While there’s no shortage of coverage on “dark” personality traits that bear negative connotations (hello, Dark Triad), people tend to focus less on the flip side of that equation: what are the traits more common in "psychologically healthy" people? In an attempt to help answer that question, new research from the University of California, Davis has discovered a prototype for the traits most common in a “healthy” personality.
Published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the research generated a profile of a "psychologically healthy" personality within the terms of the Big Five personality traits. In the field of personality psychology, the Big Five personality traits, or five-factor model, encompass the five basic dimensions of personality: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Extensive research on the big five traits has linked them to heritability and as predictors of life outcomes including academic performance throughout school, health, work performance and self-esteem. Within these five core factors, scientists have pinpointed additional facets to each factor that identify more specific behaviors.
"People in general, no matter whether they are experts or not, seem to have quite a clear idea of what a healthy personality looks like," Wiebke Bleidorn, an author of the study, said in a statement.
The researchers developed a prototype of a healthy profile through surveying 137 expert personality psychologists and 77 positive psychology scholars, asking each expert to describe their idea of a “healthy” personality, based on the list of big five traits. The researchers also surveyed professionals and college students from Michigan and Texas to assess their approval of the basic model. Both groups were in general agreement about what traits make up a healthy personality: a “healthy” personality was defined as a personality that scored low for neuroticism, maintaining high levels of positive emotions, openness to feelings, and agreeable straightforwardness.
To test the profile, the researchers then used data from over 3,000 participants to identify whether the newly-generated healthy profile could be used to assess healthy personality functioning on the individual level. They found that individuals with "healthy" personality profiles tended to have higher self-esteem, optimism, and were more likely to self-identify as being able to resist impulses and regulate their behavior. These individuals were also more likely to describe themselves as low in aggressive and antisocial behaviors. Interestingly, people with healthy personalities tended to rate relatively higher for the narcissistic measures of grandiosity and self-sufficiency, as well as facets of the psychopath trait including stress immunity and boldness.
The study findings offer the beginning steps of a framework in the field of personality psychology for researchers to draw on when assessing what components make up a healthy personality, based on the popular five-factor model, as opposed to a "dark" personality. The results could also potentially be useful as a practical tool to assess and research personality functioning in people and identifying where they fall within the model.
It should be noted, of course, that not every high-functioning person will display these traits, and they're not definitive markers of whether a person is "psychologically healthy." Still, it's interesting to note what personality traits do get described this way.