Homemade Pumpkin Spice Punch in Autumn

Personality May Predict Your Pumpkin Spice Season Verdict

Rachel Stewart Johnson

Psychologist | Driven by communications about human behavior in Psychology

The autumn season is well underway, and with it come the usual suspects: pumpkin-spice-everything, images of fallen leaves, and Halloween decor. For some, those seasonal icons are a source of comfort and excitement. For others, it’s time for a collective groan. A large indicator of your “Pumpkin Spice Verdict” is your personality.

Ever watched your neighbor gradually assemble an elaborate Halloween display, and wonder why anyone would devote time to that? Or maybe you’re the one who spent weeks drawing up plans for this year’s fire-breathing dragon overlord directing a zombie chorus on the front lawn.

Your responses to the ins and outs of culture can be understood by thinking of personality as a lens through which we see the world.

Finding out what your personality says about your likely fall activities is a fun exercise. Understanding the components of your own lens, and those of the people around you, can also help you career-wise in leadership, communication, collaboration, and more.

To get the most out of personality science on your way to your own Pumpkin Spice Verdict, it’s best to use an established, well-researched framework that’s stood up to years of scrutiny. The Five Factor Model, also known as the “Big Five,” is the gold standard among personality researchers. It’s not trendy, but it’s robust. So where do the different parts of your personality fall with a “pumpkin spice filter?”

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openness iconO is for Owls, October and...Openness

Remember being a young child and your teacher directed you to “use your imagination?” The first piece of the personality puzzle, Openness, draws upon our ability to use imagination. Are you out there thinking of alternative explanations for outcomes, wondering what would happen if a particular variable changed, and dreaming of how the future might look? That’s higher Openness. If you love predictability and comfy routines, tend to have strong opinions about your favorite brands and foods, and avoid the big decisions that can end up changing your everyday life, then you’re probably lower in Openness.

pumpkin iconPumpkin Spice Filter

Higher Openness: These people wonder what new trends will emerge each season, whether it’s fashion, food, fads, or memes. They like twists on the old standbys, so they’re going to try the Pumpkin Cold Cream Artisan Series coffee this year. They want to go to new places and try creative mashups, like pumpkin carving with friends on the beach after a twilight surfing session. They’re creative -- this is the neighbor with the over-the-top Halloween display.

Lower Openness: Those who are lower in Openness love the predictability of changing seasons and look forward to the return of their seasonal favorites. They build these into their routines, so they head straight for the tried and true pumpkin spice latte every time. They enjoy repeating the same rituals, whether that’s a trip to a pumpkin patch wearing the same outfit three years in a row, or streaming the same go-to holiday special they’ve watched since early childhood.

 

conscientiousness iconC is for Costumes, Candy, and...Conscientiousness

If asked to produce last year’s tax returns, how does it go? Are you certain you have two digital backups in Archived Financial 2019 and Taxes 2010-2020? If so, you’re likely to be higher in Conscientiousness. If you instead have a bin in your home office with a mix of camping supplies, a few old manuals and your cat’s “adoption certificate” under a laundry basket, then you’re a good bet to be lower in Conscientiousness. Overall, this dimension refers to how we organize ourselves in terms of standards and goals, and how purposeful our behaviors are as a result.

pumpkin iconPumpkin Spice Filter

Higher Conscientiousness: Autumn activities for our high Conscientiousness friends and family are planned out in advance, based on checking local calendars and reviewing the latest public health advice. Activities are kept to a schedule, and necessary items are packed: hats, jackets, water bottles, snacks. That trip to the apple-picking farm? Sure, as long as the place is well-reviewed, the reservation has been confirmed, safety protocols are extensive, and there’s a plan for what to do with the apples afterward.

Lower Conscientiousness: These folks figure it out as they go. They might show up to the local Farmer’s Market on an empty stomach and be met with surprise that the food trucks they had last year aren’t running during the pandemic. So then it’s on to “whatever works,” like attempting to eat pancakes to go, or eating a second muffin at the coffee joint.

 

extroversion iconE is for Eerie, Enchanted, and...Extraversion

Ever gotten into an extended chat with the person in front of you in a long line? Do you look forward to catching up with your dental hygienist at your checkups, answer your phone every time, and find yourself turning up the volume on the car radio? That’s higher Extraversion. If you haven’t answered a phone call in 17 months, look forward to a quiet evening at home, and are loving the pandemic-era advice to avoid crowds, then you’re probably lower in Extraversion. In general, Extraversion refers to our engagement with the world around us, including the people, places, and sensory inputs we enjoy.

pumpkin iconPumpkin Spice Filter

Higher Extraversion: Ooooh, there’s a Halloween event happening, social distancing and all, at the local ballpark -- let’s go! There will be loudspeakers playing seasonal music, parking will require a long walk in, and there will be plenty of choices to make. That all sounds fulfilling for those among us who are higher in Extraversion. These people want to be out and about, stimulated by sights and sounds. Having to ask a stranger for directions is not a problem at all, and the climb to the fifth floor of the parking garage just adds to the sense of fulfillment.

Lower Extraversion: Low-extraversion folks? They’re more likely to call reading those suspenseful thirteen chapters of a new mystery novel picked up curbside at the local library to be an “event” for the autumn season. Staying in, watching Hocus Pocus, and quietly carving a jack-o-lantern for the stoop are also right up their alley.

 

agreeableness iconA is for Autumn, Apples, and...Agreeableness

The person who says “yes” to every volunteer request, who is in a bad mood because a friend was in a bad mood, and who sends “just checking in” texts: they’re likely to be higher in Agreeableness. Lower-Agreeableness individuals, in contrast: take good care of themselves, don't compromise when it comes to their own interests and goals, and love engaging in a bit of trash talk when their favorite team beats cousin Marco’s favorite team. Agreeableness refers broadly to altruistic tendencies and an orientation outside of oneself, and willingness to adapt one’s behavior and responses because of others.

pumpkin iconPumpkin Spice Filter

Higher Agreeableness: A friend, spouse, or child wants to make seasonal treats and package them up for a few neighbors? A person who is higher in Agreeableness is up for this, because of a desire to make that other person happy. They’re a team player who responds to the “What should we do this weekend?” question with “Whatever you’d like” or “Your choice.”

Lower Agreeableness: These friends and family have made their plans and didn’t tell anyone. They’re focused on what they like, care relatively little about telling others or posting on social media, and want to set the parameters: when, where, and how long.

 

emotional stability iconS is for Scarecrows, Slippers, and...Emotional Stability

Broken dishwasher, missing keys, approaching deadlines, and a “Low Fuel” warning light...life has plenty of stresses big and small. A person who “shakes it off” and who maintains the same mood much of the time is likely to be higher in Emotional Stability. Someone who uses phrases like “the worst,” who expresses a state of being stressed, and who checks and double-checks the status of worrisome goings-on is likely to be lower in Emotional Stability. This dimension refers to the sense of control one feels over situations and their resulting reactivity and volatility.

pumpkin iconPumpkin Spice Filter

Higher Emotional Stability: Been a long and stressful week? How about a little Friday night stress relief? Those who are higher in Emotional Stability are resourceful in finding ways to cope, whether that’s trying the new autumn squash soup sold by the local bistro or enjoying a brisk walk under the lights at the neighborhood park. Holiday fun can be an option, but these folks don’t feel pressure -- from themselves or others -- to make an occasion extra-special or social media-worthy.

Lower Emotional Stability: Those who are lower in Emotional Stability want to spend time doing things that avoid conflict or bring up problems. They’ll avoid pushing their own idea in favor of keeping the peace, but they draw the line at an outing that seems too risky or too much of a hassle. Browsing at the pop-up costume shop, raking leaves, or planning this year’s holiday cards could all be doable as long as the people around them don’t object and there aren’t too many variables to contend with.

In all, our personalities color how we experience the calendar. Understanding who we are and what makes us tick can help us find the seasonal activities that bring us the greatest sense of fulfillment. Whether we’re relishing another familiar latte, researching the reservations system at the apple-picking farm, or humoring a friend’s desire to wear matching “It’s Fall, Y’all” shirts, there’s something for everyone this autumn season.

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