American Journal of Applied Psychology
Volume 4, Issue 3-1, June 2015, Pages: 39-44

PersonalityTraits, Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievements of University Students

Yoke Theing Chen , Chooi Seong Lai*

Faculty of Social Science, Arts and Humanities, Tunku Abdul RahmanUniversity Colle ge, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Email address:

(Y. T. Chen) , (C. S. Lai)

To cite this article:

Yoke TheingChen, Chooi Seong Lai. Personality Traits, EmotionalIntelligence and Academic Achievements of University Students . American Journal of Applied Psychology . Special Issue : Psychology of University Students. Vol. 4, No. 3-1, 2015, pp. 39 - 44 . doi: 10.11648/j.ajap.s.2015040301.17


Abstract: Thisresearch investigated the relationships between personality traits, emotionalintelligence and academic achievements among 160 university students inMalaysia. Big Five Inventory (BFI) was used to measure the five dimensions ofpersonality traits - extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness,neuroticism, openness; Schutte Emotional Intelligence Scale (SEIS) was used tomeasure emotional intelligence and students’ academic achievement was measuredby Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA). Bivariate analysis using PearsonCorrelation method indicated that extraversion (r=.311, p<.05),agreeableness (r=.378, p<.05), conscientiousness (r=.315,p<.05) and openness (r=.497, p<.05) were positivelyand significantly correlated with emotional intelligence. Neuroticism (r=-.303, p<.05) was found negatively and significantly associated withemotional intelligence. However, emotional intelligence (r=.002, p>.05)was insignificantly associated with academic achievement. Future researches arerecommended to employ Structural Equation Modeling analysis to determine howboth personality traits and emotional intelligence have an impact on academicachievements.

Keywords: Personality Traits, EmotionalIntelligence, Academic Achievements


1. Introduction

Everyonebelieves that higher education is the key to economic advancement.  Allparents want their children to pursue tertiary education because they believedthat a university degree can provide better jobs and hence higher standard ofliving for their future generation.  Governments of most countries arewilling to allocate large proportion of their annual budget for educationbecause they are convinced that having more graduates will create highereconomic growth and social justice by improving the quality of living of thelower and middle income groups.  Literature also indicated that peoplewith higher education have higher level of health and happiness; and thesecountries also have lower crime rates.

However,low graduation rate is a waste of time and money for both parents andgovernment.  Factors such as poor study habits, lack of motivation, lackof self and effort regulation, and lack of financial supports may lead to pooracademic performance and hence more drop outs [1].  Study by Ebrahimi [2]reported a significant positive relationship between emotional intelligence andacademic achievement. Van, Thijs and Schakel [3] reported that personalitydifferences can shape emotional intelligence, and there was a significantassociation between emotional intelligence and personality traits.

Previousresearchers who had conducted studies on the relationship between personalitytraits and emotional intelligence found strong relationship existed betweenpersonality traits and emotional intelligence [4 - 11].  These studiesconsistently showed a positive relationship between emotional intelligence andextraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness.  Emotional intelligencewas found to be correlated negatively with neuroticism [4, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13].Conscientiousness was found to have the highest significant correlation withemotional intelligence as compared to the other dimensions of personalitytraits [7, 13].  A research done in Croation and Slovene universities by Avsec,Takšić, and Mohorić [14], showed that the Big Five personality traits were ableto explain for 32% of the variance in emotional intelligence.

Meanwhile,many past studies had also proven significant and positive relationship betweenemotional intelligence and academic achievement [15 – 28].  However, some morerecent studies found positve but insignificant relationship between emotionalintelligence and academic achievements of both college and high school students[2, 29 – 35].

Serdarand Suleyman [36] who did a study on physical educationteachers to investigate the relationship between emotional intelligence,personality traits and academic achievement found that personality traits haveno relationship with emotional intelligence and emotional intelligence was notcorrelated with academic achievement.  In contrast, a study done by Van etal. [3] found that personality traits are strongly correlated with emotionalintelligence. The researchers also found a weak and negative association betweenemotional intelligence and academic achievement.

Literaturereview showed very few investigations were conducted on university studentsusing all these three variables: personality traits, emotional intelligence andacademic achievement. Most previous researches were conducted on secondaryschools and educators such as teachers rather than on university students. It is therefore crucial to study the personality traits of university studentsand how it may be associated with emotional intelligence and affect theiracademic achievement.  It is also important to determine whether drop-outrate of university students are caused by low academic achievement or otherfactors such as financial problems.  Thus, it is necessary for researchersto investigate the relationship between personality traits, emotionalintelligence and academic achievement because these three variables are relatedto one another and may predict students’ academic achievement.

Therefore,the purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship betweenpersonality traits, emotional intelligence and academic performance of universitystudents in order to provide an insight and create awareness among parents,educators, and students so that they can play an active role in improving pooracademic achievement.  Personality traits are divided into fivedimensions: 1) Extraversion, 2) Agreeableness, 3) Conscientiousness, 4)Neuroticism and 5) Openness.

Thefollowing research hypotheses were formulated to guide this research objective:

H1:There is a positive and significant relationship between personality traits ofextraversion and emotional intelligence.

H2:There is a positive and significant relationship between personality traits ofagreeableness and emotional intelligence.

H3:There is a positive and significant relationship between personality traits ofconscientiousness and emotional intelligence.

H4:There is a negative and significant relationship between personality traits ofneuroticism and emotional intelligence.

H5:There is a positive and significant relationship between personality traits ofopenness and emotional intelligence.

H6:There is a positive and significant relationship between emotional intelligenceand academic achievement (CGPA).

2 . Research Methodology

2.1. Research Method andRespondents

Correlationalresearch was employed to investigate the relationship between personalitytraits, emotional intelligence and academic achievement, using a surveyresearch method in which questionnaires were distributed to collect informationon these variables. 160 university students from various specializationsparticipated and each participant was given the same questionnaire consisted ofSection A: demographic information, Section B: Big Five Inventory (BFI) [37]and Section C: Schutte Emotional Intelligence Scale (SEIS) [38]. An informedconsent form was attached at the front page of the questionnaire.

2.2. Instruments

2.2.1. Big FiveInventory (BFI)

Accordingto John and Srivastava [37], Big Five Inventory (BFI) is designed to measureextraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. Thisinstrument consists of 44 items to measure the five subscales of personalitytraits which are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticismand openness. Each item of the BFI is scaled in a 5-point Likert-type rangingfrom 1 (disagree strongly) to 5 (agree strongly). The scoring for eachpersonality traits is the sum of the items. Items 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31 and36 are the scoring for Extraversion trait. Extraversion is described associable, outgoing, extrovert and active people.  The range for this traitis 8 - 40, with higher score reflecting a more extraverted people. Items 2, 7,12, 17, 22, 27, 32, 37 and 42 are the scoring for Agreeableness trait.Agreeableness is described as cooperative, tender and conflict avoidant. Therange for this trait is 9 - 45, with higher score reflecting a moreagreeableness people.  Additionally, items 3, 8, 13, 18, 23, 28, 33, 38and 43 are the scoring for Conscientiousness trait.  Conscientiousness isdescribed as conscientious, goal-oriented, and well-organized.  The rangefor this trait is 9 - 45, with higher score reflecting a more conscientiousnessperson.  Items 4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29, 34 and 39 are the scoring forNeuroticism trait. Neuroticism is described as emotionally relaxed, calm andstable.  The range for this trait is 8 - 40, with higher score reflectinga greater neuroticism person. And finally, items 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40,41 and 44 are the scoring for Openness trait.  Openness is described asindividuals who are creative, open to experience and imaginative.  Therange for this trait is 10-50, with higher score reflecting a more opennessperson.

Thesubscale of BFI was reported to have Cronbach’s alpha coefficient level of .83 indicatinga high reliability [37].  The reliability correlation coefficients for thefive subscales were .88 for extraversion, .79 for agreeableness, .82 forconscientiousness, .84 for neuroticism and .81 for openness [37].

2.2.2. SchutteEmotional Intelligence Scale (SEIS)

SchutteEmotional Intelligence Scale (SEIS) consists of 33 items.  Each item isscaled in a 5-point Likert-type ranging from 1(disagree strongly) to 5 (agreestrongly).  A higher score reflects a higher emotional intelligent individualand vice-versa. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for this instrument rangedfrom .70 to .85, indicating a high reliability [39].

3 . Results

Table 1. Relationshipbetween Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Opennessand Emotional Intelligence.

  Emotional Intelligence
Extraversion Pearson Correlation .311**
Sig. (1-tailed) .000
N 160
Agreeableness Pearson Correlation .378**
Sig. (1-tailed) .000
N 160
Conscientiousness Pearson Correlation .315**
Sig. (1-tailed) .000
N 160
Neuroticism Pearson Correlation -.303**
Sig. (1-tailed) .000
N 160
Openness Pearson Correlation .497**
Sig. (1-tailed) .000
N 160

**. Correlation issignificant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed).

*. Correlation issignificant at the 0.05 level (1-tailed).

Table 1showed the statistical results of Pearson-Product-Moment correlationcoefficient between the five personality traits and emotional intelligence.

Firstly,the results indicated a mild but positive and significant relationship betweenpersonality traits of extraversion and emotional intelligence (r=.311, p<.05, N=160). Thus, Hypothesis 1 is accepted.

Secondly,a positive and significant relationship was found between personality traits ofagreeableness and emotional intelligence (r=.378, p <.05,N=160). Thus, Hypothesis 2 is accepted.

Thirdly,analysis of the association between conscientiousness and emotionalintelligence indicated a mild, positive and significantrelationship (r=.315, p<.05, N=160). Thus, Hypothesis 3 isaccepted.

Meanwhile,the correlation results reported a negative and significant relationshipbetween personality traits of neuroticism and emotional intelligence (r=-.303, p <.05, N=160). Thus, Hypothesis 4 is accepted.

Lastly,analysis of the relationship between openness and emotional intelligence showed a mild, positive and significant relationship betweenpersonality traits of openness and emotional intelligence ( r=.497, p<.05, N=160). Therefore, Hypothesis 5 is also accepted.

Thestatistical analysis indicated that there was a weak, positive but insignificantrelationship between emotional intelligence and CGPA as r = .002, p>.05, N=160.  Therefore, Hypothesis 6 that posited a positive andsignificant relationship between emotional relationship and academicachievement was rejected.

Table 2. Relationshipbetween Emotional Intelligence and CGPA.

  Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence Pearson Correlation 1
Sig. (1-tailed)  
N 160
CGPA Pearson Correlation .002
Sig. (1-tailed) .491
N 160

4 . Discussion and Conclusion

The relationshipbetween personality traits and emotional intelligence has been widelyinvestigated, and the findings of the current study confirmed the associationbetween the five dimensions of personality traits and emotional intelligenceand is consistent with most of the past studies. The extent of the relationshipbetween the said variables is different across different studies as it dependson the instruments employed to measure emotional intelligence [7, 8]. The association between personality traits and emotionalintelligence was significantly correlated as emotional intelligence is relatedto awareness, understanding and regulating emotions which are essential forpersonality constructions [ 8].

Thepresent study endorses extraversion as positively related with emotional intelligence.The finding is expected as individuals who are extroverts are talkative,assertive, energetic, outgoing, excitement seekers and enthusiastic [40, 41]. Thesepeople are more optismistic and have tendencies to experience more positiveemotions. Therefore, these people can be considered emotionally intelligentbecause they are active, outgoing and sociable, have interpersonal skills tointeract with others, and they are assumed to be able to use, understand andregulate one’s and others’ emotions [6, 14, 41]. In other words, extrovertedperson tends to express their feeling and emotion freely as compared tointroverts.

Meanwhilefor individuals who are agreeable, they are kind, altruistic, forgiving, warmand compassionate [41]. People with these agreeable characteristics have highemotional intelligence [7, 11, 41]. This present studyhas proven and supported the findings of past studies with its conclusion thatthe more agreeable a person is, the higher the emotional intelligence skillsthe person possesses. This is because individuals with high level ofagreeableness are assumed to be optimistic, can engage in effectiveinterpersonal relationship, are able to perceive, express and regulate emotionseffectively.

Additionally,people who are conscientious are productive, reliable, responsible, thoroughand so forth [41]. The more conscientious an individual is, the higher theemotional intelligence one has [13,14]. Therefore, conscientiousness ispositively associated with emotional intelligence as proven by the presentstudy.

Individualswho are high on neuroticism are anxious, hostile, vulnerable, tense, unstableand self defeating [41]. As an emotionally intelligent person, one should beaware of one’s emotions, understand and interpret it thoroughly, manage andregulate one’s emotions and convert the negative ones to a more positiveemotions such as change one’s perceptions of the situations [6]. Therefore,individuals who are high on neuroticism are predicted to be low on emotionalintelligence as they have tendency to experience negative moods and do not knowhow to interpret and regulate their emotions. In contrast, people with lowlevel of neuroticism are able to manage and regulate their emotion effectively [14].This present study has proven and supported this assumption.

Lastly, aperson who is high in openness is artistic, insightful, original, fantasy andso forth [41]. This type of people are perceived to be open-minded, could seethings from various perspectives, are able to use emotions to guide in decisionmaking process. Thus, they are assumed to be emotionally intelligent persons assupported by literature review and the results of this study [8]. In thepresent study, openness trait is reported to have the highest correlation amongall the other relationships between personality traits and emotionalintelligence; and it is also the most prominent personality trait possessed bythis research participants, hence they are also assumed to have high emotionalintelligence. In short, the results of this study reported that all fivedimensions of personality traits are signifiicantly correlated with emotionalintelligence.

Currently,IQ is no longer a single factor that could predict academic achievements.Factors such as emotional intelligence, financial, family, time management,test anxiety, attention deficiency and so forth could play a role in predictingacademic success. Emotionally intelligent person is able to perform betteracademically [42, 43]. For instance, students with higher emotionalintelligence could manage and regulate their emotions to avoid experiencinghigh level of stress and prevent burnout [43]. They are also better in handlingtest anxiety, hence, they are able to perform better in examinations [42]. Besides,students who have higher emotional intelligence have the tendency to experiencemore positive emotions that could lead them to concentrate more on studies andnot easily get distracted by other factors [42]. Thus, emotional intelligent isextremely essential for students to deal with stress and anxiety in meetinghigh academic demands.

Societyis now starting to accept emotional intelligence as an important factor inpredicting success and leading people to a more meaningful and productive life.Future researchers who would like to conduct studies onrelationship between personality traits, emotional intelligence and academicachievements are recommended to include a larger and more diverse populationfrom different private and public tertiary institutions; and use probabilitysampling such as random or stratified sampling method to increase thegeneralization of the results to their community. The findings obtained in thisstudy may not be applicable or appropriate to other countries due to culturaldifference, hence future researchers could replicate the study in other Asiancountries to identify whether there are differences in the findings amongstdifferent cultures. In order to ensure the directions of causal relationshipbetween the variables, future researchers may want to conduct meta-analysis andmore advanced structural equation analysis for the study. By conductingmeta-analysis, researchers will be able to evaluate and summarize findings ofmany past studies to provide more comprehensive secondary source of primaryresearch reports to the study of personality traits, emotional intelligence andacademic achievements of university students. On the other hand, StructuralEquation Modeling (SEM) would enable future researchers to determine how bothpersonality traits and emotional intelligence have an impact on academicachievements. Researchers would be able to determine the variation of academicachievements (dependent variable) explained by each personality traits(independent variable) and emotional intelligence (independent variable) andthe combined effects of both personality traits and emotional intelligence.


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