A new study conducted by researchers from the American Psychological Association explored how consumers' personality traits may affect their cognitive function later in life.
“Personality traits reflect relatively enduring patterns of thinking and behaving, which may cumulatively affect engagement in healthy and unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns across the lifespan,” said researcher Tomiko Yoneda, Ph.D. “The accumulation of lifelong experiences may then contribute to susceptibility of particular diseases or disorders, such as mild cognitive impairment, or contribute to individual differences in the ability to withstand age-related neurological changes.”
The link between personality and cognition
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 2,000 people enrolled in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The participants began the study in 1997 and completed assessments of their cognitive abilities annually.
The researchers learned that participants’ personalities played a role in their long-term cognitive function. Cognitive impairment was less likely for those who scored higher on traits consistent with conscientiousness and lower on traits related to neuroticism; participants with low conscientiousness scores and higher neuroticism scores were more likely to experience cognitive impairment.
“Scoring approximately six more points on a conscientiousness scale ranging from 0 to 48 was associated with a 22% decreased risk of transitioning from normal cognitive functioning to mild cognitive impairment,” said Yoneda. “Additionally, scoring approximately seven more points on a neuroticism scale of 0 to 48 was associated with a 12% increased risk of transition.”
The researchers also learned that those who scored higher on measures of extraversion were more likely to delay the onset of cognitive impairment by about one year. On the other hand, those who had higher levels of neuroticism were found to have one less year of healthy cognitive function.
Moving forward, the researchers plan to do more work in this area to test how more of the main personality traits may impact consumers’ cognitive function in older age.