Get access

Sources of Openness/Intellect: Cognitive and Neuropsychological Correlates of the Fifth Factor of Personality


  • Colin G. DeYoung, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto; Jordan B. Peterson, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto; Daniel M. Higgins, Department of Psychology, Harvard University.

  • This study was made possible by support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We thank Alice Lee, Sara Goldman, Jana Holvay, Christy Johnson, Crystal Layne, Lisa Lee, Mariko Lui, Irena Milosevic, Craig Nathanson, Chayim Newman, William Rupp, and Suzanne Toole for their help with the execution of the study.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jordan B. Peterson, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3G3; E-mail:; or to Colin G. DeYoung; e-mail:


Abstract We characterize Openness/Intellect as motivated cognitive flexibility, or cognitive exploration, and develop a neuropsychological model relating it to dopaminergic function and to the functions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Evidence is reviewed for sources of Openness/Intellect shared with Extraversion and sources unique to Openness/Intellect. The hypothesis that the cognitive functions of the dorsolateral PFC are among the latter was tested using standard measures of cognitive ability and a battery of tasks associated with dorsolateral PFC function (N=175). Dorsolateral PFC function, as well as both fluid and crystallized cognitive ability, was positively related to Openness/Intellect but no other personality trait. Additionally, facet level analysis supported the characterization of Openness/Intellect as a primarily cognitive trait.