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Big Five Personality Traits and Second Language Learning: a Meta-analysis of 40 Years’ Research

Abstract

Despite numerous studies involving personality traits and second language (L2) learning achievement over many years, there is a lack of an overall picture about how personality traits are related to L2 learning achievement. This study aims to conduct a systematic quantitative synthesis of the studies that examined the relationships between the Big Five personality traits and L2 learning achievement. A total of 137 correlation coefficients from 31 primary studies conducted in 24 countries, with a total cumulative sample size of 8853 and published between 1982 and 2020, were included in this synthesis. The findings showed that openness to experience (r = .23; 95% CI: .15, .30; p < .001), conscientiousness (r = .18; 95% CI: .08, .28; p = .002), extraversion (r = .12; 95% CI: .02, .21; p = .017), and agreeableness (r = .10; 95% CI: .01, .18; p = .025) had positive correlations with L2 learning achievement, while neuroticism (r =  − .04; 95% CI: − .09, .02; p = .227) had a negative yet statistically non-significant correlation with L2 learning achievement. More specifically, openness to experience and conscientiousness were the stronger correlates with L2 learning achievement, followed by more moderate correlates of extraversion and agreeableness, while neuroticism was the weakest among the five. Furthermore, several study features (i.e., study region, age of participants, L1 and L2 similarities, and schooling levels) were shown to explain the variations in the relationships between the Big Five personality traits and L2 learning achievement across individual studies. Implications for L2 teaching and future research are discussed.

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Funding

The current study was partly supported by the Presidential Fund of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen to Jinbo He (Grant Number: PF. 01.001428).

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Outlier detection—Baujat plots.

figure a

Appendix 2

References of 31 papers included in the meta‐analysis.

Ajideh, P., Yaghoubi-Notash, M., & Khalili, A. (2018). Personality: A source of test bias?. International Journal of Research7(2), 33–45.

Alavinia, P., & Sameei, A. (2012). Potential bonds between extroversion/introversion and Iranian EFL learners’ listening comprehension ability. English Language Teaching5(5), 19–30.

Alavinia, P., & Hassanlou, A. (2014). On the viable linkages between extroversion/introversion and academic Iranian EFL learners’ writing proficiency. English Language Teaching7(3), 167–175.

Arispe, K., & Blake, R. J. (2012). Individual factors and successful learning in a hybrid course. System40(4), 449–465.

Bagheri, M. S., & Faghih, M. (2012). The relationship between self-esteem, personality type and reading comprehension of Iranian EFL students. Theory and Practice in Language Studies2(8), 1641–1650.

Baker‐Smemoe, W., Dewey, D. P., Bown, J., & Martinsen, R. A. (2014). Variables affecting L2 gains during study abroad. Foreign Language Annals47(3), 464–486.

Boroujeni, A. A. J., Roohani, A., & Hasanimanesh, A. (2015). The impact of extroversion and introversion personality types on EFL learners’ writing ability. Theory and Practice in Language Studies5(1), 212–218.

Busch, D. (1982). Introversion‐extraversion and the EFL proficiency of Japanese students. Language learning32(1), 109–132.

Cao, C., & Meng, Q. (2020). Exploring personality traits as predictors of English achievement and global competence among Chinese university students: English learning motivation as the moderator. Learning and Individual Differences, 77, 101,814.

Carrell, P. L., Prince, M. S., & Astika, G. G. (1996). Personality types and language learning in an EFL context. Language Learning46(1), 75–99.

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Chen, X., He, J., Swanson, E. et al. Big Five Personality Traits and Second Language Learning: a Meta-analysis of 40 Years’ Research. Educ Psychol Rev 34, 851–887 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-021-09641-6

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Keywords

  • Second/foreign language (L2) learning
  • Educational psychology
  • Big Five
  • Personality
  • Meta-analysis