By Dr. A.J. Drenth
The Five-Factor Model, commonly known as “The Big Five,” is the leading academic model of personality. As I have noted elsewhere, the correlations between the Big Five and Myers-Briggs personality dimensions are surprisingly strong. This is particularly remarkable when considering that Jung developed his framework on a completely informal basis, without the aid of the massive data collection and complex statistics that birthed the Big Five.
In this post, we will explore what I feel are some interesting correlations between one of the Big Five’s factors—Openness (sometimes called Openness to Experience)—and the Myers-Briggs preferences. While numerous studies have demonstrated strong correlations between the Myers-Briggs and the Big Five, the material for this post is derived primarily from a large study (over 900 participants) done by Adrian Furnham and colleagues.1 This study compared subjects’ MBTI results with those of the Big Five’s “Revised NEO-Personality Indicator (NEO PI-R).”
The Big Five exhibits many similarities with the Myers-Briggs, with four of its five factors showing strong correlations with certain MBTI preferences. As we will see, Big Five Openness correlates strongly with Myers-Briggs Intuition, moderately with Perceiving and Extraversion, and mildly with Feeling. Based on this, we might suspect ENFPs to be the most open (in the Big Five sense) of the types, with ENTPs earning a close second.
The Openness domain is comprised of six facets—openness to actions, values, feelings, fantasy, aesthetics, and ideas. Before proceeding further, let’s consider the numbers. The following data set uses the typical Myers-Briggs nomenclature of Intuition (N), Perceiving (P), Feeling (F), and Extraversion (E). I’ve also bolded the stronger correlations for emphasis.
Big Five/NEO PI-R & Myers-Briggs/MBTI Correlations
General Openness (ENP): E=.28, N=.64, F=.13, P=.26
- Actions (ENP): E=.33, N=.42, F=-.06, P=.25
- Values (NP): E=.13, N=.64, F=.03, P=.26
- Feelings (ENF): E=.33, N=.29, F=.20, P=.08
- Fantasy (ENFP): E=.18, N=.52, F=.17, P=.30
- Aesthetics (NF): E=.15, N=.44, F=.17, P=.08
- Ideas (N): E=.07, N=.56, F=.03, P=.14
We will now discuss three of the above subdomains in greater depth: Openness to Actions, Values, and Ideas. We will also consider the relationship between Intuition, Openness to Ideas, and IQ.
Openness to Actions: Extraversion, Intuition, & Perceiving
According to this study, E, N, and P types are more open to novel actions than I, S, and J types. This squares nicely with what we know about these types, as well as the Extraverted Intuition (Ne) function. As I’ve expressed elsewhere, EPs are novelty-seeking types. They are easily bored and are constantly seeking new and exciting experiences. For some, it may be surprising to learn that ENPs are more open to actions than ESPs are. But this is a testament to the open-minded, “try anything” attitude of Ne. NPs, especially ENPs, are willing to try just about anything once. They are idiosyncratic, unconventional, and willing to take risks for the sake of excitement or inspiration. Such types are well-described by the Enneagram Seven (7).
Openness to Values: Myers-Briggs Intuition & Perceiving
Openness to values speaks to one’s openness to diverse values as well as openness to change. This facet has been associated with working memory and intelligence, as well as, to some extent, political liberalism.2
Openness to Values also shows a strong correlation with Myers-Briggs Intuition (.64), while correlating more moderately with Perceiving (.26). Here again, we can see a potential connection with Ne, which is willing to entertain a variety of perspectives. Viewed positively, Ne types are highly adaptive and receptive to alternate values and lifestyles. If viewed more negatively, they may be perceived as fickle, restless, and indecisive.
Openness to Ideas: Myers-Briggs Intuition & IQ
Openness to ideas is associated with regular intellectual engagement and perceived intelligence. It is strongly correlated with the scales of Typical Intellectual Engagement (.77) and Need for Cognition (.78), both of which are positively associated with IQ. With regard to the Myers-Briggs, Openness to Ideas is most strongly correlated with Intuition (.56). This should not surprise us, since a preference for Intuition is associated with abstract ideation and positively correlates with IQ, SAT scores, and educational achievement.
One of the more interesting features of Openness to Ideas is its association with both verbal/crystallized and nonverbal/fluid intelligence. With the exception of Values, all the other Openness facets correlate mainly with verbal intelligence. Hence, some individuals with mathematical, spatial, or other forms of nonverbal intelligence (often T types) may score relatively high on Openness to Ideas, while scoring lower on measures of Aesthetics, Feelings, and Fantasy. These differences may also surface in their Holland career interests, with NTs scoring higher in Investigative interests and NFs in Artistic interests.
1. Furnham A, Mouttafi J, Crump J. The Relationship between the Revised NEO-Personality Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Social Behavior and Personality. 2003, 31(6), 577-584.
2. DeYoung, C. “Personality and Intelligence.” In Sternberg, R. J., & Kaufman, S. B., Eds. (2011). The Cambridge handbook of intelligence (pp. 711–737). New York: Cambridge University Press.