For years, many psychologists have believed that five personality traits could explain human behaviour.
These traits, known as the “Big Five,” include openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Now, researchers at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany say that a sixth personality trait can predict one type of behaviour that none of the other traits can: dishonesty.
The personality trait is called the “Honesty-Humility” factor, and generally refers to your tendency to be fair in dealing with others and your willingness to stop yourself from exploiting others to benefit yourself.
In a series of experiments, the researchers demonstrated that people who scored low on measures of Honesty-Humility were more likely to cheat for their own benefit.
In one experiment, participants started out by completing the HEXACO personality assessment, which measures Honesty-Humility, among other traits. Then participants were asked to roll a die and report if it landed on a specific number. If it did, they would be paid €5.00.
Results showed that those who scored lowest on Honesty-Humility claimed to have rolled the target number about 75% of the time, when in reality, their chances of winning were only about 17%. That suggests that the low scorers were lying pretty often. Importantly, no other personality trait was as strongly linked to lying as Honesty-Humility.
That it’s possible to predict someone’s willingness to lie and cheat based on a personality test has potential implications for the workplace. For example, as Taya Cohen, Ph.D., an assistant professor of organizational behaviour and theory at Carnegie Mellon University, told New Scientist, people who score low on the Honesty-Humility factor might be more likely to cheat on their time sheets or steal office supplies.
That’s why Cohen says employers might want to start testing for Honesty-Humility before hiring or promoting people. “Now that we know which traits to look for, we can begin to make progress on how to best assess them in high-stakes settings such as hiring and promotion, where people are more inclined to hide the darker sides of their character,” she told The Huffington Post.
Given the proliferation of personality tests designed for hiring, that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea.
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