According to a new meta-analysis, there are significant personality differences between students in different academic majors.
Anna Vedel, a psychologist from Aarhus University in Denmark, analyzed 12 studies examining the correlation between personality traits and college majors. Eleven of them found significant differences between majors. The review examined the so-called “Big Five” traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
Arts and humanities majors are in the position of being anxious, but not very organized.They were less conscientious than students in fields like science, law, or engineering. They also tended to score higher on ‘neuroticism’.
On the plus side, along with political-science majors, arts and humanities students also scored higher on openness than did economics, engineering, law, or science students. Openness is characterized by an active imagination, love of variety, and a wide range of intellectual interests.
Economics and business students rated consistently lower in neuroticism. Along with law students, business and economics students were also less agreeable than students in the other majors. Economics, law, political-science, and medicine students were more extroverted than students in the arts, humanities, and the sciences.
Vedel hopes her findings can help college counselors guide students into the best majors for their personalities.
The findings are explained somewhat by the gender distribution among college majors. It's well-known, for instance, that women are far less likely to enter engineering fields than men are, and women tend to be more neurotic, agreeable, and conscientious than men, according to the study.