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The Sorting Hat and the Big 5

This article will work through the various traits specified by the 3 sorting hat songs and relate them to big 5 traits, giving some sense of how the big 5 relates to each Hogwarts house.


Brave, Bravest, Brave deeds: This relates to the excitement seeking facet of NEO extraversion. Excitement seekers "enjoy reckless, wild and dangerous activities", which would probably qualify them as "brave" in the mind of the typical observer. This also relates to NEO neuroticism (low scorers). Those with high anxiety are fearful. Self-conscious people are "easily intimidated". Vulnerable people "tend to panic" but low scorers are "calm during tense and high-pressure situations". In HEXACO, high scorers for fearfulness are "cowardly" or they "tremble or panic when in danger". Low scorers "Get a kick out of frightening or dangerous situations. Think they would be good at rescuing others in danger." So, braveness might correlate with high extraversion somewhat, but it would appear to correlate much more strongly with low neuroticism.

Daring, Bold: Effectively synonyms for braveness.

Nerve: Similar to braveness but relating more directly to self-confidence and self-assuredness. This would probably relate most closely to the Self-Efficacy facet of NEO Conscientiousness, which uses items like "Excel in what I do", "Am sure of my ground", and "Know how to get things done." Because this word is also fairly close to the above descriptors in meaning, it also would have the same correlations with high extraversion and low neuroticism.

Chivalry [Chivalrous]: This word relates to a code of behaviour and so indicates multiple traits. One of these traits is courage, so like all the above traits this one too will correlate primarily with low neuroticism. The other aspects of meaning primarily relate to high agreeableness. Synonyms include: Gentlemanly, honourable, respectful, thoughtful, considerate, protective, attentive, courteous, polite, gracious, well mannered. All of these words are primarily describing high agreeableness. The main facets touched upon in NEO agreeableness would be Morality, Cooperation and Altruism. The BFAS Politeness aspect of Agreeableness is clearly pertinent.

Summary: Every word used to describe Gryffindor House is basically a synonym for courage. This concept correlates partially with high extraversion but primarily with low neuroticism. High conscientiousness is arguably referenced by "nerve". High agreeableness is indisputably referenced by "chivalry".

Social: A debatable aspect of braveness.
Calm: The most important trait for Gryffindor.
Organised: A debatable aspect of nerve.
Accommodating: The most relevant trait for chivalrous conduct.
I/N: Not relevant.


Just/Good: This doesn't correlate strongly with any big 5 trait. The closest match would be the Morality facet of Agreeableness. Low scorers: "Obstruct, pressure and take advantage of others". The other match would be the Fairness facet of Honesty-Humility in HEXACO, which is not exactly agreeableness but is more strongly associated with it than any other HEXACO trait. Low scorers in the Politeness aspect of Agreeableness in the BFAS: "Take advantage of others", and "Prioritise personal gain". So, being "just" clearly has slight but undeniable correlations with high agreeableness.

Loyal/True: This correlates with the Dutifulness facet of NEO Conscientiousness, where keeping promises and breaking promises are used as indicators of high and low scores. As above, it probably also correlates with agreeableness, where low scorers "take advantage of others". It definitely correlates with the sincerity aspect of HEXACO H-H, where low scorers will: "Switch my loyalties when I feel like it".

Patient: HEXACO agreeableness actually has a facet that is called "patience". One item includes "I am usually a patient person". This facet is the equivalent of NEO Anger, which appears under Neuroticism.

Unafraid of toil/Hard Workers: This correlates with virtually every aspect of Conscientiousness, but most prominently with Achievement Striving. High scorers "work hard". The same item appears under the Diligence facet of HEXACO Conscientiousness.

Sweet: Synonyms for this word include "pleasant" and "agreeable", so we can probably write this one off as a general indicator of high agreeableness.

Summary: These words all describe either high Agreeableness or high Conscientiousness or a mix of the two. There is some slight indication of low neuroticism.

R/S: No correlation.
Calm: Very slight correlation.
Organised: Very obvious correlations.
Accommodating: Probably the most important trait for Hufflepuff.
I/N: No correlation.


Wise: This is arguably not an aspect of personality, or at least, not a widely used metric. It is rare for any personality system to describe one set of people as wise and, accordingly, another set as unwise. No versions of the big 5 use the word "wise" in any of their items. If we look at synonyms for this word, we find references to intelligence, knowledge and erudition. This aspect would correlate most strongly with the Intellect facet of NEO Openness. It's also worth noting that openness is the big 5 trait that correlates most strongly with IQ, although exactly how strongly is contentious due to the fact that there are numerous different ways of measuring both IQ and Openness. This correlation between openness and intelligence will be relevant for many of the Ravenclaw descriptors, the majority of which are simply synonyms for intelligence.

Wit/Cleverest/Sharpest Mind/Intelligence/Ready Mind: More synonyms for intelligence. As noted above, this indicates a small correlation with high openness. The "Intellect" aspect of BFAS Openness includes items like "Quick thinkers" vs "Slow learners", clearly indicators of general intelligence.

Learning: Suggests knowledgeability. HEXACO Openness items include: "Have read the great literary classics" and "have a rich vocabulary", while low scorers "Will not probe deeply into a subject." Low scorers in NEO Intellect "Avoid reading difficult material".

Summary: Unlike the other houses, this house basically only correlates with one trait and that seems to be a pretty strong correlation. The main correlation will be with the Intellectual aspects of Openness, with Artistic interests being somewhat relevant. Facets like Adventurousness, Imagination, Liberalism and Emotionality will not be especially relevant. Given the nature of big 5 traits however, someone who scores high in 1 or 2 facets will tend to score at least moderately high in the other facets of that trait.

Inquisitive: The only truly relevant trait for this house.


Cunning: One might expect openness to be relevant here but there's no clear correlation with scheming and Openness. The correlation between the big 5 and morality is a little weak. Low scorers in NEO Agreeableness are manipulative and take advantage of others. The same is true for BFAS agreeableness. The correlations are much more explicit in the Honesty-Humility trait of HEXACO where numerous items refer to various forms of treachery and subterfuge.

Use any means to achieve their ends: Everything mentioned in the above paragraph will be relevant. The emphasis on achievement also indicates conscientiousness. High scorers "Go for the goal" and "set high standards", while low scorers are "not highly motivated".

Shrewd: Basically, a synonym for intelligence. As noted in the Ravenclaw analysis, references to intelligence (with no additional references to specific aspects of openness) suggests a very slight but undeniable correlation with high openness.

Power Hungry/Great Ambition: As noted above, references to ambition will correlate with the Diligence and Achievement Striving facets of Conscientiousness.

Summary: Very slight indications of high openness. The other indicators are for high conscientiousness and low agreeableness. These are the main two traits, but the correlations are probably strongest with high Conscientiousness because Morality and scheming are ambiguous indicators of Agreeableness whereas achievement striving and ambition are unambiguous indicators of high C.

Organised: Probably the most important indicator for this house.
Egocentric: Moderately important indicator.
Inquisitive: Very slightly suggested.

Selection Effects

The sorting hat has told us which traits describe the core character of each house. Now we need to consider the fact that these criteria are being used to sort a population of students. Typically, the way that houses in schools work is that the students are divided equally between them. It may be that this is not the case at Hogwarts, but this section will assume that these houses divide the student body into 4 equally sized groups. Similarly, it may be the case that the student body is not representative of a typical population (perhaps Hogwarts students tend to have above average openness), but again, this section will assume that this is not the case.

If you extract a number of students from a population on the basis that they score above average for a given trait (e.g. Ravenclaw and Openness) then it stands to reason that the remaining body of students (who will be distributed between the three other houses) will mostly have below average openness. This would mean that not only do Ravenclaw students tend to have high openness but accordingly, students of the other 3 houses will tend to have slightly low openness. This section will explore these effects.

Openness: As already mentioned, openness is the only relevant big 5 trait for selecting Ravenclaw students. There was some slight suggestion of Slytherin having high openness so perhaps their average openness works out as neutral. Hufflepuff and Gryffindor make no reference to openness so the extraction of highly open students from the population would mean that these two houses will tend to have low openness.

Conscientiousness: Hufflepuff and Slytherin selected quite strongly for high C. Gryffindor included some slight suggestion of high C, so their conscientiousness (after the most conscientious students have been sent to Slytherin or Hufflepuff) would be moderate or slightly low. The only house left is Ravenclaw. This means that Ravenclaw students are likely to have the lowest conscientiousness.

Extraversion: There's virtually no correlation between Extraversion and the houses. Gryffindor perhaps has slightly high extraversion. This one insignificant factor alone is probably not a strong enough selection effect to suggest that the other 3 houses will have low extraversion. The effect, if any, would be very subtle.

Agreeableness: Gryffindor and Hufflepuff select for high agreeableness. Low agreeableness was the second most important selection factor for Slytherin. In the remaining student body (i.e. Ravenclaw house) there is a slight imbalance leaning towards low agreeableness. This means that Ravenclaw students will subtly tend towards low agreeableness. This effect is slight but arguably significant enough to yield an observable difference in the student body.

Neuroticism: Like extraversion, Gryffindor was the only house that addressed this trait. Unlike extraversion, this factor was a much more explicit selection criteria for Gryffindor and so the effect upon the other houses would probably be noticeable. There was a slight suggestion that Hufflepuff would have low neuroticism so, as with Gryffindor's Conscientiousness, their neuroticism perhaps works out as being average. This leaves Slytherin and Ravenclaw with above average neuroticism.

Final Summary

If we combine the sorting hat's explicit criteria with the implicit consequences of selection effects, we find that the typical student in each house will tend to have the following personality traits:

Gryffindor: Primary: Calm. Secondary: Accommodating. Slight tendency towards high extraversion. Conscientiousness likely to be average or slightly low. Openness likely to be low. SCXAN.

Hufflepuff: Primary: Accommodating. Secondary: Organised. Neuroticism is probably average. No strong inclination for extraversion. Openness will be slightly low. XXOAN.

Ravenclaw: Primary: Inquisitive. Likely to have low conscientiousness. Neutral Extraversion. Probably slightly low agreeableness. Above average neuroticism. XLUEI.

Slytherin: Primary: Organised. Secondary: Egocentric. Openness and Extraversion are probably neutral. Neuroticism will be slightly high. XLOEX.

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