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Timothy Hanna, Gina Magyar-Russell, Ph.D.

Exploring the relationship among Openness, Religious Affiliation, Purpose in Life, Satisfaction with Life, and Hope

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In the United States, tension exists within public and private spheres with regard to the “right” perspective for living a just and moral life.  Amidst these debates, individual differences, such as aspects of personality, should be explored to gain a better understanding of how these differences influence ideological leanings, as well as one’s ultimate sense of meaning and fulfillment in life.   This study aimed to explore how personality relates with ideological concerns.  A convenience sample of 308 adults responded to questionnaires assessing Purpose in Life, Satisfaction with Life, Hope, and the personality variable Openness, among other measures. 

Statistically significant differences were found in levels of Openness (F(2, 165) = 5.39, p < .01) between participants of liberal religious affiliations (M = 57.9, SD = 11.4, p < .05) and participants of both conservative (M = 50.0, SD = 8.4, p < .05) and moderate (M = 49.8, SD = 10.4, p < .05) religious affiliations.  No significant correlation was found between Openness and Purpose in Life (r = .09, p > .05), nor between Openness and Satisfaction with Life (r = .04, p > .05).  Contrary to expectation, there was not a significant interaction between Openness and Hope in predicting levels of Purpose in Life (ΔR2 = .001, p > .05) nor Satisfaction with Life (ΔR2 = .002, p > .05).  The overall hierarchical regression models, however, were significant, with demographic control variables and Hope driving the significant contributions to both Purpose in Life (controls ΔR2 = .11, p < .05; Hope ΔR2 = .38, p < .001) and Satisfaction with Life (controls ΔR2 = .08, p < .05; Hope ΔR2 = .29, p < .001). 

The associations between Openness and religious affiliation suggest that mental health workers remain mindful of the manner in which personality may contribute to individual frameworks of meaning and significance.  Personality has been shown to be less malleable than specific cognitions or behaviors; thus, the degree to which aspects of personality influence ideological beliefs is of import in both the therapeutic and larger socio-political frameworks.  These findings suggest the need for further research examining the intersection between stable characterological traits and individuals’ ideologies.

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