Overexcitabilities vs Openness to Experience

I was pretty stoked when introduced to Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities. I had a framework for some of the sensory issues and overwhelm I’d been feeling.

I bought and read Living With Intensity and quickly learned that a lot of Dabrowskis theories didn’t resonate with me. I still don’t believe in his theory of positive disintegration, although I’ll be reading his book before dismissing the idea entirely.

Today, I discovered a paper titled Openness to Experience Rather Than Overexcitabilities: Call It Like It Is. From the abstract:

Openness to experience is a personality factor in the five-factor model of personality, and it is composed of six facets. Facets of openness appear conceptually analogous to overexcitabilities (OEs), which are displays of inner energy guiding individuals toward advanced potential according to the theory of positive disintegration.

Hmm. Five Factors. Isn’t that a term I’d come across in my Foundations of Psychology MOOC? 😀 Ironically I’d made a note to research it and just hadn’t had the mental energy. I’m still not in a position to research it; this is more about exploring that study. You can learn more about the concept via Wikipedia. Trust me, when I get through this weeks tasks I am having a RESEARCH BINGE!

To paraphrase their overview of the concept:

This personality theory encompasses five major factors or domains:

  • extraversion (E),
  • neuroticism (N),
  • openness to experience or openness/intellect (O),
  • agreeableness (A),
  • and conscientiousness (C).

Each of these domains is divided into six facets or subscales, with the openness facets reporting the aspect
of life in which a person remains open.

The six openness facets are labeled:

  • O1 Fantasy,
  • O2 Aesthetics,
  • O3 Feelings,
  • O4 Actions,
  • O5 Ideas
  • O6 Values

This looks mad. I told myself I wasn’t going to research more of giftedness – and I’ll be holding myself on that. However, this was already in the archives. I’d LOVE to deep dive into the openness facets.


Based on the results, openness to experience and OEs seem to represent largely the same construct. O1 Fantasy and imaginational OE, O2 Aesthetics and sensual OE, O3 Feelings and emotional OE, O4 Actions and psychomotor OE, and O5 Ideas and intellectual OE appear to be equivalent to each other as they loaded onto the same factor. O6 Values did not load with any OEs per ESEM analyses

It would be interesting to explore, especially in relation to other studies on being open to experience. I’d say I’m quite closed to experiences, thus the OE model is more attractive.

Blah. I need a research assistant.

Notes from the study:

It is interesting to read how there are no studies that really support OE. This supports my hunch that people love Dabrowski because he explained the unexplainable for a subset of the population. Having a framework is so helpful, even if it is just empowering people with language or narrowing things down. I feel like this a lot when reading psychological stuff. My concern was always that this idea was so appealing it was going to become the basis of gifted literature, at the expense of other stuff.


“The literature also can predict a developmental trajectory of openness for most individuals (McCrae et al., 2002).” I couldn’t immediately find any information on this, however it would be interesting to explore – along with the larger framework – and see if it aligns with my own experience. Also worth reading any criticism as a lot of theories are just that.

Seriously though, who needs a psychology degree with all this research I’m doing? 😀 Damn, I want one though.