Psychologists have only begun to unravel the concept of “personality,” that all-important but nebulous feature of individual identity. Recent studies suggest that personality traits don’t simply affect your outlook on life, but the way you perceive reality.
One study published earlier this year in the Journal of Research in Personality goes so far as to suggest that openness to experience changes what people see in the world. It makes them more likely to experience certain visual perceptions. In the study, researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia recruited 123 volunteers and gave them the big five personality test, which measures extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. That last personality trait involves creativity, imagination, and a willingness to try new things.
They then tested who experienced a visual perception phenomenon called “binocular rivalry.” This phenomenon occurs when each eye is shown a different image—in this case, a red patch in one eye and a green patch to another. Most people switch back and forwards between the two incompatible images, as the brain can only perceive one at a time. But some people merge the two images into a unified red-green patch. Participants who scored higher on openness were more likely to perceive this combined image.