When you hear the phrase "four personality types," what comes to mind? If you’re anything like us, your first thought probably includes the neurotic type A and relaxed type B personalities. Perhaps the lesser-known conscientious type C and the distressed type D personalities also pop into your head. But new research suggests that the four personality types might be totally different from what we thought all along.
The September 2018 study published in Nature Human Behaviour analyzed data from more than 1.5 million questionnaire respondents. Researchers looked at the participants’ answers and plotted the five basic personality traits of neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. As a result, researchers found four very specific types of personality among participants: average, reserved, self-centered, and role model. "People have tried to classify personality types since Hippocrates' time, but previous scientific literature has found that to be nonsense," said study co-author William Revelle, PhD, in a press release. "Now, these data show there are higher densities of certain personality types."
As you might expect, these findings challenge quite a few existing theories in psychology. The fact that the infamous letters aren’t included in this list is only the beginning.
All About the Four Personality Types
- Average. People who fit the "average" description are high in neuroticism and extraversion, while also low in openness. As the name implies, these folks are not exactly considered to be out of the ordinary. "I would expect that the typical person would be in this cluster," said the paper's first author, Martin Gerlach, PhD, in the press release.
- Reserved. Folks who are "reserved" are emotionally stable, but they are not known for being neurotic or open with others. As you might expect, these people are not especially extraverted; however they are relatively agreeable and conscientious.
- Self-Centered. "These are people you don't want to hang out with," said Dr. Revelle. And it's little wonder why: The people who are considered "self-centered" may be extraverted, but they aren’t very open, agreeable, or conscientious. (They sure don’t sound like people we want to know at all!)
- Role Model. These folks aren’t neurotic, but they are extraverted, open, agreeable, and conscientious. So in other words, the name description of "role model" isn’t entirely surprising. Dependable and full of good ideas, role models are the types of people that you actually want to be in charge of things.
After looking through this list, we have to say that these potential personality types are a whole lot easier to understand than other lists of personalities — especially lists that never seem to end. But if you’re concerned about what personality type fits you or a loved one, you might be happy to know that the researchers say these personalities can change over time.
Parents of teens can especially breathe a sigh of relief: As people age past 20, they tend to be less neurotic and more conscientious and agreeable than they were when they were younger. All together now: Phew!