The Big Five personality traits and brain arousal in the resting state

  • Based on Eysenck’s biopsychological trait theory, brain arousal has long been considered to explain individual differences in human personality. Yet, results from empirical studies remained inconclusive. However, most published results have been derived from small samples and, despite inherent limitations, EEG alpha power has usually served as an exclusive indicator for brain arousal. To overcome these problems, we here selected N = 468 individuals of the LIFE-Adult cohort and investigated the associations between the Big Five personality traits and brain arousal by using the validated EEG- and EOG-based analysis tool VIGALL. Our analyses revealed that participants who reported higher levels of extraversion and openness to experience, respectively, exhibited lower levels of brain arousal in the resting state. Bayesian and frequentist analysis results were especially convincing for openness to experience. Among the lower-order personality traits, we obtained the strongest evidence for neuroticism facet ‘impulsivity’ and reduced brain arousal. In line with this, both impulsivity and openness have previously been conceptualized as aspects of extraversion. We regard our findings as well in line with the postulations of Eysenck and consistent with the recently proposed ‘arousal regulation model’. Our results also agree with meta-analytically derived effect sizes in the field of individual differences research, highlighting the need for large (collaborative) studies.

Download full text files

Export metadata

Author:Philippe JawinskiORCiDGND, Sebastian MarkettORCiD, Christian SanderORCiDGND, Jue HuangORCiDGND, Christine UlkeORCiDGND, Ulrich HegerlORCiDGND, Tilman HenschORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Brain Sciences
Publisher:MDPI AG
Place of publication:Basel
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2021/09/26
Date of first Publication:2021/09/26
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2023/07/20
Tag:Big Five; EEG; VIGALL; arousal; extraversion; impulsivity; neuroticism; resting state
Issue:10, art. 1272
Article Number:1272
Page Number:16
First Page:1
Last Page:16
This publication is supported by LIFE—Leipzig Research Center for Civilization Diseases, Universität Leipzig. LIFE is funded by means of the European Union, by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and by means of the Free State of Saxony within the framework of the excellence initiative. This project was funded using the European Social Fund and the Free State of Saxony. This study was supported within the framework of the cooperation between the German Depression Foundation and the ‘Deutsche Bahn Stiftung gGmbH’.
Data Availability Statement
Restrictions apply to the availability of these data. Data were obtained from the Leipzig Research Center for Civilisation Diseases. All data and samples of LIFE are the property of the University of Leipzig and are subject to the Law for the Protection of Informal Self-Determination in the Free State of Saxony (Saxon Data Protection Act). The use of data can be requested through the LIFE office (, accessed on 22 September 2021). We made our statistical analysis code available on GitHub at (accessed on 22 September 2021).
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International