Impact of Personality Traits on Cognitive Abilities
Do personality traits affect cognitive abilities? American Psychological Association (APA) agrees by suggesting that organized and self-disciplined people have fewer odds of developing mental illnesses at an older age. The effect of three personality traits, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion, on cognitive performance, including mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia, and mortality risk at an older age, was investigated by a group of researchers. The lead author Tomiko Yoneda of the University of Victoria stated that the personality traits represent enduring patterns of thinking and behaving which in turn affect engaging in both admirable and adverse behaviours and thought processes throughout the lifetime. She also added that lifelong experiences could leave one vulnerable to specific diseases or disorders, such as mild cognitive impairment, or individual differences in the ability to endure age-related neurological changes. Individuals who have a high conscientiousness score are responsible, organized, hardworking, and goal-oriented, and individuals who have a high neuroticism score are less emotionally stable are more prone to mood swings, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and other negative emotions, as per the results. Being around others makes extroverts energetic and they channel the derived energy toward the outer world, and they tend to be passionate, exuberant, chatty, and outspoken.
The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and involved a total of 1954 Rush Memory and Aging Project participants, which longitudinally studied older adults from Chicago and Illinois. They weren’t officially diagnosed with dementia and were recruited from various places, including retirement residences, churches, and other senior housing institutions. The candidates continually underwent a yearly cognitive evaluation, including a minimum of two annual cognitive assessments or one assessment before death, since 1997. It can be noted that throughout the research, participants who scored high on conscientiousness or low on neuroticism were considerably less likely to advance from normal cognition to mild cognitive impairment. Yoneda reported that scoring approximately 6 extra points on a conscientiousness scale ranging from 0 to 48 was associated with a 22% lower probability of shifting from normal cognitive functioning to mild cognitive impairment and scoring about 7 extra points on a neuroticism scale ranging from 0 to 48 was also associated with a 12% higher probability of transition.
Furthermore, people with reduced neuroticism and higher extraversion were significantly more likely to return to normal cognitive function following a previous diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, showing that these personality traits may be protective even after dementia develops. Yoneda mentioned that this discovery may be suggestive of the benefits of social engagement for boosting cognitive outcomes in the case of extraversion. Researchers, on the other hand, were unable to associate extraversion and cognitive health. People with strong extraversion and conscientiousness but low neuroticism were considered safe. However, the study found a correlation between personality factors and mortality risk. According to the findings, participants with high conscientiousness scores lived 2 years longer without cognitive impairment than those with low conscientiousness scores. According to Yoneda, the findings were limited to mostly white (87%) and women (74%) participants. Participants were likewise well-educated, with an average of nearly 15 years of schooling. She concluded that to generalize and provide a broader understanding of the impact of personality traits on cognitive processes and mortality later in life, future research on more diverse samples of older adults is needed and the other two Big Five personality traits (agreeableness and openness) should be factored in.