For decades, 5 personality traits were considered universal to all humans. But a new study of an isolated indigenous group in Bolivia, the Tsimane, raises doubt.
Openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These five broad dimensions of personality are referred to as the “Big Five”. Anthropologists translated a questionnaire into the Tsimane language that assesses the Big Five personality traits, and interviewed 632 adults from 28 villages. In a second study, the researchers tested the reliability of the self-report interviews by instead focusing on reports by peers.
The researchers discovered that the subjects’ personality did not fit into a Big Five framework. Instead they found evidence of a Tsimane “Big Two”—prosociality and industriousness. These two traits combine elements of the Big Five, and may represent unique aspects of highly social, subsistence societies.
The researchers suggest that the trait structure of small-scale, indigenous societies can be other than the Big Five, because individuals have fewer choices for social or sexual partners, and limited domains of opportunity for cultural success and proficiency. This may require abilities that link aspects of different traits.
Gurven, M., von Rueden, C., Massenkoff, M., Kaplan, H., & Lero Vie, M. (2012). How Universal Is the Big Five? Testing the Five-Factor Model of Personality Variation Among Forager–Farmers in the Bolivian Amazon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology DOI: 10.1037/a0030841
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