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In Personality

Does our personality influence our choice of what to study at the University?

Being a psychology student at York University (Toronto, Ontario) I was investigating the role of personality in providing social support to ones who are the closest to us – our romantic partners, and the issue of complementarity – what person do we choose for our romantic relations. I was working with psychologists who were standing at the beginning of studying the notion of complementarity – Jerry Wiggins, Ph.D. (unfortunately, he passed away 9 years ago) and his wife, Khrista Trobst, Ph.D. The construct of personality traits was measured using so-called the Big Fives. The Big Five personality traits are: neuroticism (tendency to experience negative and unstable emotions), extraversion (tendency to experience positive emotions and being active and sociable), openness (curiosity about and tolerance for diverse cultural and intellectual experiences), agreeableness (being friendly, modest, and accommodating), and conscientiousness (being dutiful, diligent, and orderly). We differ in all these characteristics, scoring high on some of them and low on others, but the majority of us score somewhere in the middle.

If the Big Five traits have an impact on our choice of a romantic partner, then our personality can influence our choice of being interested in different topics for study. Based on this idea, we tend to choose academic majors. A Danish professor, Anna Vedel, Ph.D., reviewed the available studies on this topic and came to the following conclusion:

Psychology, art, and humanities students scored high on openness, neuroticism, and agreeableness. 

Political science students scored high on openness and extraversion.

Economics, law, medicine students scored high on extraversion. Also, students of medical schools scored high on agreeableness.

Students interested in studying other fields of science scored high on agreeableness.

Grounding on the results from the studies included in her systematic review, Anna Vedel, Ph.D. inferred that it was more likely that the personality differences found between academic majors were pre-existing rather than due to socialization. Nevertheless, she argued that it would not be wise to base your future academic pursuits on your personality traits alone, because academic abilities and interests obviously affect educational choices as well, as do many other factors.

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