What Is Conscientiousness?

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If you have recently taken a personality test and scored high in conscientiousness, you may be wondering what that means for you. Conscientiousness is one of the Big Five personality traits, which theorizes that there are five major dimensions to personality including openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Psychologists often use the acronym OCEAN when referring to the Big Five personality test.

Even though you may have scored high in conscientiousness, that doesn't mean that you won't find other aspects of the Big Five within your personality. After all, each dimension is viewed on a continuum, which means while you may be dominant in conscientiousness, you still have some level of the other five represented.

You simply may be high, low, or somewhere in the middle when it comes to each trait. The Big Five also is a useful tool for understanding personality traits and is helpful in identifying how people respond to different scenarios or stressors in their lives.

Common Characteristics of Conscientiousness

When someone is conscientious, they are able to exercise self-discipline and self-control in order to pursue and ultimately achieve their goals.

Typically, people who score high in conscientiousness are organized, determined, and able to postpone immediate gratification for the sake of long-term success.

While some people are more likely to choose what's good or fun at the moment, conscientious people tend to work diligently toward achieving their goals. They also are responsible, goal-oriented, reliable, organized, and hard-working. And they pay attention to details to make sure that they deliver on their promises.

Being conscientious tends to come with a number of benefits too. For instance, people who are conscientious tend to get better grades in school and are seen as better employees in the workforce. They often have good reputations that are defined by their commitment, reliability, and productivity. Research has even shown that high conscientiousness may help lead to higher incomes.

Overall, conscientious people rarely make impulsive or careless decision. Here are some other ways to describe conscientious people:

  • Organized
  • Principled
  • Responsible
  • Forward-thinking
  • Persistent
  • Goal-oriented

Although most people assume that being conscientious is a good thing, there are some potential downsides to this personality trait. For instance, people who are conscientious can become too serious and may need a gentle shove in order to lighten up and have some fun.

They also can burn themselves out by overworking, become overly rigid or inflexible, and struggle to be spontaneous. In extreme cases, they may struggle with perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Meanwhile, people who are low in conscientiousness tend to prioritize having fun at the moment. They are often described as casual, laid-back, and relaxed. And, they balk at schedules and extensive planning.

Sometimes people low in conscientiousness are viewed as irresponsible and unpredictable. But they also are more likely to step outside of the box and may respond well to last-minute demands.

Prevalence of Conscientiousness

When it comes to determining conscientiousness and the other four traits in the Big Five, most people complete a self-report questionnaire. These inventories usually contain statements where test takers must decide to what degree they agree or disagree with those statements.

Because conscientiousness is measured through an inventory and is considered a dimension or your personality, it's difficult to determine the prevalence of conscientiousness among the general public. After all, it is not a diagnosis but simply an aspect of personality that helps people better understand why they do the things they do.

What's more, each person has some level of conscientiousness that exists along a continuum. So, people tend to be very high in conscientiousness, very low, or somewhere in between.

How Conscientiousness Influences Behavior

When someone tests high in conscientiousness, they are likely very dependable and organized. They also tend to be able to control their impulses. In fact, multiple studies have shown that being conscientious can lead to better overall health and higher productivity. For instance, people who score high in conscientiousness tend to smoke, drink and use drugs less frequently than other people.

Within the trait of conscientiousness, there are six facets or sub-traits that further describe the person's personality. These include being achievement-oriented, cautious, dutiful, orderly, self-disciplined, and prone to self-efficacy. Here is an overview of these traits.

Achievement-Oriented

People who score high in conscientiousness tend to be high achievers. They are always striving for excellence in everything they do. Consequently, they are often extremely ambitious and tend to have lofty goals.

Meanwhile, those that score lower in conscientiousness may sometimes be viewed as lazy. They may be more content with doing minimal work or skimping on responsibilities.

Cautious

If someone scores high in conscientiousness, they are likely to carefully consider all the facts before making decisions. They tend to think through most things and consider the consequences before finally acting.

Conscientious people tend to analyze situations and weigh the pros and cons before moving forward. On the other hand, people with low scores tend to be impulsive and take greater risks.

Dutiful

When someone scores high in conscientiousness, they are typically a very reliable person with a strong sense of duty and moral obligation. They honor their commitments and follow through on their promises.

People who score low in conscientiousness tend to view rules and regulations as restricting, limiting, and confining. They may not feel responsible for anyone other than themselves. Consequently, low scorers may be viewed as irresponsible and insubordinate.

Orderly

Typically, when someone is high in conscientiousness they are highly organized and thrive with schedules and routines. They may enjoy list-making and are often punctual.

Many times, people describe them as self-starters who are both orderly and neat, while someone low in this trait may appear more disorganized or scatter-brained.

Self-Disciplined

People who score high in conscientiousness are often very self-disciplined. They tend to persevere even when things get difficult or unpleasant. What's more, they are able to stay focused and stick to the task at hand even with they are faced with multiple distractions.

Low conscientiousness, however, may lead to the failure to complete tasks that may be perceived as too difficult.

Prone to Self-Efficacy

When someone scores high in conscientiousness, they often have complete confidence in their ability to reach their goals and be successful.

They also tend to believe in themselves and their abilities and have a great deal of ambition to see things through to the end. Conversely, people who score low in conscientiousness tend to feel ineffective. They also believe that they have no control over their lives.

If you are a conscientious person, there are some common behaviors that you are likely to witness in your life. For instance, here are some things that you might say about yourself.

  • Try to always be prepared
  • Pay attention to details
  • Like order and organization
  • Plan ahead and follow a schedule
  • Get work done right away
  • Like to be precise and pay attention to details
  • Work hard and produce high-quality work
  • Like for things to be neat, clean, and organized

A Word From Verywell

Even though you may have scored high in conscientiousness, it's important to remember that this personality trait is just one part of your overall personality. You still have other traits that help round out your personality. So, while understanding conscientiousness may help you know why you do what you do, it is not your only defining trait. Typically, your personality will contain some level of all five traits. Make sure you are open to exploring all dimensions of your personality.

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