Personality, Nations and Innovation

Personality, Nations, and Innovation: Relationships Between Personality Traits and National Innovation Scores

First Published August 25, 2011 Research Article

Research has shown relationships between personality factors and innovation at the level of the individual person. Recently, data have become available that would allow testing of these relationships at the nation-state level. Based on theoretical aspects of the Big Five factors of personality, and on empirical work conducted using individuals as the unit of analysis, the authors hypothesize that mean national scores of Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness would be related to national innovation scores.

Multinational data on mean national scores of the Big Five Inventory and the NEO-PI–R are compared to national-level innovation input and output scores from the International Innovation Index and the Global Innovation Index. On both indices, the results of the analyses using the NEO-PI-R show strong, positive relationships between Openness to Experience and both aspects of innovation, a strong positive relationship between Agreeableness and innovation inputs and no relationships between Conscientiousness and either innovation inputs or outputs.

The analyses using the Big Five Inventory data shows no reliable relationship between national-level personality and national innovation scores. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for what one can learn from national-level studies of personality and innovation. Suggestions are offered to those governments and financial institutions interested in encouraging economic growth via innovation.