Our Personality Literally Changes How We See the World

People possessing openness can take diverging visual stimuli and combine them in a special way. 


Getty Images.

Open-minded people literally see the world differently. That’s according to researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Scientists there gave volunteers a personality test. Then the participants had their “binocular rivalry” checked, to see if their visual perception was different, depending on their personality. What researchers found was that, in people with high levels of openness, their vision was different from their more closed-minded peers.

123 volunteers were given what is known as the big five personality test. This measures characteristics such as extroversion, conscientiousness, amiability, neuroticism, and openness. That last one is defined as the ability to incorporate new ideas, imaginativeness, and the willingness to take part in new experiences. Openness has been shown to predict a subject’s performance on certain tasks, the attainment of creative achievements, and one's ability to offer novel approaches to tough problems.

Next, each participant had a green patch projected into one eye and a red one into the other. This was to evaluate their binary rivalry. The brain can only process one visual stimulus at a time. So in this case, participant’s usually find that their perception flips back and forth maddeningly, from red to green and back again. However, in this study, they discovered something strange.

How we see the world may be different, depending upon how open-minded we are. Getty Images.

Those subjects who had a high level of openness were able to perceive a unified image, a green-red continuum. Researchers called this phenomenon “rivalry suppression.” It was almost like, the body itself came up with a creative solution to the problem of conflicting stimuli.

Three identical experiments were run, each with the same result. Those who were more open-minded were more likely to see the red-green continuum and to witness it for longer periods. Also, when open-minded people were in a better mood, the kind known to boost creativity, they also saw the continuum for longer. This is the first empirical evidence suggesting that open-minded people experience visual perception differently than others, according to Anna Antinori, the lead author in this study.

We are constantly surrounded by sensory input. The mind has to filter out the noise and choose what to focus on. Among the open-minded, “The ‘gate’ that lets through the information that reaches consciousness may have a different level of flexibility,” Dr. Antinori said. “Open people appear to have a more flexible gate and let through more information than the average person.”

Another aspect may be “inattentional blindness.” This is when we’re so preoccupied concentrating on something, that we miss something obvious going on in the background. Studies in personality are still surprisingly new. Beyond the obvious, we still don’t know how one’s personality is formed and what forces shape it.

See a great example of inattentional blindness here:

Researchers say that it may be a confluence of neurochemical reactions that interpret our visual perception and link it to our outlook on reality, even our personality. “Thus the abundance of the same neurochemical,” Dr. Antinori said, “Or lack thereof, may affect both one’s personality and low-level vision.”

It also may mean that humans have more flexibility in our personality than we assume. We often think of it as a fixed thing. Antinori and colleagues say that there are many things that can make you more creative including: taking part in novel experiences, living overseas, taking the hallucinogenic psilocybin—found in “magic mushrooms” (not that they’re condoning it), practicing certain psychological exercises, and even taking part in meditation.

Taking part in novel experiences can boost your creativity. Getty Images. 

Of course, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. According to Niko Tiliopoulous, of the University of Sydney, too much openness can make one paranoid and prone to delusions. “At those levels of openness, people may actually see reality differently,” he said. “For example, they may ‘see’ spirits, or misinterpret interpersonal or other signals.”

Could our perception of reality and even our vision, change, as a result of personality changes, taking hold? A lot more research will be required to know for sure. Openness seems to change how consciousness is filtered through the brain. But how it does this will be the topic of extensive study for some time. According Dr. Antinori, “It may be possible that a change in people’s personality may also affect how they see the world.”

To learn more about one of the ways you can become more creative, click here: 

Higher ed isn’t immune to COVID-19, but the crisis will make it stronger

The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
  • While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
  • Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Keep reading Show less

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may finally be solved

Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.

Surprising Science

One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.

Keep reading Show less

What can your microwave tell you about your health?

An MIT system uses wireless signals to measure in-home appliance usage to better understand health tendencies.

John Moore/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

For many of us, our microwaves and dishwashers aren't the first thing that come to mind when trying to glean health information, beyond that we should (maybe) lay off the Hot Pockets and empty the dishes in a timely way.

Keep reading Show less

How swipe-based dating apps are impacting your mental health

Online dating has evolved, but at what cost?

The evolution of online dating has led us to swipe-based dating apps, but are they too damaging to our mental health?

Photo by Tero Vesalainen on Shutterstock
Technology & Innovation
  • Some dating apps allow individuals to interact and form romantic/sexual connections before meeting face to face with the ability to "swipe" on the screen to either accept or reject another user's profile. Popular swipe-based apps include Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid.
  • Research by Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney has linked the experience of swipe-based dating apps to higher rates of psychological distress and/or depression.
  • Not all time spent on these apps is damaging, however. Up to 40 percent of current users say they previously entered a serious relationship with someone they met through one of these apps.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…