Personality and spirituality are two common areas in psychology. Psychologists are constantly aware of and observe how these topics belong together. They are also aware of how spirituality affects human behavior and how it affects the way people perceive the world.
Thus, the relationship between personality and spirituality becomes more relevant with time.
Although studies of spirituality and religion are nothing new, the branch that falls under the name Psychology of Religion and Spirituality is only 20 years old.
Some of the goals are to shed light on the relationship between personality traits and spiritual beliefs; how they develop through life as well as their adaptive significance for certain personality types. The biggest existing drawback, however, is reaching agreement on what spirituality and religious tendencies are.
One of the most widely used definitions says that spirituality is the innate motivation that drives and guides behavior toward the construction of a broader personal meaning.
In other words, it is the belief that there is something out there in the universe that is greater than oneself. In this sense, there are some writers who suggest that this could even be a personality factor.
Similarly, religion is a set of beliefs and values that are explicitly governed by a social or institutional tradition – and it depends on education and culture. Thus, a person’s spirituality influences and changes their religious tendencies.
Although there are different models that classify personality differently, studies are generally based on the five-factor model of personality. According to this model, one can define personality according to its degree in each of the following dimensions:
- Neuroticism. This has to do with the emotional instability and a tendency to experience negative emotions.
- Extroversion. The tendency to communicate and interact with others.
- Openness or experience. The tendency to exhibit intellectual curiosity, imagination and aesthetic reason.
- Kindness. The establishment of social bonds, altruistic attitude and an interest in others.
- Accountability. The tendency to have clear goals as well as the ability to control impulses and perform tasks in an organized way.
Personality and spirituality
As we mentioned above, spirituality consists of an innate motivation and a belief that there is something greater than oneself that helps to determine one’s behavior.
In some studies , spirituality has been linked to the five personality factors such as extroversion, openness and kindness.
Other authors, however, claim that spirituality has nuances that do not include other people (simplicity, detachment, or loneliness). Therefore, they consider spirituality to be a sixth personality factor.
Depending on the spirituality present, a person will show certain behavioral tendencies and ways of perceiving the world around them.
Religion and personality
Religious tendencies contextualize a person’s degree of spirituality. Since spirituality is more of a personality factor, most studies associate different personality traits with religiosity.
Although 60% of studies find no correlation, there are indications that greater religious spirituality is associated with a lower presence of neuroticism.
Likewise, 40% of surveys indicate that more religious people show more responsibility. In other words: a greater presence of goals and the ability to achieve them in a planned and organized way.
87% of researchers noted that people with a higher degree of religiosity are friendlier. In terms of openness or the ability to have a greater imagination and curiosity, 42% of the studies found a positive correlation.
But some writers believe that if the effect of spirituality were out of the equation (that is, everyone has it to the same degree), then greater religious tendencies would be associated with narrow-mindedness.
The connection between personality and spirituality
One study analyzed the relationship between spirituality, religiosity and personality. In the study, the researchers found that all personality factors, except openness, are linked to the degree of spirituality.
This result was remarkable in features such as comfort and accountability. But a religious tendency was only associated with these last two factors.
More specifically, they discovered that when the approach to religion arises in the search for answers to existential questions, but the sense of faith and spiritual significance was low, religion had more to do with high neuroticism and openness. Likewise, it is associated with low extroversion, comfort and attention.
The study also concluded that when people have a more instrumental approach to religion because it gives them security, but the intellectual search and belief was low, then it is more associated with low neuroticism, comfort, and openness.