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Personality Traits of Collectors: Who are you?

Personality Traits of Collector

by Shirley M. Mueller, M.D.

In the past, I wrote about collector personalities and their relationship to specific art preferences. For example, what can we tell about the traits of someone who tends to collect cubist art (like Leonard A. Lauder)? However, this focus on specific traits in collectors who specialize in one area of collecting does little to inform about the traits of collectors in general. Here, I go beyond a specific type of collecting and explore the interplay between personality and art collecting. To do this, I draw on recent psychological research (Kleine, et. al. 2021) and observations from cultural studies and past work on collectors.

Personality Traits of Collector What We Know from Psychological Research – General Personality Traits

• Openness to Experience: Among the Big Five personality traits, openness to experience is associated with art collectors. This trait encompasses a broad range of interests, curiosity, and a deep appreciation for aesthetics. Collectors with high levels of openness are typically more receptive to new and diverse art forms and ideas. They are often driven by the desire to explore and understand different cultures, epochs, and
artistic expressions.

• Conscientiousness: Conscientious individuals tend to be organized, methodical, and detail oriented. In the context of art collecting, this trait manifests as meticulous research, careful curation, and the diligent maintenance of their collections. These collectors often have a systematic approach to acquiring art, with a focus on authenticity, condition, and provenance.

• Extraversion vs. Introversion: Whether someone is an extrovert or an introvert can often influence the social aspects of collecting. Extraverted collectors might be more engaged in the social scene of the art world, attending openings and auctions, and actively participating in the community. Conversely, introverted collectors may prefer a more private relationship with art, focusing on personal satisfaction and contemplative appreciation.

• Agreeableness: This trait is not as directly influential in art collecting as others, but it plays a role in the social interactions and networks that collectors build. Collectors with higher agreeableness might be more collaborative, often sharing their collections through public exhibitions and loans to museums.

• Neuroticism: Collectors with higher levels of neuroticism could be more prone to emotional attachments to their collections. Their collecting behavior might be driven by a deep passion, which sometimes leads to impulsive acquisitions or an intense focus on specific artists or genres.

• Narcissism and Status: Some collectors may be driven by narcissistic traits, seeking recognition and admiration through their collections. For them, art becomes a symbol of status and a tool for social differentiation.
As an aside, we know from Pierre Bourdieu’s theory (2010), that collectors often possess high cultural and economic capital levels. Their taste in art reflects not only their personality but also their social standing and education. They often use their collections to communicate their identity, status, and cultural sophistication.

Specific Collector Studies

Several analyses of collector personalities have revealed specific personality traits related to that collector. For example, Francois Pinault, one of the top 200 art collectors in the world, was found to have a profit motive and liberal leanings (Codignola and Mariani, 2022). Another example relates to cubist art. Those who are attracted to it are more likely to have the ability to decipher objects within these artworks compared to the general population (Muth, et. al., 2013) These studies suggest that a collector’s personality is reflected in the collectibles that he or she collects.

Modern Science Advances Past Theories

Freudian perspectives could suggest that collecting is a way to regain control, stemming from the childhood pleasure of collecting objects. On the other hand, Carl Jung’s theories might interpret art collecting as an expression of the subconscious and a manifestation of the individual’s internal world. My work, based on recent scientific information, indicates that we collect because it gives us pleasure (Mueller, 2019).


In summary, art collecting is a multifaceted activity influenced by various personality traits and psychological motivations. A collector’s personality shapes their approach to collecting, their interaction with the art community, and the way they perceive and value art. It’s a complex interplay between individual psychology, social dynamics, and cultural context. While general patterns can be observed, every collector’s approach to art is as unique as their personality. Each collector’s journey is not just a personal voyage through the realms of art but also a narrative that reflects broader cultural, historical, and psychological currents. This holistic view opens new avenues for exploring.

How Do You Stack Up?

There are multiple free Big Five Personality tests on the internet. One takes only five minutes and is accurate from my perspective. That is because when I took it, the same results were gleaned as those on the Big Five Personality test administered to me by a Ph.D. psychologist who scored it herself. That is, I was high on openness and consciousness, traits compatible with the collector’s personality. It can be found at Prism-Ocean ( and is helpful not only in determining your collecting traits but other characteristics as well.

As a warning, I also took another similar free Big Five Personality test at and did not find it satisfactory. It promised ten minutes for the participant to take the test. For me, at the end of over twelve minutes, I was in a repetitive cycle to nowhere, it seemed. Questions were often the same, and it seemed like they were going on endlessly. I gave up.


Kleine, Jens & Peschke, Thomas & Wagner, Niklas, 2021. “Collectors: Personality between consumption and investment,” Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, Elsevier, vol. 32(C).
Bourdieu, P. (2010). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Routledge. (Original work published 1986).
Federica Codignola & Paolo Mariani, 2022. “Investigating preferences in art collecting: the case of the François Pinault Collection,” Italian Journal of Marketing, Springer, vol. 2022(1), pages 107-133, March.
Claudia Muth, Robert Pepperell, Claus-Christian Carbon; “Give Me Gestalt! Preference for Cubist Artworks Revealing High Detectability of Objects.” Leonardo 2013; 46 (5): 488–489. doi:
Mueller, Shirley M. (2019) Inside the Head of a Collector: Neuropsychological Forces at Play. Lucia/Marquand.


Shirley M. Mueller, M.D., is known for her expertise in Chinese export porcelain and neuroscience. Her unique knowledge in these two areas motivated her to explore the neuropsychological aspects of collecting, both to help herself and others as well. This guided her to write her landmark book, Inside the Head of a Collector: Neuropsychological Forces at Play. In it, she uses the new field of neuropsychology to explain the often-enigmatic behavior of collectors. Shirley is also a well-known speaker. She has shared her insights in London, Paris, Shanghai, and other major cities worldwide as well as across the United States. In these lectures, she blends art and science to unravel the mysteries of the collector’s mind.