Star Wars Big Five: Han Solo

By Sigurd Arild, Eva Gregersen, and Ryan Smith

This series of articles analyzes the characters from ‘Star Wars’ (original trilogy only) on the basis of the Big Five system of personality which is the most widely used personality test in social science and which has sometimes been referred to as “the only truly scientific personality test.” Compared to Jungian typology, the Big Five is more empirical and ‘external,’ positing a straightforward relationship between personality and observed behavior, which makes it easier to achieve consensus.

Low Openness

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.” While individuals who are high in Openness are prone to hold unusual or bizarre beliefs, low-Openness individuals are more likely to have a keen eye for reality and both of their feet more on the ground. Whereas Luke Skywalker was a romantic dreamer, and Leia a political revolutionary, Han Solo was a man of no illusions who preferred to place his trust in real-world tangibles such as cold cash, a good blaster, and a few “special modifications” that he had made to the Millennium Falcon himself. Furthermore, while open individuals may often lose touch with real-world practicality on account of getting lost in “big ideas,” Solo did not place much stock in Ben Kenobi’s ancient teachings (“It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”), and nor was he keen to let himself get dragged into the political conflict between Republic and Empire, preferring to focus on more clear-cut considerations instead (“I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.”).

Low Conscientiousness

“Yeah, but this time I got the money.” Whereas high-Conscientiousness individuals are likely to follow the tried-and-true way to the top (doing one’s homework in school, working hard and obeying authority, etc.), individuals who are lower in Conscientiousness are more likely to procrastinate, to go their own way, and to rely on thinking outside the box when it comes to achieving results in life. From smuggling himself in the Millenium Falcon‘s hidden compartments in Hope, to hiding said Falcon in an asteroid field (and slipping away in the garbage stream of an imperial Star Destroyer) in Empire, Solo repeatedly demonstrated an aptitude for solving problems through improvisation rather than through by-the-book thinking. Additionally, where high-Conscientiousness individuals are less likely to get in trouble with the law (since they tend to obey authority and aim to be responsible citizens), people who are lower in Conscientiousness are statistically more likely to view rules and regulations as guidelines rather than as absolute laws. In Solo’s case, he makes a living smuggling contraband, fraternizes with criminals (such as Jabba the Hutt), and openly admits to having had to “outrun imperial starships” – and not just the local “bulk cruisers” either.

High Extroversion

“I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other.” While extroverted individuals are outgoing, adventuresome, and socially assertive, introverts tend to be more reserved and solitary and to have less of a need for adventure. Not only has Solo flown “from one side of the galaxy to the other,” he also has many acquaintances and “old buddies” (such as Greedo and Lando Calrissian) scattered throughout its various systems. Furthermore, while introverted individuals are likely to be homebodies, extroverts are more prone to seek out opportunities for excitement and thrills (such as volunteering to lead dangerous missions, or making romantic passes at attractive people in their vicinity, even when they stand a chance of rejection), indicating that Solo is again an extrovert on these parameters. Finally, while introverted individuals tend to be less socially self-confident, Solo was clearly assertive in social situations, haggling with Jabba at gunpoint (“Fifteen, Jabba. Don’t push it.”), and hastening to neg and ascribe nicknames to anyone who came within reach (Luke is a “kid,” Leia is a “sweetheart,” and Obi-Wan is a “fossil”). This was done as an act of social one-upmanship, and as Princess Leia also admits, Solo’s high levels of Extroversion and social assertiveness make him a natural leader of men.

Average Agreeableness

Luke: “I knew you’d come back! I just knew it!” / Han: “Well, I wasn’t going to let you get all the credit and take all the reward.” Whereas Agreeable individuals tend to be kind, cooperative, and concerned with the welfare of others, disagreeable individuals are often more cynical and more exclusively focused on their own affairs. On the face of things, Han appears as a low-Agreeableness individual who is selfishly unwilling to help the Rebellion and who doesn’t mind being the one to shoot first in a confrontation over unpaid debts. Upon closer inspection, however, Han comes back to help the Rebellion in Hope, ventures out to rescue Luke from the Wampa in Empire, and volunteers to lead the strike team in Jedi. The harsh life of a smuggler and rogue has taught him not to trust others, but as his actions make clear, he is possessed of a deeper-lying altruism that goes against the rough facade. In this way, much of Solo’s personality can be seen as a conflict between his low Conscientiousness (which prompts him to resist commitment and to put his own needs ahead of those of others) and his average Agreeableness, which provides him with a compassionate and generous (if also well-hidden) heart of gold.

Below Average Neuroticism

“Don’t get jittery, Luke.” While neurotic individuals often have a hard time absorbing setbacks and tend to be prone to excessive worry and guilt, individuals who are lower in Neuroticism tend to remain composed and unflappable in the face of frustration. Neurotic individuals also tend to be interpersonally insecure and vulnerable to feeling overlooked or rejected, whereas non-Neurotic individuals tend to be less concerned with how others perceive them. With Solo, we have already mentioned how he managed to keep his cool and haggle with Jabba at gunpoint, and throughout the trilogy we see many examples of him taking setbacks in stride (such as Leia’s rejections, or the Falcon’s failures to go to lightspeed). On the other hand, a closer look reveals that Han does have some interpersonal vulnerabilities, such as a reluctance to be the first to express his feelings to Leia (“Come on! You want me to stay because of the way you feel about me!”) or his concern that he is being left out in Jedi (“Did you tell Luke? Is that who you could tell?”). However, while Solo does have a mildly neurotic disposition, he has in the main learned to cover it up and to hide his vulnerabilities behind his unflappable alpha persona.

***

The idea of intermixing Star Wars and the Big Five was first conceived by the website Outofservice.com, to which this series of articles pays homage.

17 Comments

  1. If low ‘Openness’ people are more realistic about the world and less interested in nonsense, then how come they say people with high intelligence usually score higher on Openness? Wouldn’t it be the other way around?? I think most of the great scientists (Einstein, Darwin, Galileo…) must have been VERY LOW on Openness, or how does the idea make sense? :) I’d guess they were probably Sensing types too!

    On the other hand, Plato was probably VERY HIGH on Openness lol, so he talked a load of nonsense that never goes anywhere.

  2. It’s a great, if complicated, question. :)
    Ultimately, all we really know is that there’s some correlation between high-O and above average IQ. Why, how, and all the nooks and crannies of how that works have not been definitely explored. Though here are some possibilities:
    – There’s a large group of people with ordinary IQs and these people tend to be low in Openness. However, that doesn’t mean that one causes the other, or that all high-IQ people are high in O. Successful crime detectives are sometimes used as the stock example of a high-IQ, low-O demographic.
    – Social psychologists who work with the Big Five don’t always understand IQ as well as they should and equate it with intellectual interest, as, for example, some of Bill Clinton’s biographers have done. That’s likely because social psychologists are often high-O people themselves, so they read their own values into the analysis.
    – Wolfgang Pauli has a great essay on the difference between Kepler and Fludd where he tries to get at the difference between various approaches to science. He uses a different terminology, but what I really think he’s describing is low-O science (adhering to reality and the facts) and high-O science (gleaning some facts and then racing ahead with all kinds of speculations that don’t follow). Einstein, I think, would probably be high-O (loving Buddhism, Hinduism and whatnot), but Darwin probably lower in O (being a naturalist and finding Aristotle to be the greatest of the Greeks).
    /Ryan

  3. I don’t understand why people with normal IQs would normally be low on O lol? Wouldn’t they be average on O too? I can’t understand that :D Does that mean most people are low on O?

    How do I find the Wolfgang Pauli essay? I like science (even if I don’t understand it half the time haha)! :)

    I think Einstein would have been fairly low too, or at least “Above Average”. I think you need to know loads of facts and be interested in the real world to be a scientist, especially to be an innovative one like he was. From reading my sister’s history of science essays she wrote for school a few years ago (very reliable source lol) I’d guess he started off pretty average on O (he had loads of great ideas early on that checked out, and worked a day job basically checking if people’s inventions would actually work), then got higher and higher as he got older (becoming a kind of imaginative mathematician instead of what I’d call a scientist in older age). :)

    Anyway that’s just my thoughts lol. Probably really dumb :D

  4. As I said, no one really knows why the correlation between Openness and IQ exists; all we know is that it’s there, and partially genetic, as far as I know.

    Pauli’s essay is here, though I’d preview before buying, it’s not for everyone: http://amzn.com/354056859X

    I’m sure different arguments can be made from Einstein. From what I’ve read, I’d stress that, coining the theory of relativity, he allegedly didn’t interact much with actual data, instead playing the piano and locking himself in his room. And then point to the “older Einstein” who, as I said, wanted to integrate physics with Indian religion, much to the detriment and annoyance of the low-O physicists that I know. His late writings, as described by Pauli, were just theories in a vacuum, not designed on the basis of reality: /another-look-at-intp.php

    On the other hand, without knowing a great deal on the topic, I could see his early activity, tracking the viability of patents and improving on them, as a kind of physicist’s detective work.

    Best,
    Ryan

  5. Hi,

    From the things I’ve read about Einstein he always had very high O as that documentary shows in the first 2 minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyK5SG9rwWI. Those are both facts and anecdotes about the physicist:

    1. He’s credited with saying that he had always wondered what would be like to travel alongside a ray of light

    2. He performed “mind experiments” which Miko Michio would call “day dreams”.

    3. He once phoned his second wife asking where he was and where he was supposed to go from there.

    4. He once crossed with a student in the campus and they started to talk about relativity. After they were done, he asked which way he was originally going. Then he concluded that he had already had lunch.

    Another physicist and inventor credited with doing mind experiments to the point of losing touch with reality is Nikola Tesla

    Personally I think both high-O and low-O might be successful in hard sciences, as few extraordinary individual trajectories are seldom proof for an universal rule.

  6. I don’t think Han is *that* high on extroversion, more towards the middle. Yes, he’s pretty high on the excitement-seeking and assertiveness aspects of it, but not so much when it comes to the friendliness, gregariousness, cheerfulness, etc. aspects of extroversion. Compared to, say, Lando, he’s much less extroverted. I mean the man’s name is Han *Solo*. George Lucas wasn’t exactly subtle with these names. (Darth Vader, meaning father, etc.) Han is clearly made out to be a lone wolf.

    I also think he’s lower than average agreeableness. Big Five is more about your behavior than anything else. So you can be a disagreeable guy without being a *bad* guy. Han is arrogant, egotistical, argumentative, sarcastic, dismissive, blunt, impatient, uncooperative, hard-headed, etc. Pretty much every disagreeable trait there is. He may have a “heart of gold” deep down, but that doesn’t mean he’s not pretty low on agreeableness. Maybe not at Palpatine levels, but pretty low nonetheless.

    You also fail to consider that Openness is tied to adventurousness, which Han clearly shows in spades, so I think he’s a bit higher on that dimension than you give him credit for. You seem to for some reason attempt to tie that quality to extroversion alone instead. Openness is also tied to irreverence, unconventionality, rule-breaking, disregard for authority, etc. Which are also all traits Han shows. That said, I agree with your reasoning about his being more “realistic,” but I still think he’s more toward the middle on the dimension rather than low.

    I think Han is a bit higher on neuroticism too. While he tries to play it cool, he can be a pretty high-strung guy and he has a pretty short fuse, so at the least he’s pretty high on the anger dimension of neuroticism. Also rather impulsive, which is another aspect of neuroticism. Still, hardly at 3PO levels and he does well under pressure so I would put him towards the middle on that trait as well.

  7. E:
    – Friendliness, maybe.
    – Gregariousness is about excitement at interacting with others, divorced from agreeableness/good intentions. So pretty high across all three original movies.
    – The name Solo, as the text hints, is more about neuroticism, we’d say (“the harsh life of a smuggler and rogue has taught him not to trust others”).
    – Lando is probably more extroverted, but they’re basically the same character, we’d say. There’s a theme with redundant characters in the original trilogy.
    A:
    – The text doesn’t make the argument that Agreeableness is about good/bad, which is not always the most helpful distinction in psychology. Rather, it attempts to gauge Agreeableness by Solo’s willingness to help others while going against his own immediate aims. We try to argue that he’s not that egotistical or uncooperative, and the rest of the qualities you mention we’d primarily tie to Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. In particular, the text gives several examples of Solo diverting from his own aims in big ways in order to undertake acts of altruism. If you’re sarcastic and snappy with banter, but make big sacrifices that go against your own interest when it comes down to it, that, to us, suggests the “joy of the game” of high E with average A; not low E and low A.
    O:
    – Adventurousness is defined as deviating from familiarity and routine. In one way, you could say that Solo does that, since he’s flown “from one side of the galaxy to another.” In most other respects, he’s not really re-inventing much about his act, within his rather unconventional niche. Still, though, the life of petty crime is more often tied to low C than high O.
    – All of the other qualities you mention aren’t O facets as such, and some have stronger correlations with other traits (irreverence low N, and rule-breaking low C, for example).
    N:
    – He might be a bit higher than we set him to be, for the reasons you list. It can be hard with fictional characters, since in real life, even professional soldiers are often traumatized from being threatened at gunpoint or being fired upon with high-grade weaponry.

  8. Enough of Albert Einstein. Enough of Han Solo. I know what we all REALLY want to, deep down inside…

    What is Jar Jar Binks’s Big Five scores? :D

  9. ELLYWOB,

    I think you make some great points actually, and I’d even agree that Albert Einstein got progressively higher on Openness as he got older. :) I don’t think he was ever low on the scale though. :)

    I think the problem you are kind of unknowingly hinting at is that Openness in the Big Five isn’t particularly well defined. It’s a bunch of traits that maybe aren’t the same thing at all (spending all day reading Nietzsche and spending all day drinking new kinds of fizzy drinks you’ve never tried before would both count towards higher Openness, even though it’s difficult to see the connection!).

    I think it would actually be more interesting to break down the overall scale and rate these characters based on each specific aspect of O, C, A etc as well as giving an overall scale rating. :)

  10. You guys have been pretty hesitant about typing fictional characters, but do not appear to have any problems applying big five on them. What gives?

  11. Scratch,

    I’m not sure either haha :)

    I usually find it’s much easier to type fictional characters functionally (and more fun) than to apply Big Five (Big Five is so complicated and you have to pay extremely close attention to every little detail of a person’s behavior). :) I can understand that typing fictional characters can be tricky because the author might be inconsistent about a character’s functions, but I wouldn’t say it’s so different from typing real people that it can’t even be attempted. :)

    I guess until they make a fiction section on here we’ll just have to make do with the occasional nonsense they write on “FunkyMBTIFiction”… :)

    http://funkymbtifiction.tumblr.com/

  12. @Hannah

    Yeah, that site is no good. David Bowie was not INFJ because “his lyrics contain personal symbolism”.

    As far as typing fictional characters, I always liked the MBTI-In-Fiction tumblr (although it hasn’t been updated in over a year) but it’s cool to see CT tackle Star Wars.

  13. I haven’t tried typing David Bowie yet, but either way that wouldn’t be a very good argument haha :)

    Maybe once CT have finished with this Star Wars series they’ll tackle Harry Potter and Game Of Thrones too. That would be great! :)

  14. I think it’s funny that funky mbti does typing for fictional characters. Oh, and David Bowie, too, haha! Just goes to show that the man was a genius and not of this world. :-)

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