Dictionary Definition



1 the quality of being in accord with the dictates of conscience [ant: unconscientiousness]
2 the trait of being painstaking and careful [syn: painstakingness] [ant: unconscientiousness]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. the state of being conscientious


state of being conscientious

Extensive Definition

In psychology, conscientiousness is the trait of being painstaking and careful, or the quality of acting according to the dictates of one's conscience. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and need for achievement. It is an aspect of what was traditionally called character.
Conscientiousness is related to emotional intelligence and impulse control, but it should not be confused with the kind of impulsiveness found in neuroticism. People high on impulsiveness find it very difficult to resist temptation or delay gratification. Individuals who are low on self-discipline are unable to motivate themselves to perform a task that they would like to accomplish. These are conceptually similar but empirically distinct.
Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable. When taken to an extreme, they may also be workaholics, perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior. People who are low on conscientiousness are not necessarily lazy or immoral, but they tend to be more laid back, less goal oriented, and less driven by success.

Personality models

Conscientiousness is one of five superordinate traits in the "Big Five model" of personality which also consists of Extraversion, Neuroticism, Openness to experience, and Agreeableness. Example Big Five personality tests are Costa and McCrae's (1992) NEO PI-R and Goldberg's NEO-IPIP. According to these models, conscientiousness is considered to be a continuous dimension of personality, rather than a categorical "type" of person. Scores in conscientiousness follow a normal distribution.
The trait cluster of conscientiousness overlaps with other models of personality, such as C. Robert Cloninger's Temperament and Character Inventory, in which it is called self-directedness. It also includes the specific traits of rule consciousness and perfectionism in Cattell's 16 PF model. Traits associated with conscientiousness are frequently assessed by self-report integrity tests given by various corporations to prospective employees.


A considerable amount of research indicates that conscientiousness is one of the best predictors of performance in the workplace. It is the only personality trait that correlates with performance across all categories of jobs. However, agreeableness and emotional stability may also be important, particularly in jobs that involve a significant amount of social interaction.
Conscientiousness is related to successful academic performance in students. Low levels of conscientiousness are strongly associated with procrastination.


conscientiousness in German: Gewissenhaftigkeit
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