Your Personality Traits Can Predict Your Sexual Behaviors, Attitudes, and Sexual Health

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Your sex life is, to some extent, a function of your personality. Sex scientists have accumulated a large body of research revealing linkages between what are known as the "Big Five" personality traits and people’s sexual attitudes, behaviors, and health. These findings were recently summarized in a meta-analysis published in the journal Psychological Bulletin [1].

This article is the subject of my latest column over at TONIC and, in it, I explain the meaning behind each of the Big Five traits (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—which, incidentally, you can easily remember by the acronym OCEAN), as well as how they are related to various aspects of people’s sex lives, from their level of sexual desire to their sexual satisfaction to the amount of sex they’re having to their likelihood of having contracted an STI to their odds of committing infidelity.

For the most part, the pattern that emerged made a lot of sense, such as the fact that extraverts tended to be the most sexually active and were more likely to commit infidelity (their outgoing nature probably makes it easier to find sexual opportunities), people open to experiences had more liberal sexual attitudes, neurotics (emotionally unstable) were less sexually satisfied, and highly agreeable (kind and considerate) and conscientious (detail-oriented) people were less likely to cheat.

Curious where you fall on the Big Five? Check out the questions below, which comprise a popular 10-item measure of these traits [2]:

Openness to experience:

I see myself as someone who has an active imagination.

I see myself as someone who has few artistic interests. (reverse-scored)

Conscientiousness

I see myself as someone who does a thorough job.

I see myself as someone who tends to be lazy. (reverse-scored)

Extraversion

I see myself as someone who is outgoing, sociable.

I see myself as someone who is reserved. (reverse-scored)

Agreeableness

I see myself as someone who is generally trusting.

I see myself as someone who tends to find fault with others. (reverse-scored)

Neuroticism

I see myself as someone who gets nervous easily.

I see myself as someone who is relaxed, handles stress well. (reverse-scored)


The above items are measured on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). After you reverse-score the contrary items (you can do this by simply subtracting the score for a given item from 6), add up the numbers and create subtotals for each trait. If you’re close to 10, you’re high in that trait, and if you’re close to 1, you’re low in that trait.

So what do you think? Does your personality profile line up with the results of the research?

Want to learn more about Sex and Psychology ? Click here for previous articles or follow the blog on Facebook (facebook.com/psychologyofsex), Twitter (@JustinLehmiller), or Reddit (reddit.com/r/psychologyofsex) to receive updates.

[1] Allen, M. S., & Walter, E. E. (2018). Linking big five personality traits to sexuality and sexual health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin.

[2] Rammstedt, B., & John, O. P. (2007). Measuring personality in one minute or less: A 10-item short version of the Big Five Inventory in English and German. Journal of research in Personality41(1), 203-212

Image Credit: 123RF/Antonio Guillem

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