Petty is a word that is pretty clearly defined:

Not very important or serious

Relating to things that are not very important or serious

I'm interested in measuring the degree that someone is likely to be focused on, or taking issue with things that most would consider to be trivial, unimportant or nonsensical. For instance, when interviewing a candidate for a position, how could I determine how likely this person is to latch onto issues that most would forget about within minutes of them occurring?

To better illustrate what I'm trying to measure, suppose someone was exposed to the following bits of information in a day:

  1. The company lost over 14 billion in revenue due to gum-chewing
  2. The city government outlawed all use of purple on Wednesdays
  3. We realized that alien civilizations exist on Mars and have been emulating us by what they pick up from our radio emissions, and formed boy bands
  4. A co-worker wasn't wearing the exact color socks specified in the employee handbook

Despite the magnificence of events 1 - 3, the type of person very likely to place an inordinate amount of focus on all things petty can only dwell on number 4.

Is there a term for this and, moreover, a test to determine the degree of it in an individual's personality?


1 Answer 1


This sounds like Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Individuals with OCPD tend to obsess over unimportant details to the extent of it causing significant distress and a negative impact on productivity.

I'm not personally aware of a test to diagnose OCPD, but the DSM does contain diagnostic criteria for the disorder.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am not 100% sure OCPD fits the bill for pettiness necessarily as the OCD can occur through reasonable expectations $\endgroup$ Oct 2, 2018 at 23:19

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