Decoding Albert Einstein's Personality through the Big Five Model
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Personality describes an individual’s usual pattern of behavior, feelings, and thoughts. (Twenge & Campbell, 2017). Albert Einstein is one of the world’s most renowned scientists of the 20th century. His theories have changed long-held theories of scientific laws and people’s understandings of the Universe around them. His independent, nonconformist thinking enabled him to disregard centuries of scientific belief and come up with original theories about the nature of the universe. Einstein was born in 1879 in Ulm, Germany. As a toddler, Einstein is described as being a shy, quiet boy and he was continually described as reserved all his life. He preferred spending his time doing quiet thoughtful activities. He was happy on his own and would spend hours making constructions, puzzling over jigsaws and playing with a steam engine and later in life writing and developing his theories. Einstein was fortunate enough to have people around him who encouraged his curiosity in math and science. This, combined with his ability to focus for extended periods of time, his deep questioning, and his divergent thinking enabled him to make the advances in science that he did (Beeston, 2009). Albert Einstein’s behaviors across all situations, throughout his life, give us great insight into his personality.
The Development and Content of the Big Five Model
The Big Five Model is a five-factor model used to evaluate, what researchers believe to be, the five core traits of personality. These traits are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. Using questionnaire-based testing, psychologists measure the degree to which each of these traits is expressed. The Big Five is used to help understand personality traits and predict an individual’s success in social, academic, and professional situations. (psychologytoday.com).
Each of the five traits is measured on a continuum. The first, extraversion, means being outgoing and experiencing positive emotion. On the other end of the continuum is introversion, shyness. Second, Agreeableness means caring for others and getting along with people. The opposite is argumentative, combative, and self-centered. Third, Conscientiousness means being organized, ambitious and self-controlled versus messy, unmotivated and impulsive. The fourth is Neuroticisms which means having negative emotions such as worry and anger versus calmness and emotional stability. Last is Openness to experience which means being interested in trying new activities and playing with new ideas, beliefs and value systems versus being conventional and less comfortable with change (Twenge & Campbell, 2017). The Big Five is a very useful model of personality.
Applying the Big Five Model
Applying The Big Five Model to Albert Einstein helps us capture and understand his personality, according to well-known traits we use to describe ourselves and others. Albert Einstein ranks low on extraversion, he was very much an introvert. Einstein was described as being shy, preferring to be alone, and often doing quiet and thoughtful activities. In his youth he preferred spending hours making constructions and doing jigsaw puzzles then playing with other children (Beeston, 2009). When it comes to agreeableness, Albert Einstein is neutral. He had a welcoming outreach to the world and people around him, got along with the many types of people he met, and took time to respond to letters from young children around the world (healthresearchfunding.org). However, his marriage was never a priority for him and he had frequent affairs (amnh.org). Einstein scores high in conscientiousness. He was very motivated to create and discover and he had the ability to focus for extended periods of time on topics of interest (Beeston, 2009). Furthermore, Einstein scores high in neuroticism. Until the age of nine, Einstein would quietly rehearse what he wanted to say before sharing his thoughts to make sure he would say them correctly. He also had a restless personality and his curiosity compelled him to get to the bottom of things and to understand everything around him. Finally, Albert Einstein scores high on openness to experience. He had very deep inquisitiveness and challenged long-held theories about scientific laws and people’s understandings of the Universe (amnh.org).
Applying If-Then Personality Signatures
The trait approach says that a person who has a certain trait should act in accordance with that trait across all situations. For example, an extravert should be the most talkative person in any situation. The problem that researchers found is that a person might appear extraverted in one situation but introverted in another situation. The if-then personality signatures helps resolve the person-situation debate. It means that if x situation occurs, then y behavior might result. Rather than defining people merely by their traits, the if-then signature factors in the importance of the context.
Albert Einstein had many If-then Signatures. For example, Einstein was generally well-behaved; however, as soon as he began tutoring before going to school he began to throw temper tantrums. These tantrums continued in some of his years in elementary school. It had a lot to do with the focus on rote learning and memorization and him not being able to think creatively on his own (Beeston, 2009). If Einstein was in a situation that was stifling his creative thought then he would act out of character and throw tantrums.
Another example of an if-then signature has to do with Einstein’s interest. Einstein’s school reports commented that he tired easily during activities at school. This was a major contrasts with the persistence and drive he showed at home (Beeston, 2009). If Einstein was engaged in an activity he was not interested in, then he gave up very quickly. If he was interested in what he was doing, then he is extremely persistent in that task. Last, Albert Einstein loved playing the violin but instead of practicing he preferred to perform. In general, Einstein preferred to remain quiet and not the center of attention (healthresearchfunding.org). However, if playing music, then Einstein liked to perform.
Applying the Biological Approach
An example of a biological approach to personality is Eysenck’s Theory of Extraversion. Eysenck theorized that extraversion is linked to levels of brain activity, cortical arousal. Extraverts experience lower levels of cortical arousal and this causes them to seek arousal from external stimuli. Higher arousal levels in introverts causes them to avoid stimuli. Albert Einstein was an introvert. Since he had higher levers of cortical arousal he avoided stimuli. He preferred spending his time doing quiet activities and was very happy to be on his own (Beeston, 2009). While we don’t have direct information about Einstein’s neurological systems we can infer from his behavior patterns that this is in fact true.
Comparing Genetic and Environmental Influences
Many environmental factors had influence on Albert Einstein’s personality. Specifically, shared environment. Albert Einstein was born into an independent-minded and intelligent family. His parents were encouraging of his interests and his creative thinking. Home environment played a significant role in developing Einstein’s personality through the opportunity to learn through exploration and fun, during his early childhood years. Non-shared environment played a role in influencing Einstein’s personality as well. Albert Einstein received tutoring from mentors throughout his childhood. These mentors helped Einstein with self-understanding, self-confidence and self-esteem. They nurtured his passions and inquisitiveness. Another non-shared environment was his schooling. The focus on rote learning and memorization was stifling his creative thought processes but drove his persistence in finding deeper meaning. Genetically, Einstein’s father had aptitude for mathematics as a child and his mother was a strong-willed woman with a love of music. These are traits found in Einstein, however, his shyness was unique to him (Beeston, 2009). Overall, Albert Einstein’s home environment played a significant role in influencing his personality. His non-shared environment also helped influence his personality as well. This, combined with his genetic influences formed the Albert Einstein the world knows of today.
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