The Relationship between Personality Traits and Information Competency in Korean and American Students

Article excerpt

We examined differences between Korean and American cultures in terms of the relationships between Big Five personality traits (McCrae & Costa, 1990) and information competency. Korean (n = 245) and American (n = 185) college students completed the NEO-Five Factor Inventory (Costa & McCrae, 1992) and the Information Competency Scale (Kwon, 2010). Results showed both similarities and differences between the 2 culture groups. Conscientiousness and openness to experience significantly predicted information competency in both Korean and American students. However, the influence of extraversion was significant only for American students. This result may be because of the high value placed on extraversion in American culture.

Keywords: cultural differences, information competency, Big Five personality traits, NEO-Five Factor Inventory, college students.

Information competency, or ability and confidence in searching and using information (American Library Association, 2000), is one of the most important skills in the 21st century. Researchers have examined the role of personality traits as a mechanism for the development of information behaviors and competency (Haider, Roy, & Chakraborty, 2010; Heinström, 2003, 2006). In particular, the Big Five personality traits of extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, as proposed by McCrae and Costa (1990), have become widely accepted among many personality trait theories.

In previous studies, researchers have reported the significant influence of extraversion and openness to experience on the search for information, in that people who were more extroverted and open to experience tended to search for information more extensively and effectively (Haider et al., 2010; Heinström, 2003, 2006). We carried out the first research into the influence of the Big Five personality traits on information competency and found that conscientiousness was the strongest predictor of information competency in the American college students' culture (Kwon & Song, 2011). However, in our earlier study we did not deal with information competency in other cultural contexts.

The latest trend in globalization has been to increase understanding of cultural diversity in information behaviors and technology (Jackson et al., 2008). At the same time, cultural variability has been a challenging issue when studying personality traits (McCrae, 2001). However, the relationship between these two topics has not yet been fully investigated in non- Western cultures. Thus, our primary purpose in this study was to examine differences between Western and non- Western cultures in regard to the relationships between the Big Five personality traits and information competency. Specifically, we compared the American and Korean cultures in this study.

Like other East Asian cultures, Korean culture has been considerably influenced by Confucian traditions. Perhaps cultural differences between Korea and the US can be attributed to the Confucian traditions. One such difference between the two cultures is individualism versus collectivism. Western cultures are generally characterized as individualistic, whereas most Asian cultures are described as collectivist (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002). Although both individualist and collectivist cultures value self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997), self-confidence seems to be valued in Western cultures. For example, in studies of competency researchers have reported that students and adults in highly individualistic cultures had a stronger tendency to perceive themselves as competent compared with those in collectivist cultures (Earley, Gibson, & Chen, 1999; Klassen, 2004). In the same cultural contexts, self-perceived competence regarding academic achievement has been found to be lower among Asian-American students than among American students who were not Asian (Eaton & Dembo, 1997). It has been suggested that individualism might contribute to the development of a sense of competency more strongly than does collectivism (see e. …

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