Reflexive characteristic adaptations explain sex differences in the Big Five: But not in neuroticism
To date, sex differences in the Big Five personality traits have been thoroughly studied and well-documented. In the present two studies I examined if individual’s opinions and interpretations of personality traits (reflexive characteristic adaptations, RCA) can eliminate these differences. Three RCA―attitudes toward traits, meta-traits, and meta-attitudes toward traits―were investigated. When measuring meta-traits and meta-attitudes toward traits, the images of students’ parents (Study 1) and their best friends (Study 2) were employed as significant others. Study 1 (N = 1,030) revealed that women scored higher than men in neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and openness. However, RCA eliminated these effects, with the exception of neuroticism. These results were largely replicated in Study 2 (N = 333). Women scored higher than men in neuroticism and agreeableness. Again, these differences were eliminated by RCA, although the difference in neuroticism approached statistical significance. This research demonstrates that RCA may explain sex differences in various personality traits. Neuroticism may constitute a special case where men and women still differ in a trait beyond the contribution of RCA. The present study demonstrates that sex differences in the remaining traits may result from one’s interpretations and opinions of these traits rather than from the traits themselves.