In psychology there are five main traits that researchers argue make up the human personality. These traits are Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Extraversion. Since the Hogwarts Houses are supposed to sort people based on their personalities, I decided to see if I could match combinations of these traits to the four houses.
First, a full description of the five traits:
Conscientiousness: Conscientious individuals are highly organized, and have a strong commitment to their duties. They are highly self-disciplined and pursue perfection in everything they do. They often make plans in advance and think before acting.
Agreeableness: Agreeable people are trusting, selfless, and often defer to others instead of pushing for their own desires. This is often divided into two factors: compassion and politeness.
Neuroticism: High neuroticism is characterized by a tendency to become anxious, hostile, sad, or embarrassed. In short, it involves being predisposed to experience negative emotions, and to be ing more emotionally reactive to situations.
Openness: Openness is possibly the most difficult trait to characterize. It involves openness to fantasy, a sensitivity to art and beauty, and curiosity about learning new ideas and values and trying new things.
Extraversion: People who are high in extraversion tend to desire lots of social stimulation, activity, and excitement. Other facets of extraversion include assertiveness, and a predisposition towards positive emotions.
If, as some personality researchers claim, all personality differences can be explained by these five traits, then the Hogwarts Houses should map onto these traits as well. In fact, it’s easy to see how they might.
Gryffindor: Gryffindors are known for their bravery and daring. This often manifests itself in reckless stunts, but Gryffindors usually have a big heart as well. It appears, therefore, that Gryffindors are probably high in the assertiveness and excitement-seeking areas of Extraversion. They are probably fairly high in the compassionate and selfless aspects of Agreeableness as well.
Ravenclaw: Ravenclaws are known for their sharp minds, and also their creativity. These traits connect fairly clearly to Conscientiousness and Openness. Ravenclaws work hard to complete their work, and are very academically focused. However, they are also characterized by curiosity, fantasy, and openness to ideas (think Luna Lovegood). Some Ravenclaws may be higher in one of these traits than the other.
Hufflepuff: Hufflepuffs are, quite obviously, very high in Agreeableness. They are selfless, welcome everyone into their group, and are unlikely to push others out of the way for what they want.There is some evidence that Hufflepuffs may also be high in Conscientiousness, based on the description of them as hardworking. As a result of the all-inclusive nature of Hufflepuff, however, the people in this house probably have an eclectic variety of traits.
Slytherin: Slytherins are known for their cunning, ambition, and willingness to do whatever necessary to get what they want. Slytherins are probably high is the assertiveness aspects of Extraversion, and low in Agreeableness. Gryffindors and Slytherins, therefore, are not too dissimilar, just scoring on opposite ends of agreeableness.
Neuroticism appears to be a trait that is not connected to any one house in particular, but is equally spread out among the four houses. This is probably a good thing, as a house filled with highly neurotic individuals would probably not fare well.
Any good scientist, however, has to test her hypotheses. Therefore, I decided to take Big Five personality tests from the perspectives of different Harry Potter characters. Although I did not test enough characters to come to conclusive results, I did observe enough to modify some of my earlier statements. Gryffindors, I found, are on the whole not particularly high in Agreeableness. The personality test I used was not refined enough to detect the differences between the two aspects of Agreeableness, but my guess is that Gryffindors are compassionate, but very low in politeness. This makes sense, as Gryffindors are known for doing the right thing with little regard for whether it upsets social norms or ruffles the feathers of important people. In fact, it might be Gryffindors’ very lack of politeness that allows them to be so brave. Slytherins, on the other hand, may sometimes be higher on the politeness aspect of Agreeableness. Like Tom Riddle, they often know how to be charming in order to get what they want.
Personality psychology does use questionnaires taken by friends to assess individual’s personalities, and considering how often I have read the books I consider myself like a friend to these characters. However, some of the traits were more difficult to assess for some characters than others, and my answers were based on my own interpretation of the characters. Below are the scores I found for each character, but other people might get different results. If you are interested in testing these out yourself, feel free to contact me and I can send you the materials I used.
Costa, P.T. & McCrae, R.R. (2003). Personality in Adulthood: A Five-Factor Theory Perspective, The Guilford Press, NY. 2nd ed. 47-50