Halloween and the Big 5 Personality Traits

How different personalities might tackle the spookiest night of the year.

Posted Oct 30, 2019

Stocksnap
Source: Stocksnap

The Big 5 personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism) have been linked to everything from cognitive ability to work performance to one’s digital footprint. 

So why not Halloween? 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find any research in this area. However, I thought it’d be fun to speculate (backed by some literature from other areas) about how people high in each of the Big 5 might approach the big night. 

Extraversion (characterized by things like gregariousness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expression):

  • Attitude: People, costumes, and fun – for extroverts, what’s not to love?!
  • Plans: Attending (or probably organizing) the Halloween party, dancing to “Monster Mash” well into the morning. 
  • Costume: Anything loud and crazy that brings them into the center of attention (and they’ll no doubt share their look on social media - research has shown that extraversion predicts social media use[1]) 

Agreeableness (characterized by things like kindness, trust, and altruism):

  • Attitude: Loves seeing kids’ smiles as they go door-to-door.
  • Plans: Offering to take the neighborhood kids out trick-or-treating (and complimenting everyone’s pumpkin-carving skills as they make their rounds). And when the kids are wired on sugar highs, they’ll be the ones keeping their cool – some research suggests that people high in agreeableness have strong emotion-regulation skills[2].  
  • Costume: A partner or group getup that compliments their loved ones. 

Openness (characterized by things like imagination and insight):

  • Attitude: Jumps at the chance to get creative (they’ll be the ones trying to outdo their house decorating skills from last year).
  • Plans: Visiting a haunted house to push them outside their comfort zones. People high in this trait may also experience a sense of wonder for the magic of Halloween – researchers Silvia et al. (2015) suggested that people high in openness have “a propensity for awe-like experiences that stretch one’s normal ways of thinking about oneself and the world” (p. 376);3].
  • Costume: Something witty or abstract (and definitely homemade) that others have to work to figure out. 

Conscientiousness (characterized by things like thoughtfulness and goal-directedness):

  • Attitude: An enjoyable evening – especially if it’s well thought out and meaningful.  
  • Plans: Following a schedule of: (1) a sensible dinner, (2) trick-or-treating on a pre-planned route, and (3) careful checking of all candy before the kids are allowed a certain number of treats. Normal bedtimes will (almost) be met if all goes according to plan! 
  • Costume: Whatever it is, they’ve had it planned (and ready to go) for months.  

Neuroticism (characterized by things like vulnerability to worry and emotional instability):

  • Attitude: Worrying about what could go wrong – from rain to a costume-malfunction (Note: recent research shows that mindfulness has the capacity to weaken the relationship between neuroticism and psychological distress[4]; thus, mindfully noticing these worries without judgment could be one way to mitigate negative Halloween-related feelings). 
  • Plans: Holidays like Halloween can be tough for people high in some of the factors associated with neuroticism (like anxiety, self-consciousness, and feeling stressed in social settings). Thus, they might be tempted to stay in and turn off the outside lights. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, if staying home is an act of self-care. However, according to Dr. Brenner’s blog post, “5 Ways to Turn Neuroticism to Your Advantage,” engaging in meaningful work that serves others can be beneficial for people high in neuroticism – by offering a distraction from negative self-ruminations, fostering feelings of gratitude, and increasing self-efficacy. Thus, people struggling with some of the aforementioned challenges could try handing out candy or volunteering at a Halloween community event. 
  • Costume: There may be the tendency for people high in neuroticism to judge their costumes as not good enough, or simply avoid trying to come up with something to wear. Sticking with simple, no-fuss costumes can ease the stress of putting together the “perfect” get-up. 

Obviously the above musings are just for fun: There are a million combinations of personalities that either love, hate, anticipate, dread, or simply tolerate the Halloween season.

References

Blackwell, D., Leaman, C., Tramposch, R., Osborne, C., & Liss, M. (2017). Extraversion, neuroticism, attachment style and fear of missing out as predictors of social media use and addiction. Personality and Individual Differences, 116, 69-72. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886917302891

Bresin, K., & Robinson, M. D. (2014). You are what you see and choose: Agreeableness and situation selection. Journal of Personality, 83(4). Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12121

Silvia, P. J., Fayn, K., Nusbaum, E. C., & Beaty, R. E. (2015). Openness to experience and awe in response to nature and music: Personality and profound aesthetic experiences. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(4), 376-384. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000028

Drake, M. M., Morris, M., & Davis, T. J. (2017). Neuroticism’s susceptibility to distress: Moderated with mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 248-252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.10.060