Research: Four new personality types emerge

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Forget Type A and B; science is past that.

Are you self-centered or reserved?

Using data from more than 1.5 million respondents around the world, Northwestern University researchers identified four new personality types, based on five essential character traits — challenging existing paradigms in psychology.

“People have tried to classify personality types since Hippocrates’s time, but previous scientific literature has found that to be nonsense,” said co-author William Revelle in a press release.

Revelle is a psychology professor who specializes in personality measurement.

The new study appears in Nature Human Behavior. Using a novel and more scientific approach than prior personality studies, this one combined an alternative computation with data from four questionnaires — developed by the research community over decades and encompassing between 44 and 300 questions. Respondents took online quizzes, enticed by the chance to get feedback about their own personalities.

The four personality “clusters,” or types, which emerged are:

Average: Most people are high in neuroticism and extroversion, while low in openness. Females are more likely than males to be “average.” The most common type; hence the name.

Reserved: Reserveds are emotionally stable, but neither open nor neurotic. Not particularly extroverted, but somewhat agreeable and conscientious.

Role models: Role models score low in neuroticism and high in all the other traits. Good leaders, dependable, and open to new ideas. More women than men are likely to be role models.

Self-centered: Self-centereds score very high in extroversion, and below average in openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The rates of self-centered types dramatically decrease as people age, both with women and men.

Turning to the five character traits used to classify these personality types, according to the researchers their widely accepted definitions in the psychological research field are:

Neuroticism: The tendency to frequently experience negative emotions such as anger, worry, and sadness, as well as being interpersonally sensitive.

Extroversion: The tendency to be talkative, sociable and enjoy others; the tendency to have a dominant style.

Openness: The tendency to appreciate new art, ideas, values, feelings and behaviors.

Agreeableness: The tendency to agree and go along with others, rather than assert one’s own opinions and choices.

Conscientiousness: The tendency to be careful, on time for appointments, to follow rules and to be hard working.

Personalities may also change over time, as people mature.

Consider teenagers, the authors suggested. Young males were overrepresented in the self-centered group, while females older than 15 were vastly underrepresented. Older people tend to be less neurotic and more conscientious and agreeable than those under 20.

The research and new classifications could help mental health providers assess patients, especially in the case of extreme traits, say the authors. The study’s results could also be helpful for hiring managers looking to ensure a potential candidate is a good fit, or those navigating the dating scene.

Is there a favorite, or preferred type? That would depend upon perspective as each has something to offer, but the lead researchers wrote that self-centereds can be “difficult to deal with” and “life is easier if you have more dealings with role models.”


Sholeh Patrick is a columnist with the Hagadone News Network fighting the temptation to reclassify everyone she knows. Contact her at

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