Sunday, July 17, 2022

547 Personality and causality

I have not posted blogs for more than three months. I was busy writing short books, essays really, in Dutch, on various themes concerning humanity and society. As before, I have used this blog as a laboratory, a trial ground, for elements of books, and now also to make elements accessible in English, from the Dutch books, published by Aksent.

In this blog, for the social sciences, including economics, I have used the multiple causality of action of Aristotle: the ‘efficiënt cause’ of who are the agents, the ‘final cause’ of their goals, the ‘material cause’ of what they use, the ‘formal cause’ of how, on the basis of what knowledge or technology they use, the ‘conditional cause’ of what in the environment affects the other causes, and their actions, and the ‘ exemplary cause’ of the model they follow.

Personality surely matters, and for that I adopt the ’Big Five’ personality traits widely accepted in applied psychology. Those are:

The extravert, wanting to go his own way, not very observant of rules.

The neurotic, afraid, feeling vulnerable, hiding.

The dutiful, doing his job meticulously.

The friendly, following others, making adjustments.

The open, intellectual, walking new roads.

The question in this piece is: how are the two, causality and personality, related? For different personalities, the multiple causes have different strength and priority. An attempt at a survey is given in the table below. I say ‘attempt’, because views differ, in the literature, on how, precisely,  to characterise the personality traits



                        efficient          final                material           formal conditional      exemplary



extravert         go own way    strong will       limited             impulsive                    no model

neurotic           seclusive          timid               limited             withdrawn                  seeking

dutiful             group               obedient          collects            professional                following

friendly           others              empathise        collects            social                          following

open                deviant             novelty            seeks               adventurous                romantic

 Due to the sparsity of space in a table, the assignment of features is to some extent arbitrary, picking out one. A more extensive characterisation is as follows.

The extravert is averse to strict rules, and wants to go his own way. This is a trait of discoverers, adventurers, scientists, philosophers, artists, economic and political entrepreneurs. It is related to the classical notion of ‘Thymos’, discussed before, in this blog. It is also a trait of criminals and authoritarians.

The neurotic swerves through life, anxious and erratic, scared and seeking protection and refuge.

The dutiful is oriented towards social order, obeyance to rules, teamwork and professionalism.

The friendly is empathic, gives help, and seeks approval.

The open is adventurous, intellectual, careless of resources and limits, and romantic in the sense of wanting to cross borders.

 In view of the effects of personality traits on causality, one should consider the nature and effects of one’s own traits, and of those of people one interacts with. Should one restrain, encourage, console, reward, warn, protect oneself or the other?

 For example, in government communication of measures against Covid, to the extravert one might emphasize risks for themselves. To neurotics one might emphasize the safety of following regulations, and warn against too much seclusion. To the dutiful, one might emphasize duties and the need for order. To the friendly one could emphasize the need for solidarity. To the open the warning not to associate with others too closely, protect one’s resources, and be careful.


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