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Conscientiousness Personality Trait in Psychology: Definition, Benefits, Examples

By:
Guillem Casòliva Cabana, PhD
|
Reviewed by:
Alexander Tokarev, PhD
Conscientiousness in Psychology - PSYCULATOR
Jeshoots | unsplash.com

Conscientiousness in Psychology

Conscientiousness refers to the ability to be self-disciplined, responsible, hard-working, orderly, and goal-oriented.

Regardless of the approach to personality, conscientious people will generally deeply value having a purpose in life, and will often prioritize goals, projects, and plans to achieve this (Roberts et al., 2014; Anglim & Grant, 2016).

Conscientiousness As a Big Five Personality Trait

Initially coined by psychologists McCrae & Costa (1999) the Five-Factor Model of personality, or simply the Big 5, defines five personality traits, each of which operates on a spectrum unique to everyone. These fit into the acronym ‘OCEAN’ for memorability:

  • Openness, also referred to as Openness to Experience: Intellectual curiosity, or preference for novelty and variety
  • Conscientiousness, or tendency to be self-disciplined and well-organized
  • Extraversion, sociability, or tendency to seek stimulation from others
  • Agreeableness, or tendency to be prosocial and cooperative with others
  • Neuroticism, or level of vulnerability to unpleasant emotions (Mammadov, 2022).

You can try our free Big Five Personality test to find out your Conscientiousness score, and what it means specifically for you.

Characteristics of Highly Conscientious People

Individuals who score high on conscientiousness personality trait are likely to exhibit delayed gratification, strong ego control, self-control, self-regulation, and a desire for structure, rules, and hierarchical structures. They are also good at resisting temptation.

Other conscientiousness traits are being on time, attention to detail, and a tendency to steer away from procrastination and towards proactive factors or behaviors (Roberts et al., 2014). Because of this, conscientious people will generally perform well in academia and their future careers, and have high levels of self-belief and life satisfaction.

If this sounds like you, you are likely high in conscientiousness, and might use some of these words to describe yourself:

  • Organized
  • Neat
  • Careful
  • Responsible
  • Forward-thinking
  • Persistent
  • Controlled
  • Goal-oriented
  • Timely

On the other hand, people with a low level of conscientiousness are likely to prefer living in the moment and generally experience a lower-stress life by taking a more relaxed approach. As such, less conscientious individuals do not tend to prioritize career.

Examples of Conscientiousness

A person who is conscientious will be highly organized, extremely reliable, and tend to enjoy planning ahead – in detail. Other conscientiousness examples include punctuality, attention to detail, self-discipline, task prioritization, and always wanting to do things ‘right’ or in extreme cases to perfection. Therefore, Perfectionism is commonly associated with an extreme manifestation of the Conscientiousness trait.

Pros and Cons of Conscientiousness

The power of personality theory, especially concerning conscientious behaviors, should not be underestimated and can have far-reaching implications for emotional intelligence, emotional stability, success, and even physical health.

All-round Competence

+ Those high in conscientiousness are likely to have greater environmental mastery and feel more competent in managing any situation faced throughout life (Anglim & Horwood, 2021).

Better Performance

+ Conscientiousness also can help to improve job and academic performance, make you a better leader, and reduce your likelihood of divorce (Roberts et al., 2014; Mammadov, 2022).

Improved Health

+ High conscientiousness personality types have been linked with a high sense of life purpose, longer lifespan, and better mental health (Anglim & Horwood, 2021; Roberts et al., 2014).

Struggling with Perfectionism

- Those scoring highly on conscientiousness may struggle with perfectionism, and in extreme cases, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder where specific traits like orderliness and achievement striving are also present (Samuel & Widiger, 2011; Mike et al., 2018).

Higher chance of Burnout

- In the workplace, those who are high in conscientiousness can reach burnout more quickly and experience heightened exhaustion if in a team with individuals low in conscientiousness (Perry et al., 2010).

Jobs that Typically Require Conscientiousness

A conscientious personality type will favor professions that require a strong attention to detail, the ability to plan ahead, and a high degree of reliability.

The following job roles are suitable for highly Conscientious people:

  • Accountant: Detail-oriented individuals who excel at managing financial records and ensuring accuracy.
  • Project Manager: Organized professionals who oversee projects, ensuring tasks are completed on time and within budget.
  • Quality Control Inspector: Individuals who meticulously inspect products to ensure they meet specific standards and quality criteria.
  • Executive Assistant: Detail-focused individuals supporting high-level executives with administrative tasks and scheduling.
  • Compliance Officer: Professionals responsible for ensuring that companies adhere to laws and regulations in their operations.
  • Data Analyst: Conscientious individuals who analyze and interpret data to provide valuable insights for decision-making.
  • Event Planner: Organizers who meticulously plan and coordinate events, paying attention to every detail to ensure success.
  • Research Scientist: Detail-oriented individuals in various fields who conduct thorough and accurate scientific research.
  • Legal Assistant: Support staff who assist lawyers by organizing legal documents, conducting research, and managing case files.
  • Healthcare Administrator: Detail-focused individuals overseeing the smooth operation of healthcare facilities, managing budgets, and ensuring compliance with regulations.

However, any role that requires detailed work to be produced in an organized and timely manner will benefit from conscientiousness.

Ways to Become More Conscientious

Creating Stable Routine

Research shows that being in a stable job, or a long-term romantic relationship, can result in an individual naturally becoming more conscientious over time, with minimal proactive effort (Hudson & Fraley, 2016).

While you can become more conscientious by developing habits that enable timeliness, and better organization, goals for self-change are rarely achieved, and can take a toll on your mental well-being, reducing overall life satisfaction – so working towards self-acceptance is crucial (Hudson & Fraley, 2016).

Using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

The most efficient and effective ways to intentionally increase conscientiousness are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can be used to address non-conscientious behaviors and cognitive techniques for goal pursuit, which can help to envision the future and identify obstacles to goal achievement.

Also, cognitive remediation therapies (CRT) can be effective in improving cognitive functions such as memory and executive functioning. Both can subsequently positively influence planning and conscientious behavior (Javaras et al., 2019).

FAQ

Can Conscientiousness Be Learned?

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