Promoting Wellness Through Personality

Lindsay Wasserman

On Wednesday, February 22, Professor of Psychology Rebecca Shiner led a Shaw Wellness Institute-sponsored brown bag discussion titled, “Seeking Wellness by Knowing Your Personality Traits.” This talk focused on Shiner’s ongoing research exploring the development of personality traits from childhood to adulthood. Specifically, Shiner discussed the effects of the “Big Five” personality traits on everyday life.

The “Big Five” personality traits include extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. Shiner distributed personality tests to attendees, allowing the audience to determine the presence of certain traits in their personalities. She explained that traits exist on a continuum and that each person in the audience would receive different results based on their experiences and surrounding environments. For instance, some individuals have a stronger propensity for “positive emotions” than others, causing each person to choose a different response.

Shiner went on to explain that personality traits change over time as individuals are exposed to new situations, but it is also possible for people to make intentional changes to their traits. Shiner specifically discussed a recent study that tested the emotional benefits of being more extroverted. It was concluded that individuals who were more “sociable, assertive or acted with high energy” benefited from the interaction. Shiner explained that this conclusion supports the idea that individuals can enhance certain traits they like in themselves while also mitigating the effects of the traits they like less.

Junior Maggie Bankert commented on Shiner’s presentation, noting her surprise at some of Shiner’s findings.

“It was interesting to learn how sometimes it is good for introverts to be extroverted,” Bankert said.

Focusing particularly on the traits of extraversion and neuroticism, Shiner led an interactive discussion about the effects of the “Big Five” personality traits on an individual’s everyday life. Students found the discussion particularly relatable to campus life at Colgate.

Sophomore Molly Lieberman thoroughly enjoyed Shiner’s talk, speaking to the urgency and importance of matters that relate to mental wellness and personality traits.

“As a psychology major, but even more so as a constantly stressed student, I thought Professor Shiner’s lecture about personality was extremely applicable to how we go about our lives at Colgate. I thought the part about what [we can] actually do, such as changing our perspective on ‘negative’ emotions, to master neuroticism, was really helpful and interesting,” Lieberman said. “With Colgate being a campus full of passionate and very busy individuals who don’t always take the time to take care of themselves, this was a great way to start the conversation.”