Our personality has significant power on how we see the world. It is that which has us interpreting events in our life — the good and the bad — in a very subjective manner. As a result, no two people perceive the same experience in the same way.
It is our personality that makes us interpret events in very different ways. For some people, for instance, a tragic event can lead them to despair, fear and anxiety. While for others, a tragic event can be that which triggers a fire in them to grow stronger and braver in their everyday life.
There’s so much that still needs to be known about personality. Psychologists know that they have only scraped the surface “to unravel the concept of ‘personality.’" But recently, one study has given psychologists a deeper look at personality — one that suggests that “personality traits don’t simply affect [our] outlook on life, but the way [we] perceive reality.”
A recent study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality suggests that our openness to experience is key to changing how we see the world. The study suggests that people who are open to experience are “more likely to experience certain visual perceptions.” This is what researchers at the University of Melbourne Australia found when they studied 123 volunteers.
The volunteers were given the big five personality test. This test measures a person’s agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, extroversion, and openness to experience. The latter is the personality trait where our creativity stems from, our imagination and our inclination to do new things.
Besides this test, the researchers tested the volunteers to see “who experienced a visual perception phenomenon called ‘binocular rivalry.’” In this test, each eye is shown a different image at the same time. For these volunteers, one eye was shown a red patch and the other eye was shown a green patch.
Researchers found that most of the people being studied kept switching from the red to the green patch “as the brain can only perceive one at a time.” But some of the volunteers saw something else. Rather than seeing the red and the green patches as singular, they merged the two colors together and saw a red-green patch.
What’s interesting is that the people who merged the two patches also scored high on the openness section of the big five personality test. The researchers believe the connection between higher willingness to openness and the merging of the patching “makes sense…because openness to experiences is linked with creativity.”
Explaining the links between openness and creativity, the researchers write that our ability to merge the two images is “like a ‘creative’ solution to the problem presented by the two incompatible stimuli.” The lead author of the study, Anna Antinori, explains how “we’re constantly filtering out what sensory information to focus on.”
“The ‘gate’ that lets through the information that reaches consciousness may have a different level of flexibility,” Antinori adds. “Open people appear to have a more flexible gate and let through more information that the average person.” This is not the first study to show a correlation between openness and creativity.
11. Did You Notice The Gorilla?
Another study showed that people who test high in openness are “less likely to experience ‘inattentional blindness.’” The latter happens when a person is highly focused on a specific thing that something quite evident goes by unnoticed. For instance, the people being tested were asked to watch a video and count how many people wearing a white shirt manage to pass the ball when at one point a person in a gorilla costume passes by and for some, it goes by unnoticed.
Researchers are not sure how filtering happens in our consciousness. Some, however, suggest that “overlapping neurochemicals in the brain may link perception to personality.” “Thus the abundance of the same neurochemical, or lack thereof, may affect both one’s personality and low-level vision,” Antinori explains.
This speculation could lead to another fact — that “personality traits aren’t fixed.” This is because medication “can affect binocular rivalry.” More, training can do the opposite by making people more willing to be open to experience.
“It may be possible that a change in people’s personality may also affect how they see the world,” Antinori adds. There’s still much to be studied about personality. And yet, more and more research is proving how important personality is in how we perceive the world.
What’s known is that being open to new experiences never gets boring. No matter how anxious we can feel about doing something new and regardless of how scary it can be to put ourselves out there, the rush of new experiences is a high like no other. There’s so much of the world to see, so much we can do, so much we can learn, that it would be a shame not to be as open because we are afraid.