Review of Jordan Peterson’s Personality Course #3: Conscientious and Openness

In this series of reviews I am dissecting Jordan Peterson’s new course: Discovering Personality. The course costs US$140 and comprises eight lectures and includes a personality assessment co-devised by Peterson himself. If you are interested in personality and what makes people tick it is worth doing. Let me again declare I am a big fan of Peterson. I think his book is excellent: I reviewed it here. His stance of telling the truth and not bowing to political correctness is outstandingly commendable.

The course is based on the Five Factor Model of personality. As Peterson says any personality model with any value has to include the Five Factor Model or it lacks scientific validity. For that reason you should reject use of either DISC or the Myers-Briggs models of the personality. I could not agree more. (For my take download my free white paper The 7MTF: A Practical Tool to Lift Your Emotional Intelligence).

In this third review I am going to consider the final two Big Five personality traits: Conscientiousness and Openness to experience. Peterson subdivides Conscientiousness into industriousness and orderliness and Openness to experience into openness and intellect.

With regard to Conscientiousness I am again I am in 50% agreement with Peterson. He lists the traits of Industriousness as both engaging in planning then executing, finishing what they start, not wasting time, not postponing activities and getting quickly down to work, and not easily distracted. These are all traits of the Engineer in the 7MTF/Humm. Indeed I would add some more. When engaging in planning they like to read as much as they can about the topic. They wallow in the detail. When confronted with something new their first question is “Where’s the manual?” They are very task orientated and driven by a desire to complete project. They are the first to adopt the latest technical innovation. They are not multi-taskers and indeed hate being interrupted if working on a project.

It is with the second quality, orderliness that I have a problem. According to Peterson the orderliness traits are tidiness, liking order, being bothered by messy people and disorder, liking routine and seeing that every detail in rules are observed. In the 7MTF/Humm these are the traits of the Regulator/Normal who is someone who is low in Neuroticism.

On the other hand Peterson links Conscientiousness to the mental illness of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). When I heard this in his lecture, I was punching the air. This is because I have never been happy with the original mental illness being linked with epilepsy and while developing the 7MTF model had replaced it with OCD. What Peterson does in the lecture is link Conscientiousness with sensitivity to disgust. Here again I part company. Self-disgust is part of Paul Ekman’s model of core emotions which I don’t accept and have blogged about here.

The final personality trait is Openness to experience which Peterson divides into openness and intellect. Open people are described as original, imaginative, creative, complex, curious, and having broad interests. People who are high in openness to experience are motivated by ideas and/or aesthetic experience for its own sake and tend to orient their worlds around such pursuits. They enjoy the beauty of nature, believe in the importance of art, are reflective, become deeply immersed in music, enjoy poetry, are highly emotional, need a creative outlet, and see the beauty in things that other people may not notice. Think Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility. In the 7MTF/Humm these people are known as Artists. If there is one statement about Artists I always use in my workshops it is that they are not like the rest of us; they beat to a different drum. Their first question when confronted with something new is “Is this really new or creative?” The mental illness in the 7MTF/Humm associated with Artists is Autism.

May I say that I found final lecture of the course absolutely brilliant. Peterson segues into a number of different topics such as creativity, intelligence and Pareto distributions. For example did you know that 50% of classical music repertoire comes from just five composers, and 95% of what is played is drawn from 5% of their total compositions?

In the original Five Factor model this personality trait was defined as Openness to Creativity which then shifted to Openness to Experience. I never quite understood why and I am beginning to wonder if according to Peterson the numbers of actually creative people are really few and using Experience as the term widens the net.

Peterson defines the trait of Intellect as quick to understand things, understand abstract ideas, can handle a lot of information, like to solve complex problems, have a rich vocabulary, think and learn things quickly. You should not confuse the personality aspect of Intellect with IQ. Intellect is a measure of interest in abstract ideas, essentially, while IQ is a measure of processing speed, verbal ability, working memory, and problem-solving capacity, and is better measured with a formal IQ test. According to Peterson it is perfectly possible to have a high IQ and a low score on the personality trait of Intellect (or the reverse).

I am still not too sure how Intellect differs from IQ. I do worry about including this with creativity. People with high Artist and who very intelligent are generally very successful. However there a considerable number of people with high Artist who not that intelligent and you just don’t hear about them.

As an example of this phenomenon I have been told there are 70,000 wannabe actors in Los Angeles. Twenty earn money beyond belief, 500 or so make a living and the rest end up as failures. Hopefully they manage to do something else.

This blog was first published on LinkedIn on 8 February 2020.



Chris Golis

08 Feb,2020
I understand why he is saying it but I have enough challenges taking on DISC and Myers-Briggs to consider fighting that battle.


08 Feb,2020
Hey Chris, your websites brand uses the term "emotional intelligence" substantially, but Dr Peterson's has repeatedly told everyone to stop using the term as it is a false concept and misleading. (goes back to one of his most famous Quora answers, which you can find by searching for Peterson EQ or similar). Do you think he is wrong?

Chris Golis

08 Feb,2020
Hi Zulfikar Hight IQ certainly helps in most avenues of life. Cheers

Zulfikar Bhanji

08 Feb,2020
Do you think that you have to be highly intelligent (whatever that means) to be a huge creative success in todays world?

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