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Conscientiousness is the trait of being painstaking and careful, or the quality of acting according to the dictates of one's conscience. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and need for achievement. It is an aspect of what was traditionally called character. Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable. When taken to an extreme, they may also be workaholics, perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior. People who are low on conscientiousness are not necessarily lazy or immoral, but they tend to be more laid back, less goal oriented, and less driven by success.

Personality models

Conscientiousness is one of five superordinate traits in the "Big Five model" of personality which also consists of extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, and agreeableness. Two personality tests that assess these traits are Costa and McCrae's NEO PI-R[1] and Goldberg's NEO-IPIP. According to these models, conscientiousness is considered to be a continuous dimension of personality, rather than a categorical "type" of person. Scores in conscientiousness follow a normal distribution.

Conscientiousness is related to impulse control, but it should not be confused with the problems of impulse control found in neuroticism. People high on neurotic impulsiveness find it difficult to resist temptation or delay gratification. Individuals who are low on conscientious self-discipline are unable to motivate themselves to perform a task that they would like to accomplish. These are conceptually similar but empirically distinct.[2]

The trait cluster of conscientiousness overlaps with other models of personality, such as C. Robert Cloninger's Temperament and Character Inventory, in which it is called self-directedness. It also includes the specific traits of rule consciousness and perfectionism in Cattell's 16_Personality_Factors|16 PF model. Many of the behaviors associated with conscientiousness fall under the broad category of emotional intelligence.[3] Traits associated with conscientiousness are frequently assessed by self-report integrity tests given by various corporations to prospective employees.


People who score high on the trait of conscientiousness tend to be more organized and less cluttered in their homes and offices. For example, their books tend to be neatly shelved in alphabetical order, or categorized by topic, rather than scattered around the room. Their clothes tend to be folded and arranged in drawers or closets instead of lying on the floor. The presence of planners and to-do lists are also signs of conscientiousness. Their homes tend to have better lighting than the homes of people who are low on this trait.[4]

Conscientiousness is related to successful academic performance in students. Low levels of conscientiousness are strongly associated with procrastination.[5] A considerable amount of research indicates that conscientiousness is one of the best predictors of performance in the workplace.[6] Conscientious employees are generally more reliable, more motivated, and harder working. Furthermore, conscientiousness is the only personality trait that correlates with performance across all categories of jobs. However, agreeableness and emotional stability may also be important, particularly in jobs that involve a significant amount of social interaction.[7]


Average levels of conscientiousness vary by state in the USA. People living in the central part of the country, including the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri tend to have higher scores on average than people living in other regions. People in the southwestern states of New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona also have relatively high average scores on conscientiousness. Among the eastern states, Florida is the only one that scores in the top ten for this personality trait.[8]

See also


  1. Costa, P. T. & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO personality Inventory professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
  2. Costa, P. T. & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO personality Inventory professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
  3. Daniel Goleman (1997). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam.
  4. Gosling, S. (2008). Snoop: What your stuff says about you. New York: Basic Books.
  5. Dewitt, S., & Schouwenburg, H. C. (2002). Procrastination, temptations, and incentives: The struggle between the present and the future in procrastinators and the punctual. European Journal of Personality, 16, Issue 6, 469-489.
  6. J. F. Salgado (1997). "The five factor model of personality and job performance in the European community". Journal of Applied Psychology. 82 (1): 30–43. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.82.1.30. PMID 9119797. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  7. M. K. Mount, M. R. Barrick and G. L. Stewart (1998). "Five-factor model of personality and Performance in jobs involving interpersonal interactions". Human Performance. 11: 145–165. doi:10.1207/s15327043hup1102&3_3.
  8. Stephanie Simon (2008-09-23). "The United States of Mind. Researchers Identify Regional Personality Traits Across America". Original research article: Peter J. Rentfrow, Samuel D. Gosling and Jeff Potter (2008). "A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics". Perspectives on Psychological Science. 3 (5): 339&ndash, 369. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00084.x.


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