I was reading research on learning approaches and the big five personality traits, and was wondering if anyone can recommend existing research on the most effective learning methods for each personality type.

Is this even a thing? Is there proof that some learning techniques can be better for some types of personalities than others?


Starting with the most recent and working backwards, there are:

Specifically Big 5

Von Stumm, S., & Furnham, A. F. (2012). Learning approaches: Associations with Typical Intellectual Engagement, intelligence and the Big Five. Personality and Individual Differences, 53(5), 720-723.
DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.05.014

Learning approaches, i.e. students’ learning strategies and motives, predict academic performance but it is not clear how much variance they share with intelligence and personality. Here, the relationship of the Big Five personality traits, intelligence, and Typical Intellectual Engagement (TIE) with deep, achieving and surface learning was explored in a sample of 579 British undergraduate students. A structural equation model showed that (a) intelligence was negligibly associated with learning approaches; (b) TIE was strongly related to all three types of learning approaches; (c) deep learning shared the greatest amount of variance with TIE, while (d) achieving learning was best explained by Extraversion, Openness to Experience, and Conscientiousness. Only 25% of the variance in surface learning was accounted for by intelligence and personality. Thus, personality traits and learning approaches share much variance but not enough to dismiss either construct as redundant.

Komarraju, M., Karau, S. J., Schmeck, R. R., & Avdic, A. (2011). The Big Five personality traits, learning styles, and academic achievement. Personality and individual differences, 51(4), 472-477.
DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2011.04.019

Personality and learning styles are both likely to play significant roles in influencing academic achievement. College students (308 undergraduates) completed the Five Factor Inventory and the Inventory of Learning Processes and reported their grade point average. Two of the Big Five traits, conscientiousness and agreeableness, were positively related with all four learning styles (synthesis analysis, methodical study, fact retention, and elaborative processing), whereas neuroticism was negatively related with all four learning styles. In addition, extraversion and openness were positively related with elaborative processing. The Big Five together explained 14% of the variance in grade point average (GPA), and learning styles explained an additional 3%, suggesting that both personality traits and learning styles contribute to academic performance. Further, the relationship between openness and GPA was mediated by reflective learning styles (synthesis-analysis and elaborative processing). These latter results suggest that being intellectually curious fully enhances academic performance when students combine this scholarly interest with thoughtful information processing. Implications of these results are discussed in the context of teaching techniques and curriculum design.

Busato, V. V., Prins, F. J., Elshout, J. J., & Hamaker, C. (1998). The relation between learning styles, the Big Five personality traits and achievement motivation in higher education. Personality and individual differences, 26(1), 129-140.
DOI: 10.1016/S0191-8869(98)00112-3

In his dissertation, Vermunt [Vermunt, J. D. H. M. (1992). Leerstijlen en sturen van leerprocessen in het hoger onderwijs. (Learning styles and guidance of learning processes in higher education). Amsterdam/Lisse: Swets and Zeitlinger] postulated four different learning styles: a meaning directed, a reproduction directed, an application directed and an undirected style. Aim of this project is to investigate the relation between these learning styles, the big five personality traits and achievement motivation. Subjects were about 900 university students. Extraversion correlated positively with the meaning directed, reproduction directed and application directed learning style. Conscientiousness was associated positively with the meaning, reproduction and application directed learning style, and negatively with the undirected learning style. Openness to experience correlated positively with the meaning and application directed learning style, and negatively with the undirected learning style. Besides, it was found that neuroticism correlated positively with the undirected learning style and negatively with the meaning and reproduction directed learning style. Agreeableness was associated positively with the reproduction and application directed learning style. Positive correlations were found for achievement motivation with the meaning, reproduction and the application directed learning style, and a negative one with the undirected learning style. Regression analyses confirmed these patterns. Although there was some systematic overlap for the four learning styles with personality variables and achievement motivation, the conclusion is that it certainly makes sense to measure these three groups of variables separately in educational settings.

Other personality type research

Vincent, A., & Ross, D. (2001). Personalize training: determine learning styles, personality types and multiple intelligences online. The Learning Organization, 8(1), 36-43.
DOI: 10.1108/09696470110366525

Training can be personalized using online resources to determine an individual’s learning preferences and personality characteristics. This study provides an overview of learning style, personality types, and multiple intelligences theories; lists and describes selected testing instruments available on the Internet; and provides strategies for teaching and learning, considering different learning styles.

Miller, A. (1991). Personality types, learning styles and educational goals. Educational Psychology, 11(3-4), 217-238.
DOI: 10.1080/0144341910110302

Attempts to broaden conceptions of learning styles to represent more adequately individual differences in motivation/emotion, as well as cognition, are limited by a paucity of relevant theory. Personality theories should, but do not, provide a satisfactory conceptual framework for this endeavour. In an attempt to remedy this situation, a new personality typology is outlined which, it is argued, provides a coherent system within which to construe and conduct research upon learning styles. The implications of the theory for educational goals, couched in terms of learning styles, also are discussed.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the thorough answer. This research is helpful and guides my further study on this field. Additional comments on the overall view are also nice, but Jeromy complemented that aspect. $\endgroup$ – JoaoBotelho May 17 '18 at 11:39

Chris has a nice answer which touches on some of the literature linking Big 5 personality and learning styles to academic performance. I'll reiterate that, yes, there is a meta-analytic literature that shows modest correlations between self-rated personality and academic performance (e.g., grades). e.g., see Poropat (2009). E.g., conscientiousness helps; openness also helps (although openness can sometimes be a rough proxy for self-rated intelligence).

More broadly, the general conclusion of the learning styles literature is that adapting pedagogical strategy to learning styles is not effective.

My sense of the literature is that prior knowledge and domain specific motivations are the more important things to incorporate when customising education. And that in most cases, it's better to focus on main effects of teaching approach than to focus on the interaction effect of learning style or personality with teaching approach. To put it another way: invest your energy in working out good ways to teach people in general.


Poropat, A. E. (2009). A meta-analysis of the five-factor model of personality and academic performance. Psychological bulletin, 135(2), 322.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for adding this comment, it definitely added a personal view to the question! I have the same interpretation from the studies, that improvements are less than 10-20% in results. However, this can a small difference might also mean that there is room for improvement, but not a proof that there is no connection. If the big5 can be used to motivate people to vote, perhaps they can also be used to motivate people to study! $\endgroup$ – JoaoBotelho May 17 '18 at 11:46

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