’d expect Republicans, on average, to be somewhat low in H. So why don’t we find this? Why were the Republicans no less and no more honest and humble than the Democrats? Apparently, some mystery variable is balancing out what would otherwise be a tendency toward low H in Republicans, who tend to be high in SDO. To understand what’s happening, consider the following sports analogy. Suppose that you have a really excellent vertical jump. Other things being equal, a better jumper should be a better volleyball player, so we’d expect you to be an above-average volleyball player. But if in fact you’re just an average volleyball player, then something else must be balancing out the effect of your jumping ability. For example, height also contributes to many aspects of volleyball performance, so if you’re much shorter than average, then perhaps this could be cancelling out the effect of your excellent vertical jump. What is it, then, that balances out the effect of SDO so that Republicans aren’t any lower in H? We suspect that it’s religion. The more religious Americans tend to support the Republican Party, and on average, religious Americans are slightly above average in the H factor. If SDO and religiosity were both associated with being Republican, but if SDO a