How Does IQ Relate to Personality?

Monday, June 30th, 2014

How does IQ relate to personality?

Consistent with prior research, IQ was most strongly related to openness to experience. Out of 9 dimensions of openness to experience, 8 out of 9 were positively related to IQ: intellectual engagement, intellectual creativity, mental quickness, intellectual competence, introspection, ingenuity, intellectual depth, and imagination. Interestingly, IQ was much more strongly related to intellectual engagement and mental quickness than imagination, ingenuity, or intellectual depth, and IQ was not related to sensitivity to beauty.

Out of 45 dimensions of personality, 23 dimensions were not related to IQ. This included gregariousness, friendliness, assertiveness, poise, talkativeness, social understanding, warmth, pleasantness, empathy, cooperation, sympathy, conscientiousness, efficiency, dutifulness, purposefulness, cautiousness, rationality, perfectionism, calmness, impulse control, imperturbability, cool-headedness, and tranquility. These qualities were not directly relevant to IQ.

8 dimensions of personality outside the openness to experience domain were positively related to IQ, including organization, toughness, provocativeness, leadership, self-disclosure, emotional stability, moderation, and happiness — although the correlations were much smaller than with intellectual engagement and mental quickness. IQ was negatively related to orderliness, morality, nurturance, tenderness, and sociability, but again, the negative correlations were much smaller than the relationships among IQ, intellectual engagement, and mental quickness.


  1. Bruce Charlton says:

    This merely demonstrates the error or basic incompetence of including Openness as a personality trait.

    Personality is supposed to be independent of intelligence. Personality is a separate explanatory variable which can be seen after Intelligence is controlled for.

    If Intelligence is controlled for, then the effect of Openness disappears, because Openness is merely “the personality type of intelligent people in Western-type societies” — but rather badly conceptualized.

    While the other personality traits (C, E, A and N), which derive essentially from H.J. Eysenck, are robust to personality differences — especially in college populations which provide most of the subjects — Openness is not.

    Openness is merely a (weak) correlate of IQ (in Western Societies) — plus noise and cross-contamination from other personality traits, e.g. a little bit of Psychoticism or Schizotypy.

    Take home message: all research on so-called Openness is either ignorant, incompetent, or (usually) both.

  2. Dear Prof Charlton,

    In your comment you make a number of sweeping generalisations without supporting evidence or specifying what you mean. For example: “If Intelligence is controlled-for, then the effect of Openness disappears.” This statement is not only overly-general, it does not specify what effects openness are referred to. Additionally, I am aware of a number of studies that contradict this assertion.

    For example, a study comparing schizotypy, openness to experience, and intelligence (assessed by Raven’s matrices) found that openness to experience significantly predicted creativity even when controlling for intelligence. (See Schizotypy versus openness and intelligence as predictors of creativity.)

    A number of other separate studies examining predictors of general knowledge have found that IQ and openness to experience independently predict this outcome variable. E.g. see Cognitive ability, learning approaches and personality correlates of general knowledge. These studies indicate that openness does possess predictive power beyond intelligence.

    You close by concluding: “Take home message: all research on so-called Openness is either ignorant, incompetent — or (usually) both.” This is a massive over-generalization, again not supported by evidence. Unless, you have reviewed every single study on the subject, this is an unreasonable statement to make on its face. I would suggest that there is a large body of research on this personality trait that indicates that it is more than “merely ‘the personality type of intelligent people in Western-type societies’ (but rather badly conceptualized).”

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