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Examples go a long way to make things clearer for the students. To liven things up in the class room and engage the students, it’s helpful to actually have your students think up examples in class, write those on the board in brainstorming style and then offer an example of your own as a wrap up.

To explain personality in class using the big-five factors, for each of the factors I started out by explaining what the factor is about and what are the extremes, and asked students to bring up examples. I would then take the example given and ask others if they think it’s an accurate example or not.

I was a bit surprised sometimes with some of the examples given. At times I was surprised with how culturally bound some of those examples were, like a student from mainland China saying that Hu Jin Tao – the Chinese president and army commander in chief at that time – as an example for emotional stability "because he always has the same face no matter what happens". At other times, I was surprised that the examples they thought of were exactly the same ones I put up on the post-discussion slides.


What examples did I use? Here, have a look…




  • Extraverts: Sociable,talkative, assertive, and open to establishing new relationships – Bart Simpson.
  • Introverts: Less sociable, talkative, and assertive and more reluctant to begin new relationships – Harry Potter.


Emotional Stability


  • Emotionally stable : Relatively poised, calm, resilient, and secure. Better handle job stress pressure, and tension – James Bond 007.
  • Emotionally not stable : Excitable, insecure, reactive, and subject to extreme mood swings. Less stable – Woody Allen.

(Woody Allen, it turns out, doesn’t translate well cross-culturally to young HK students)




  • Agreeable : Gentle, cooperative, forgiving, understanding, and good-natured in their dealings with others.
  • Less agreeable : Irritable, short-tempered, uncooperative, and generally antagonistic toward other people.




  • Conscientious : Focus on relatively few goals at one time are likely to be organized, systematic, careful, thorough, responsible, and self-disciplined – Robocop.
  • Less conscientious : Pursue a wider array of goals, and are more disorganized, careless, and irresponsible, less thorough and less self-disciplined – Iron Man.

(Only very few knew who Robocop was. Few students suggested Iron Man before they saw my slide)


Openness to Experience


  • Open to experience: Willing to listen to new ideas and to change their own ideas, beliefs, and attitudes in response to new information. Have broad interests and to be curious, imaginative, and creative – Einstein.
  • Less open to experience : Tend to be less receptive to new ideas and less willing to change their minds. They have fewer and narrower interests and to be less curious and creative – Spoke.

(Not sure how good the Spoke experience is, but they seemed to agree)


Any other interesting ways of teaching personality and traits? Do share…

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