New research reveals 4 core personality types — which type are you?

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You may be familiar with Myers-Briggs' 16 different personality types, but new research published this week in the journal Nature Human Behavior shows there are four distinct personality clusters most individuals around the globe adhere to best.

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Psychologists and engineers at Northwestern University in Illinois sought to "develop an alternative approach to the identification of personality types" from the existing methods, many of which have led to inconclusive results.

Their research included 1.5 million participants around the globe who answered 44 to 300-question surveys over a span of several decades.

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Using participant responses and computer-generated algorithms, the researchers grouped together buckets of people with matching Big Five OCEAN traits: extroversion, neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness — traits first endorsed and then widely accepted by the scientific community in the 1990s.

Here’s how the scientists defined each trait:

  • Neuroticism: The tendency to frequently experience negative emotions such as anger, worry and sadness, as well as being interpersonally sensitive.
  • Extraversion: The tendency to be talkative, sociable and enjoy others; the tendency to have a dominant style.
  • Openness: The tendency to appreciate new art, ideas, values, feelings and behaviors.
  • Agreeableness: The tendency to agree and go along with others, rather than assert one's own opinions and choices.
  • Conscientiousness: The tendency to be careful, on time for appointments, to follow rules and to be hard working.

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At first, the researchers noticed 16 personality clusters overall, but after additional constraints, they narrowed them down to four: average, reserved, role model and self-centered.

The results suggested an individual’s personality type could also shift as they aged. For example, older people tend to lose the neuroticism and gain conscientiousness and agreeableness.

Things to know about each personality type

Average

  • High scores in neuroticism and extraversion
  • Low scores on openness
  • Most common personality type

Reserved

  • Have some of the least socially desirable traits
  • Typically score low when it comes to openness and neuroticism
  • Only cluster with little dependence on age and gender
  • Typically extroverted, but agreeable

Role model

  • Tend to be among the most stable
  • Good leaders, dependable and open to new ideas
  • Have high scores in all traits but neuroticism
  • Strongly overrepresented group: Age 40 and older
  • Slightly underrepresented group: Age 21 and younger

Self-centered

  • Have some of the least socially desirable traits
  • Typically score low when it comes to openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness
  • Score high in extraversion
  • Strongly overrepresented group: Young males
  • Underrepresented: Women age 15 and up

You can take this online quiz to contribute to the research.

Don't feel like you fit into one single cluster? No big deal. All the researchers are suggesting is "you can group more people in these four clusters than you'd expect by chance," study co-author William Revelle wrote in a university article.

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Study limitations

While the data is robust, researchers note their samples are not representative of the population. The research also doesn’t conclusively answer the minimum number of items needed to reliably assess personality types.

Still, the data, researchers said, showed there are certainly higher densities of certain personality types.

“People have tried to classify personality types since Hippocrates’s time, but previous scientific literature has found that to be nonsense,” Revelle said. “The data came back, and they kept coming up with the same four clusters at higher densities than you'd expect by chance, and you can show by replication that this is statistically unlikely. The methodology is the main part of the paper's contribution to science.”

Researchers hope their findings can benefit mental health professionals, hiring managers or even folks looking for a partner in life.

Read the full study at nature.com.