Life potentials Conscientiousness Definition Psychology

Conscientiousness is one of the “super traits” in the Big Five model of personality. The trait has six dimensions: Self-Efficacy, Orderliness, Dutifulness, Achievement-Striving, Self-Discipline, and Cautiousness

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The Big Five Super Trait: Conscientiousness 

People high on conscientiousness are organized and dependable and tend to aim for achievement through self-discipline and planned rather than spontaneous behavior.

Are you wired for success? 

Studies have shown that the Big Five super trait, Conscientiousness, can predict a person’s success. To be conscientious is to be organized, principled, responsible and a forward thinker. People who score high on this dimension are not impulsive, and they persevere when faced with challenges.

“The human tendency to regard little things as important has produced very many great things.” - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Do you have this type of personality?

The other four dimensions of the Big Five theory of personality are:

The Benefits of Being Conscientious 

Many studies have shown that high levels of conscientiousness accounted for better health, well-being and higher productivity. Which is why it’s being used as a way to gauge a person’s tendency to succeed, not just in their careers, but in life in general.


If you score high on this trait, you have lower addiction tendencies. You smoke and drink less, and will avoid narcotics. Conscientious people are less impulsive. If you have a chronic condition, you will most likely get regular checkups, and take your medicine on time. Organization and doing what’s right is a trait of people with high levels of conscientiousness. This will be beneficial to your physical health and overall well-being.


Organized people pay attention to details. They are very seldom careless. They are goal-driven, and as employees, they tend to rise above their less conscientious counterparts. Achievers like this are valued by companies, so they get promoted faster and would have higher salaries. When faced with roadblocks, they persevere and double their efforts, enabling them to succeed on whatever they put their minds into.


Conscientious people would be more mindful of their partners. They love to do the right thing. Extra-marital affairs would be something they’d frown at in principle. They are responsible. A conscientious man would be a good provider, and a conscientious woman can be a strong and positive influence to the relationship.

What does the trait Conscientiousness measure? 

When you take the conscientiousness test, what it measures is your tendency to control impulses, your competence, dutifulness, orderliness, achievement striving and deliberation. People on the higher end of the scale of conscientiousness would be responsible and goal oriented. They love making plans and they stick to it. They are organized, and delivers on what they promise. 

The tendency to be reliable makes this trait highly desirable. Who doesn’t want to be with a person you can rely on? If you are high in conscientiousness, you have an edge over other people. In school, you get better grades, and as an employee, you shine in the workplace. 

Within this super trait are 6 facts that can help you see a more detailed account of what makes you conscientious… or not.

The 6 Facets of Conscientiousness

1. Self-Efficacy 

High Score – Has confidence in their ability to reach goals and succeed. 

Low Score – Feels ineffective and not in control of their lives.

2. Orderliness 

High Score – Loves lists, routine and schedules. Very Organized. 

Low Score – Disorganized. Scatter-brained. Always late.

3. Dutifulness 

High Score – Feels a strong sense of duty and moral obligation. Reliable. 

Low Score – Feels confined by rules, laws, contracts and regulations. Seen as irresponsible and unreliable.

4. Achievement-Striving 

High Score – High achievers. Strives for excellence. 

Low Score – Not as ambitious. Oftentimes seen as lazy.

5. Self-Discipline 

High Score – Strong ability to persist when doing unpleasant or difficult tasks. Stays on track despite distractions. 

Low Score – Procrastinates. Often fails to complete tasks, even those that are desirable to them.

6. Cautiousness 

High Score – Deliberates before making decisions. Takes consequences and alternatives into consideration. 

Low Score – Impulsive. Does not think things through.

What your score means 

People who score high on Conscientiousness will have most of the following traits: 

  • Goal driven, and high achievers. Loves a challenge.
  • Strong convictions. Certain.
  • Hard working and persevering.
  • Neat, Detailed and Orderly. Often has a To-Do list.
  • Cautious and careful in all areas of their lives.
  • Law-abiding and morally ethical. Does the “right thing”.
  • High satisfaction with life.
  • Plans and deliberates.
  • Honors contracts and delivers on promises.
  • Less prone to extramarital affairs, spousal abuse and other negative behaviors in a relationship.
  • Knows how to manage conflict.
  • Responsible parents and partners.
  • Conservative. Loves to follow the norm.
  • Thrifty and cautious.
  • Tends to accumulate things. Pack rats.

People who score very low on Conscientiousness often have the following traits:

  • Procrastinators. Seldom finishes tasks on time, if ever.
  • Does not feel in control of their lives.
  • Higher tendencies for substance abuse.
  • May exhibit anti-social behaviors.
  • Poor impulse control. Seeks immediate gratification.
  • Prone to eating disorders, smoking and alcoholism.
  • Prone to developing chronic health conditions due to bad habits.
  • Feels discontented.
  • Poor quality of relationships. Less responsive. Less mindful of their partners.
  • Irresponsible and unreliable.
  • Entertains liberal ideas and does not care about societal standards.
  • Prone to excessiveness or reckless abandon.

The Down Side of Conscientiousness 

Like everything else, when taken to the extreme, Conscientiousness can be debilitating. Since people who score very high on conscientiousness have higher goals, ambitions, level of motivation and sense of well-being, they may encounter a problem when faced with failure. Since their motivations and goals are a central part of their lives, failures such as unemployment will lead to decreased self-worth and even depression. 

The following are negative behaviors found in people with extremely high levels of this super trait:

  • Prone to obsession and fixations.
  • Can be excessively hardworking.
  • Inability to relax.
  • Takes self too seriously.
  • Inability to accept failure.
  • Difficulty in adjusting. Not flexible.
  • Close-minded and prejudiced.
  • Critical self-judgement.
  • Perfectionism. Too high expectations.

We may want to have the personality traits that can give us an edge on life, but we should remember that a well-balanced personality is more desirable than having a personality disorder. Knowing how you rate on the scale of conscientiousness will help you avoid the dark side of being too… perfect. 

Are you being too hard on your loved ones and friends? Are you a hard-to-please boss? Do you spend very little time with your family? Are you obsessed with work? Do you even take time to enjoy life? 

There’s still time to change and lead a more well-balanced life. The key is to be aware of who you are and what drives your actions and thoughts. 

You can read more posts about personality here.


Why not find out how conscientious you are by taking this test? How Conscientious Are You? Remember that there is no right or wrong answer. This is just to measure where you are on the scale.

  1. Business Insider: This Personality Trait Predicts Success
  2. Wikipedia: Conscientiousness
  3. Psychology Today: The Dark Side of Conscientiousness
  4. Ptypes – Conscientious character style

Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are

What does your personality look like? Read more about “Conscientiousness” and the other "Super Traits" of human personality in the book "Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are" by Harvard graduate Shawn Achor.

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