14 Traits Found in Highly Religious People

Psychologists explore the trait of religiosity in relation to the Big Five.

Posted Nov 26, 2020

FrankBeckerDE / Pixabay
Source: FrankBeckerDE / Pixabay

Psychologists tend to use the Big Five personality architecture as a starting point to understand people’s personalities. The Big Five divides personality into five core dimensions: extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to experience

Furthermore, each of these dimensions is composed of six sub-traits. For instance, in the case of extraversion, the sub-traits are: warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement-seeking, and positive emotions.

New research appearing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examined how effective the Big Five framework was at predicting religiosity, devoutness, and beliefs in a higher power. 

“Religiosity is important and so it is important for personality psychologists to understand religiosity’s personality predictors,” state the authors of the research, led by Theresa Entringer of the University of Mannheim.

They found 14 significant connections, and 16 non-significant connections, between religiosity and the Big Five personality traits (examined at the sub-trait level). They are listed below.

Extraversion

  • Warmth - People who see themselves as kind and compassionate are more likely to be religious
  • Gregariousness (no association with religiosity)
  • Assertiveness (no association with religiosity)
  • Activity (no association with religiosity)
  • Excitement seeking (no association with religiosity)
  • Positive emotions - People who are enthusiastic and energetic are more likely to be religious

Neuroticism

  • Anxiety (no association with religiosity)
  • Hostility (no association with religiosity)
  • Depression (no association with religiosity)
  • Self-consciousness (no association with religiosity)
  • Impulsiveness - People who view themselves as capricious and easily agitated are less likely to be religious
  • Vulnerability (no association with religiosity)

Conscientiousness

  • Competence - People who view themselves as capable and accomplished are more likely to be religious
  • Order (no association with religiosity)
  • Dutifulness - People who view themselves as having a high adherence to standards of conduct are more likely to be religious
  • Achievement-striving - People who view themselves as having a high will to succeed are more likely to be religious
  • Self-discipline - People who view themselves as having high self-discipline and persistence are more likely to be religious
  • Deliberation - People who view themselves as methodical and cautious are more likely to be religious

Agreeableness

  • Trust - People who see themselves as trustworthy are more likely to be religious
  • Straight-forwardness - People who are direct and frank in the way they behave toward others are more likely to be religious
  • Altruism - People who see themselves as helpful and unselfish are more likely to be religious
  • Compliance - People who see themselves as forgiving and deferential are more likely to be religious
  • Modesty (no association with religiosity)
  • Tender-mindedness - People who are guided by their feelings are more likely to be religious

Openness to experience

  • Fantasy (no association with religiosity)
  • Aesthetics (no association with religiosity)
  • Feelings (no association with religiosity)
  • Actions (no association with religiosity)
  • Ideas (no association with religiosity)
  • Values - People who value art and aesthetic experiences are less likely to be religious

To arrive at these conclusions, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of five existing studies. Overall, they were surprised at how inconsistent the results were.

“Taken together, these results paint a portrait of the connections between the Big Five facets and religiosity that is difficult to interpret, if not confusing,” state the researchers.

To add clarity to a murky research picture, the psychologists then analyzed personality data from over one million people in more than 55 countries and 2000 cities around the world. They found that the Big Five personality traits were much better at predicting religiosity in highly religious countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, and less effective at predicting religiosity in less religious countries such as Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, and Estonia.

They conclude, “The Big Five facets are major predictors of religiosity, but only in religious cultures.”

References

Entringer, T. M., Gebauer, J. E., Eck, J., Bleidorn, W., Rentfrow, P. J., Potter, J., & Gosling, S. D. (2020). Big Five facets and religiosity: Three large-scale, cross-cultural, theory-driven, and process-attentive tests. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.