Cognitive Ability and Personality: An In-Depth Exploration of Their Interrelations


Cognitive ability and personality are two fundamental domains of human psychology that have been extensively studied for over a century. However, despite numerous research efforts, many of the links between these two constructs remain unestablished.

This research aims to fill this gap by conducting a large-scale meta-analysis, quantitatively summarizing the relations between 79 personality traits and 97 cognitive ability constructs. Based on data from millions of individuals, this study employs contemporary hierarchical frameworks for personality and cognitive abilities to examine previously unexamined links and shed light on novel relations.

The findings not only provide a comprehensive understanding of the current knowledge on personality-ability relations but also identify new trait pairings, while also revealing knowledge gaps. To facilitate further research and application, an interactive webtool and a database of coded studies and relations are made available to the scientific community.

“Knowing how personality and intelligence are related allows us to ponder the much deeper question of why,” said Deniz Ones, a co-author of the study and a professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts.

“These findings revolutionize our understanding of human diversity and individuality. Only by knowing ourselves can we fully tap into our potential.”

Key findings include:

  • The Influence of Activity and Energy on Cognitive Abilities: Individuals who are active and energetic tend to exhibit better command over a range of cognitive abilities. They possess extensive knowledge, efficient memory retrieval, and enhanced information processing skills. Regardless of the subject, these active individuals tend to have a greater depth of knowledge. Their heightened engagement and participation in activities contribute to their cognitive prowess.
  • Depression and Anxiety: Implications for Learning and Reasoning: High levels of depression or anxiety can impede knowledge accumulation and logical reasoning abilities. Individuals experiencing depressive symptoms or significant anxiety may find it more challenging to acquire new information, focus, and think clearly. The cognitive abilities required for effective learning and reasoning can be hindered by the negative impact of these emotional states.
  • Industriousness and Compassion: A Connection to Knowledge Skills: The personality traits of industriousness and compassion are associated with better verbal and quantitative knowledge skills. Industrious individuals, characterized by their hardworking nature, tend to excel in acquiring and retaining knowledge. Meanwhile, compassionate individuals, driven by empathy and concern for others, also demonstrate improved cognitive abilities. This intriguing link suggests that certain personality traits may influence how we learn and acquire knowledge.
  • Open-Mindedness and its Relationship with Cognitive Abilities: Open-mindedness, defined as receptivity to fresh ideas and novel experiences, is positively correlated with many cognitive abilities. Individuals who possess open-mindedness are more likely to have enhanced cognitive flexibility, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Their willingness to consider different perspectives and explore new ideas broadens their cognitive capabilities.


Cognitive ability and personality are two key dimensions of human psychology that have been studied extensively, with each domain contributing unique insights into human behavior and functioning. Cognitive abilities refer to the mental processes involved in acquiring, processing, and utilizing information, while personality encompasses enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that characterize individuals. Understanding the interplay between these constructs is crucial for gaining a comprehensive understanding of human psychology.

Hierarchical Personality and Cognitive Abilities Frameworks: To effectively analyze the relations between personality and cognitive abilities, this study adopts contemporary hierarchical frameworks for both domains. These frameworks allow for a more nuanced exploration by distinguishing between broad factors, specific aspects, and fine-grained facets within each construct. This hierarchical approach provides a comprehensive perspective on the various dimensions of personality and cognitive abilities.


The meta-analysis conducted in this study incorporates data from millions of individuals, systematically reviewing and synthesizing 60,690 relations between 79 personality traits and 97 cognitive ability constructs. Meta-analytic techniques are employed to quantitatively summarize the strength and direction of these relations, considering effect sizes, confidence intervals, and heterogeneity across studies.

Personality-Ability Relations

The findings of this meta-analysis reveal a multitude of connections between personality traits and cognitive abilities. Contrary to popular belief, the links between personality and cognitive abilities are not limited to openness and its components. Rather, various aspects and facets of neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness demonstrate considerable associations with both general and specific cognitive abilities.

Novel Relations and Unrecognized Trait Pairings

One of the key contributions of this research is the identification of novel relations between personality and cognitive abilities. By analyzing the interplay at different levels of hierarchy, previously unrecognized trait pairings are uncovered, shedding light on previously unexamined connections. These findings challenge existing assumptions and expand our understanding of how personality and cognitive abilities interact.

Knowledge Gaps

Despite the extensive scope of this meta-analysis, certain knowledge gaps are revealed. These gaps highlight areas where further research is needed to establish the links between specific personality traits and cognitive abilities. The identified knowledge gaps provide valuable directions for future investigations to enhance our understanding of the complex interplay between personality and cognitive abilities.

Conclusion: In conclusion, this research provides a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the relations between personality traits and cognitive abilities. By employing contemporary hierarchical frameworks, this study offers novel insights into previously unexamined links, identifies unrecognized trait


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