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An overview of personality using the five personality dimensions


Experiencing time pressure was related to an easy-going low conscientiousnessintroverted low extraversionsensitive high neuroticism and competitive low agreeableness personality. Preferring to retrieve information which confirmed previous knowledge was negatively related to extraversion, openness to experience although not significantly and conscientiousness. We can say that an introverted, conservative or easy-going personality prefers information which confirms previous knowledge.

There was a non-significant connection between preference for confirming information and high levels of neuroticism. Critical thinking was related to an open and outspoken low agreeableness character. Aiming to acquire new ideas was typical for outgoing, open and conscientious students. There was a non-significant connection between openness to experience and accidental information discovery.

Effort was related to conscientiousness and openness to experience. Conscientiousness is related to a general willingness to work hard, which is reflected in information seeking. Openness to experience is linked to curiosity and interest to learn new things, which also trigger use of effort in information seeking. There was a non-significant connection between a tendency to give up database searches if nothing was immediately retrieved and high levels of neuroticism.

In other words, it seems as though the efficiency of the conscientious students and the curiosity and willingness to learn of the open students enhance study results. Discussion In the following discussion, the influence of the five personality dimension on the respondents' information behaviour will be explored by presenting each trait dimension in a specific section.

  • Personality and chronic procrastination by university students during an academic examination period;
  • Cognitive styles in information seeking;
  • College and Research Libraries, 47 5 , 475-481.

It is important to keep in mind that many features of information seeking and more importantly many explaining variables, which influence information seeking fall outside the scope of the article.

Although the results showed that personality traits indeed influence information behaviour, the broader scope of influential factors is acknowledged. Neuroticism Neuroticism - the vulnerability to negative emotions - was related to preference for confirming information, feeling that lack of time was a barrier to information retrieval, difficulties with relevance judgement and insecurity in database searching.

These connections suggest that negative emotionality may form a barrier to successful information retrieval. This influence seems related to personality inclination as well as to temporary states of anxiety as previously shown by Ford et al.

As negative emotions consume energy and distract concentration, negative emotionality may be an initial obstacle to successful database searches.

If the searchers anticipate similar patterns in future searches this can set off a chain reaction of psychological barriers. Feelings of anxiety tend to enforce an escape reaction to threatening situation where there is a history of failure Revelle, 1995.

The estimation and expectations of one's own capacities is often more influential on performance than the actual skills one possesses Bandura, 1986. Insecurity and doubt of the own abilities may lead to little effort and persistence in information seeking in line with Miculincer, 1997 ; Nahl, 2001.

The students with high emotional instability were indeed shown to give up their information searches in databases if they retrieved nothing on their initial queries. The reason for abandoning searches may be doubt of the own abilities and based on a previous history of failure. On other occasions, the rationale behind low persistence in database searches may be a more pragmatic one - lack of time.

The lack of time can be a reality but people may also vary according to how strongly they perceive time pressure and how they act upon it. As the feeling of time pressure is related to stress, it was interesting to note that in particular students with high emotional instability experienced lack of time as a barrier to information.

Emotionally instable persons are thus more vulnerable to the strainful experience of time limits which reduce their efforts on information seeking. In addition to lack of time, another common cause for stress in our time is the constant flow of new information. Whether there is a basic insecurity about what is relevant or not, new information can appear too challenging. Students who faced relevance problems were shown to prefer documents which confirmed old knowledge to new thought-provoking documents.

Students with high levels of neuroticism are more vulnerable to the strain of many conflicting messages and, accordingly, prefer less confusing information. This is a way of increasing the feeling of control and the confidence of sufficient topical knowledge which is particularly relevant for insecure persons.

Previous research has shown that the more secure people are, the more active in information seeking and the more able to accept new information Miculincer, 1997. Self-reliance and confidence is linked to an inner security which makes novelty appear less threatening. At the beginning of the information-seeking process it is common to be reassured by information, which relates to previous knowledge.

This reduces the feeling of anxiety which is common at this confusing stage where much of the encountered information is unfamiliar Kuhlthau, 1993: Kuhlthau has shown that the state of anxiety can be linked to a preference for familiar document an overview of personality using the five personality dimensions.

Five personality dimensions and their influence on information behaviour

The trait of anxiety vulnerability, neuroticism, was in the present study linked to preference for documents which confirmed previous ideas. This shows that personality dispositions may explain inclination and preference for certain information content throughout stages.

As the range of negative emotions linked to high levels of neuroticism may appear discouraging in relation to successful information retrieval, it should be pointed out that temporary states of worry and insecurities can in some circumstances enhance performance. Although strong negative emotions can distract the attention on the actual task and in this way hinder performance, it can also be a means of concentration on familiar tasks and, in this way, in fact enhance performance.

The hindering or enhancing effect of excitation on performance can be pictured as a U, where there is an optimal level of arousal at the bottom. Arousal that exceeds or goes below this level affects performance negatively Crozier, 1997: It is consequently possible that a certain level of arousal, even related to negative emotions, may in fact increase concentration also on information seeking tasks.

One way to attended to more profound insecurities and fears of failure would be increased topical and procedural knowledge, as developed information literacy skills. Extraversion Extraversion was related to informal information retrieval as well as preference for thought-provoking documents over documents which confirmed previous ideas.

Extraverted students have an enthusiastic, active and confident character, which was reflected in their information seeking. These energetic and outgoing students wanted to find much information without being very systematic in their quest for it.

Their information strategies were characterised by quick solutions and use of social abilities. Outgoing students often consulted teachers, supervisors and friends as information sources. Supervisors and teachers are good sources for direct guidelines and literature suggestions, while fellow students provide the opportunity for informal feedback and exchange of ideas. The outgoing students particularly welcomed discussions or documents which brought new perspectives to their subject area.

This hesitation is unlikely to restrain outgoing students as social interaction is an important part of their information behaviour. The extraverts' information-seeking activity does not necessarily mean activity also in information use.

A broad collection of information do not evidently lead to deep analysis and learning from the information, at least not as measured in marks. Openness to experience Openness to experience was related to broad information seeking, incidental information acquisition, critical information judgement, preference of thought-provoking documents instead of documents which confirmed previous ideas and use of effort in information seeking.

Conservativeness, on the other hand, was related to problems with relevance judgement and preference of documents which confirmed previous ideas instead of thought provoking documents The results of the present study showed that open students use much effort in their information seeking and prefer to retrieve a wide range of related documents from information searches instead of only a few precise ones.

If the key factor behind the extraverted students' active information seeking was an energetic character, intellectual curiosity is the motivating factor behind the open students' broad information seeking. The higher the involvement and interest, the more complex and profound the need for information tends to be Dunn, 1986.

This highlights how decisive the motivation behind broad information seeking is for information use and outcome. A need for intellectual analysis is reflected in in-dept exploration of the content which in turn result in a good study outcome. An invitational and open information attitude is particularly important at the initiation stage. Usually moods change according to information need but there are also tendencies towards stylistic persistence in moods Kuhlthau, 1993: They hunt sources of inspiration in a wide range of sources.

Both the characteristics and the search pattern of open students could be compared to innovators in line with Jacobsen, 1998 ; Kirton, 1989: Open students have an inherent "environmental scanning" in their curiosity and invitational attitude towards life, which explains why they often discovered useful information by chance.

Erdelez 1997 has previously speculated over the possibility that personality traits like curiosity, desire for exploration and numerous interests increase the likelihood of encountering useful information by chance.

  • Outgoing students often consulted teachers, supervisors and friends as information sources;
  • Personality theory and behavioural genetics;
  • Models and paradigms in intelligence research;
  • Affective monitoring of Internet learners;
  • A theory of the relationship between individual differences and information processing.

It was interesting, therefore, to note that students characterized by openness to experience were most open for accidental information discovery. Open persons have the wide interests and desire for exploration suggested by Erdelez. The result of the present study consequently suggests that personality traits indeed increase the likelihood for information encountering.

These characteristics form a good basis for critical evaluation of information. The critical and open students prefer to retrieve a broad range of information rather than a few precise ones right on target. This further increases the awareness of differences in interpretations, viewpoints and an overview of personality using the five personality dimensions quality.

Curious and interested students, with confidence in their capability to critically analyse information, are not afraid of new information content but rather welcome it.

We could see that high openness to experience lead to a broad and invitational information attitude. How would then low openness to experience influence information seeking? The results showed that a conservative character, who wants things to remain as they always have, prefer familiarity to novelty also in information retrieval. The conservative students used the least possible effort in their information seeking and preferred to retrieve only a few precise documents instead of a wide range of closely related documents.

A precise search result is less likely to offer new, challenging ideas, which the conservative students want to avoid. This implies a cautious information-seeking attitude which is narrow in content aim as well as conduct. The conservative students, who prefer confirmation of familiar knowledge, can be compared to the adaptors who are reluctant to new ideas and conservative in their character Kirton, 1989. Little openness to experience in character is accordingly manifested in little openness to new information.

Conservative students likewise expressed conventionality in their criteria for document choice. They preferred clearly and recently written documents and overviews, which all are 'standard' quality criteria, presumably taught and recommended by teachers and supervisors.

Their use of information sources also seemed traditional and conservative as they mostly found information in the most customary sources; printed sources and group sources, like lectures.

They did not show any desire to use of more explorative information sources, like mass-media or Internet sources.

Psychological factors in information-seeking behaviour

Competitiveness Competitiveness was related to experiencing lack of time as a barrier to information retrieval, problems with relevance judgement and competence in critical analysis of information. If students are impatient by character, it is unlikely that they will devote time for information seeking.

When they eventually need the information, they can unjustly feel that the lack of time was the barrier, when the actual barrier was that they did not prioritise information seeking in their use of time. It is, nevertheless, important to keep in mind that lack of time simply can be a reality, where the only option is a hasty and superficial information seeking. As confidence in relevance judgement would require time to get acquainted with the topic from various viewpoints, difficulties in knowing whether information was relevant for the topic or not could be related to the impatient character of competitive students.

The present study also showed a link between competitiveness and critical analysis of information. Conscientiousness Conscientiousness was related to preference of thought-provoking documents instead of documents which confirmed previous ideas and use of effort in information seeking.

Carelessness, on the other hand, was related to problems with relevance judgement, feeling that lack of time was a barrier to information retrieval and preference of documents which confirmed an overview of personality using the five personality dimensions ideas instead of thought provoking documents Conscientious students were willing to use effort - time, money and hard work - in order to obtain relevant information. One central feature of conscientiousness is self-control, with a capacity to carry out tasks.

Structure and persistence seems to be related to mastered information seeking with few problems. These students seem to know what they are aiming at and are willing to work hard in order to attain it.