The relationship between Big-5 personality traits and cognitive ability in older adults - a review

Rachel Curtis, Timothy Windsor, Andrea Soubelet

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    98 Citations (Scopus)


    It is well established that fundamental aspects of cognition such as memory and speed of processing tend to decline with age; however, there is substantial between-individual variability in levels of cognitive performance in older adulthood and in rates of change in cognitive abilities over time. Recent years have seen an increasing number of studies concerned with examining personality characteristics as possible predictors of some of this variability in cognitive aging. The purpose of this article is to review the literature, and identify patterns of findings regarding the relationships between personality (focusing on the Big-5) and cognitive ability across nonclinical populations of older adults. Possible mechanisms underlying associations of personality characteristics with cognition are reviewed, and assessed in the context of the current literature. Some relatively consistent relationships are identified, including positive associations between openness and cognitive ability, and associations of conscientiousness with slower rates of cognitive decline. However, the relationships between several personality traits and cognitive abilities in older adults remain unclear. We suggest some approaches to research design and analysis that may help increase our understanding of how personality differences may contribute to cognitive aging.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)42-71
    Number of pages30
    JournalAging Neuropsychology and Cognition
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2015


    • Big-5
    • cognitive ability
    • cognitive aging
    • older adults
    • personality


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