Personality traits are attributes of a person that are reasonably characteristic of the person, enduring over time, and relatively consistent across situations. Our patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving emerge from these “default settings.”

Psychological researchers (e.g., Costa & McCrae, 2010) have identified five primary personality traits that do a good job of describing an individual comprehensively. However, each of these “Big-5” traits can be broken down into sub-traits to allow for more granularity in describing a given individual. Sub-traits within a particular Big-5 domain, known as facets, frequently correlate with one another, but not always. For example, most people who are high in self-consciousness also tend to be high in anxiety, but this is not true for 100% of people.

This article examines the six facets within the Openness domain: fantasy, aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas, and values.

O1: Openness to Fantasy

Individuals who are open to fantasy have a vivid imagination and an active fantasy life. They daydream not simply as an escape, but as a way of creating an interesting inner world for themselves. They elaborate and develop their fantasies and believe that imagination contributes to a rich and creative life. Low scorers are less imaginative, less romantic, and prefer to keep their minds on the task at hand.

O2: Openness to Aesthetics

Individuals who score high on the openness to aesthetics scale maintain a deep appreciation for art and beauty. They are moved by poetry, absorbed in music, intrigued by art, and are drawn to beauty. Low scorers are relatively insensitive to and uninterested in art and beauty.

O3: Openness to Feelings

Openness to feelings implies receptivity to one’s own inner emotions and the belief in emotional experience as an important part of life. High scorers experience deeper and more differentiated emotional states, and feel both happiness and unhappiness more keenly than others do. Low scorers have somewhat blunted emotions and have more difficulty getting in touch with, labeling, and understanding their emotions. It is not uncommon for low scorers to believe that feelings are unimportant.

O4: Openness to Actions

Behaviorally, openness is seen in the willingness to try different activities, go new places, or eat unusual foods. High scorers on this scale prefer novelty and variety to familiarity and routine. Over time, they may experiment with many different hobbies. Low scorers, by comparison, find change difficult and prefer to stick with the tried-and-true.

O5: Openness to Ideas

Openness to ideas refers to intellectual curiosity and an active pursuit of intellectual interests. It also refers to open-mindedness and a willingness to consider new, perhaps unconventional, ideas. High scorers tend to enjoy both philosophical arguments and brain teasers. Low scorers maintain limited curiosity and have narrowed intellectual interests.

O6: Openness to Values

Openness to values relates to one’s readiness to reexamine social, political, and religious values. Openness to values may be considered the opposite of dogmatism. Individuals who score low on this scale tend to accept authority and to honor tradition and, as a consequence, are generally conservative.