Using the NEO-FFI to measure Big Five personality traits among students from our faculty, we found that students of psychology are more neurotic (t = -2.34, p = .02) and less open (t = 5.98, p < .001) than the general population. Are there published studies that verify these results?

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    $\begingroup$ There is a related question here cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/8583/7001 re whether psychology students fairly represent the general population. Two of the studies I cited in my answer look at Big Five in this group, as I'm sure do many others, since psychology students are a common subject pool. Have your results been corrected for gender differences? There are typically more female students in psychology programs, and women are often found to have higher neuroticism scores for example, so I would expect higher average scores in psychology students as a result. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, @ArnonWeinberg, you are right. The gender differences in the same testing are very similar to the differences to the general population. I don't have the data and do not know if the results were corrected for gender but it seems not. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 6:11

1 Answer 1


In general, females score higher on neuroticism and psychology students are predominantly female.

In some young adult norms that I've seen in the NEO-PI-3 test manual, females score about two-thirds of a standard deviation higher on neuroticism.

In my experience at the undergraduate level, about 70% to 85% of students are females. For example, in my most recent paper using a third-year Australian undergrad psych sample (n = 393), we had 79% females (Horwood & Anglim, 2018, JHB).

I believe also that neuroticism declines with age ( e.g., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2562318/ ) and psychology students as with other university students tend to be 18 to 25 or so.

You'd have to look a little further to see whether there are differences after controlling for age and gender differences; i.e., whether there's a deeper reason for any differences.


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