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The Power of Personality: The Comparative Validity of Personality Traits, Socioeconomic

Status, and Cognitive Ability for Predicting Important Life Outcomes


Author(s): Brent W. Roberts, Nathan R. Kuncel, Rebecca Shiner, Avshalom Caspi and Lewis
R. Goldberg
Source: Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Dec., 2007), pp. 313-345
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of Association for Psychological Science
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PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE

The Power of Personality


The Comparative Validity of Personality Traits
Socioeconomic Status, and Cognitive Ability fo
Important Life Outcomes
Brent W. Roberts, Nathan R. Kuncel, Rebecca Shiner,3 Avshalom Caspi,4' an
Lewis R. Goldberg

University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, 3 Colgate University, 4Institute of Psychiatr


United Kingdom, 5Duke University, and 6 Oregon Research Institute

tainment.
ABSTRACT- The ability of personality traits In fact,
to predict im-two recent reviews have shown that d
portant life outcomes has traditionallypersonality traits are associated with outcomes in
been questioned
these domains
because of the putative small effects of personality. (Caspi, Roberts, & Shiner, 2005; Ozer &
In this
article, we compare the predictive validityMartinez, 2006). But simply showing that personalit
of personality
traits with that of socioeconomic statusare
(SES) andto
related cogni-
health, love, and attainment is not a string
tive ability to test the relative contribution of personality
of the utility of personality traits. These associations
the result
traits to predictions of three critical outcomes: of "third" variables, such as socioeconomi
mortality,
divorce, and occupational attainment. Only evidence
(SES), from for the patterns but have not been co
that account
prospective longitudinal studies was considered.
for in theIn addi- reviewed. In addition, many of the
studies
reviewed were cross-sectional and therefore lacked the m
tion, an attempt was made to limit the review to studies
that controlled for important backgroundodological
factors. Results
rigor to show the predictive validity of per
showed that the magnitude of the effects of personality
traits. A more stringent test of the importance of pe
traits on mortality, divorce, and occupational attainment
traits can be found in prospective longitudinal studies t
was indistinguishable from the effects of the
SESincremental
and cognitive
validity of personality traits over an
ability on these outcomes. These resultsother
demonstrate
factors. the
influence of personality traits on important
Thelife outcomes,
analyses reported in this article test whether pers
highlight the need to more routinely incorporate
traits aremeasures
important, practical predictors of signific
of personality into quality of life surveys, and encourage
outcomes. We focus on three domains: longevity/mo
further research about the developmental origins
divorce, ofoccupational
and per- attainment in work. With
sonality traits and the processes by whichdomain,
these traits in-
we evaluate empirical evidence using the gold
fluence diverse life outcomes. of prospective longitudinal studies - that is, those stu
can provide data about whether personality traits
life outcomes above and beyond well-known factors such
Starting in the 1980s, personality psychology began a profound
and cognitive abilities. To guide the interpretatio
renaissance and has now become an extraordinarily diverse and
from the results of these prospective longitudinal stu
intellectually stimulating field (Pervin & John, 1999). However,
provide benchmark relations of SES and cognitive abil
just because a field of inquiry is vibrant does not mean it is
outcomes from these three domains. The review pro
practical or useful - one would need to show that personality
three sections. First, we address some misperception
traits predict important life outcomes, such as health and lon-
personality traits that are, in part, responsible for the
gevity, marital success, and educational and occupational at-
personality does not predict important life outcomes
we present a review of the evidence for the predictive v
Address correspondence to Brent W. Roberts, Department of Psy-
personality traits. Third, we conclude with a discussio
chology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 603 East
implications of our findings and recommendations -fo
Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820; e-mail: broberts@cyrus.
psych.uiuc.edu. work in this area.

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The Comparative Predictive Validity of Personality Traits

THE "PERSONALITY COEFFICIENT": AN the results are analyzed to establish whether the situatio
UNFORTUNATE LEGACY OF THE PERSON-SITUATION
manipulation has yielded a statistically significant difference
DEBATE
the outcome. When the effects of situations are converted int
the same metric as that used in personality research (typic
Before we embark on our review, it is necessary the
to lay to rest a coefficient, which conveys both the direction
correlation
myth perpetrated by the 1960s manifestation of
thethe
size person-
of an effect), the effects of personality traits are gener
situation debate; this myth is often at the root of as strong
the as the effects of situations (Funder & Ozer, 19
perspective
that personality traits do not predict outcomesSarason,
well, if Smith,
at all. & Diener, 1975). Overall, it is the modera
Specifically, in his highly influential book, Walter Mischel
position that is correct: Both the person and the situation
(1968) argued that personality traits had limitednecessary
utility infor
pre-
explaining human behavior, given that both ha
dicting behavior because their correlational upper limit ap-
comparable relations with important outcomes.
peared to be about .30. Subsequently, this .30 value became on the relative magnitude of effects has doc
As research
derided as the "personality coefficient." Two conclusions were
mented, personality psychologists should not apologize f
correlations
inferred from this argument. First, personality traits between .10 and .30, given that the effect s
have little
predictive validity. Second, if personality traitsfound
do notin personality psychology are no different than th
predict
much, then other factors, such as the situation, must
found inbe re- fields of inquiry. In addition, the importance
other
sponsible for the vast amounts of variance thatpredictor
are left unac-
lies not only in the magnitude of its association wi
counted for. The idea that personality traits are the
the validitybut also in the nature of the outcome being p
outcome,
weaklings of the predictive panoply has been reiterated
dicted. Ain un- association between two self-report measure
large
mitigated form to this day (e.g., Bandura, 1999; Lewis, 2001;
extraversion and positive affect may be theoretically interest
Paul, 2004; Ross & Nisbett, 1991). In fact, this but
position is so
may not offer much solace to the researcher searching f
widely accepted that personality psychologists often
proof apologize
that extraversion is an important predictor for outcom
that society
for correlations in the range of .20 to .30 (e.g., Bornstein, values. In contrast, a modest correlation betwe
1999).
Should personality psychologists be apologetic for theirtrait and mortality or some other medical outcom
personality
modest validity coefficients? Apparently not,such
according to
as Alzheimer's disease, would be quite important. Mor
Meyer and his colleagues (Meyer et al., 2001), who
over,did psy-
when attempting to predict these critical life outcom
even for
chological science a service by tabling the effect sizes relatively
a wide small effects can be important because of t
pragmatic
variety of psychological investigations and placing effects and because of their cumulative effects ac
them side-
a person's
by-side with comparable effect sizes from medicine life (Abelson, 1985; Funder, 2004; Rosenthal, 199
and every-
In terms
day life. These investigators made several important of practicality, the -.03 association between tak
points.
First, the modal effect size on a correlational aspirin and
scale for reducing heart attacks provides an excellent
psy-
ample.
chology as a whole is between . 10 and .40, including thatIn onein
seen study, this surprisingly small association resul
experimental investigations (see also Hemphill,
in 852003).
fewer It
heart attacks among the patients of 10,845 ph
cians (Rosenthal,
appears that the .30 barrier applies to most phenomena in 2000). Because of its practical significan
psychology and not just to those in the realm of this type of association should not be ignored because of t
personality
small
psychology. Second, the very largest effects for any effect in
variables size. In terms of cumulative effects, a seemin
psychology are in the .50 to .60 range, and these small effectrare
are quite that moves a person away from pursuing his or
(e.g., the effect of increasing age on declining speed of infor- in life can have monumental consequences
education early
mation processing in adults). Third, effect sizes that person's health and well-being later in life (Hardarson et
for assessment
2001). In
measures and therapeutic interventions in psychology areother
sim- words, psychological processes with a stati
cally
ilar to those found in medicine. It is sobering to see small or moderate effect can have important effects
that the
individuals'
effect sizes for many medical interventions - like consuminglives depending on the outcomes with which th
are associated
aspirin to treat heart disease or using chemotherapy to treatand depending on whether those effects get
breast cancer - translate into correlations of .02 or .03. across
mulated Taken a person's life.
together, the data presented by Meyer and colleagues make clear
that our standards for effect sizes need to be established in light
PERSONALITY EFFECTS ON MORTALITY, DIVORCE,
AND OCCUPATIONAL ATTAINMENT
of what is typical for psychology and for other fields concerned
with human functioning.
In the decades since Mischel's (1968) critique,Selection of Predictors, Outcomes, and Studies
researchers
for This Review
have also directly addressed the claim that situations have a
To providetraits.
stronger influence on behavior than they do on personality the most stringent test of the predictive validity of
personality traits,
Social psychological research on the effects of situations typi-we chose to focus on three objective outcomes:
cally involves experimental manipulation of themortality,
situation, divorce,
and and occupational attainment. Although we

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

could have chosen many different outcomes to examine, we


ested in whether personality traits predict mortality, divorce,
selected these three because they are socially valued; they
and are
occupational attainment and in their modal effect sizes. If
measured in similar ways across studies; and they havefound
beento be robust, these patterns of statistical association then
assessed as outcomes in studies of SES, cognitive ability,invite
and the question of why and how personality traits might cause
personality traits. Mortality needs little justification as anthese
out-outcomes, and we have provided several examples in each
come, as most individuals value a long life. Divorce and marital
section of potential mechanisms and causal steps involved in the
stability are important outcomes for several reasons. Divorce is
process.
a significant source of depression and distress for many indi-
viduals and can have negative consequences for children,
whereas a happy marriage is one of the most important predic-
The Measurement of Effect Sizes in Prospective
Longitudinal
tors of life satisfaction (Myers, 2000). Divorce is also linked to Studies
disproportionate drops in economic status, especially for women
Before turning to the specific findings for personality, SES, and
(Kuh & Maclean, 1990), and it can undermine men's health cognitive
(e.g., ability, we must first address the measurement of effect
Lund, Holstein, & Osier, 2004). An intact marriage can sizes
also in the studies reviewed here. Most of the studies that we
preserve cognitive function into old age for both menreviewed
and used some form of regression analysis for either con-
tinuous or categorical outcomes. In studies with continuous
women, particularly for those married to a high-ability spouse
(Schaie, 1994). outcomes, findings were typically reported as standardized re-
Educational and occupational attainment are also highly gression weights (beta coefficients). In studies of categorical
prized (Roisman, Masten, Coatsworth, & Tellegen, 2004). Re- outcomes, the most common effect size indicators are odds ra-
search on subjective well-being has shown that occupational tios, relative risk ratios, or hazard ratios. Because many psy-
attainment and its important correlate, income, are not as chologists may be less familiar with these ratio statistics, a brief
critical for happiness as many assume them to be (Myers, 2000). discussion of them is in order. In the context of individual
Nonetheless, educational and occupational attainment are as- differences, ratio statistics quantify the likelihood of an event
sociated with greater access to many resources that can improve (e.g., divorce, mortality) for a higher scoring group versus the
the quality of life (e.g., medical care, education) and with greater likelihood of the same event for a lower scoring group (e.g.,
"social capital" (i.e., greater access to various resources through persons high in negative affect versus those low in negative
connections with others; Bradley & Corwyn, 2002; Conger & affect). An odds ratio is the ratio of the odds of the event for one
Donnellan, 2007). The greater income resulting from high group over the odds of the same event for the second group. The
educational and occupational attainment may also enable risk ratio compares the probabilities of the event occurring for
individuals to maintain strong life satisfaction when faced with the two groups. The hazard ratio assesses the probability of an
difficult life circumstances (Johnson & Krueger, 2006). event occurring for a group over a specific window of time. For
To better interpret the significance of the relations between these statistics, a value of 1.0 equals no difference in odds or
personality traits and these outcomes, we have provided com- probabilities. Values above 1.0 indicate increased likelihood
parative information concerning the effect of SES and cognitive (odds or probabilities) for the experimental (or numerator)
ability on each of these outcomes. We chose to use SES as a group, with the reverse being true for values below 1 .0 (down to a
comparison because it is widely accepted to be one of the most lower limit of zero). Because of this asymmetry, the log of these
important contributors to a more successful life, including better statistics is often taken.
health and higher occupational attainment (e.g., Adler et al., The primary advantage of ratio statistics in general, and the
1994; Gallo & Mathews, 2003; Galobardes, Lynch, & Smith, risk ratio in particular, is their ease of interpretation in applied
2004; Sapolsky, 2005). In addition, we chose cognitive ability as settings. It is easier to understand that death is three times as
a comparison variable because, like SES, it is a widely accepted likely to occur for one group than for another than it is to make
predictor of longevity and occupational success (Deary, Batty, & sense out of a point-biserial correlation. However, there are also
Gottfredson, 2005; Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). In this article, we some disadvantages that should be understood. First, ratio sta-
compare the effect sizes of personality traits with these two tistics can make effects that are actually very small in absolute
predictors in order to understand the relative contribution of magnitude appear to be large when in fact they are very rare
personality to a long, stable, and successful life. We also re- events. For example, although it is technically correct that one is
quired that the studies in this review make some attempt to three times as likely (risk ratio = 3.0) to win the lottery when
control for background variables. For example, in the case of buying three tickets instead of one ticket, the improved chances
mortality, we looked for prospective longitudinal studies that of winning are trivial in an absolute sense.
controlled for previous medical conditions, gender, age, and Second, there is no accepted practice for how to divide con-
other relevant variables. tinuous predictor variables when computing odds, risk, and
We are not assuming that personality traits are direct causes of hazard ratios. Some predictors are naturally dichotomous (e.g.,
the outcomes under study. Rather, we were exclusively inter- gender), but many are continuous (e.g., cognitive ability, SES).

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The Comparative Predictive Validity of Personality Traits

Researchers often divide continuous variables into some arbi- metric, making the results of the studies comparable across
trary set of categories in order to use the odds, rate, or hazarddifferent analytical methods. After compiling effect sizes, meta-
metrics. For example, instead of reporting an association be-analytic techniques were used to estimate population effect
tween SES and mortality using a point-biserial correlation, sizes
a in both the risk ratio and correlation metric (Hedges &
researcher may use proportional hazards models using someOlkin, 1985). Specifically, a random-effects model with no
arbitrary categorization of SES, such as quartile estimates (e.g.,
moderators was used to estimate population effect sizes for both
the rate ratio and correlation metrics.2 When appropriate, we
lowest versus highest quartiles). This permits the researcher to
draw conclusions such as "individuals from the highest categoryfirst averaged multiple nonindependent effects from studies that
of SES are four times as likely to live longer than are groupsreported more than one relevant effect size.
lowest in SES." Although more intuitively appealing, the odds
statements derived from categorizing continuous variables
The Predictive Validity of Personality Traits for Mortality
makes it difficult to deduce the true effect size of a relation,
Before considering the role of personality traits in health and
especially across studies. Researchers with very large samples
longevity, we reviewed a selection of studies linking SES and
may have the luxury of carving a continuous variable into very
cognitive ability to these same outcomes. This information
fine-grained categories (e.g., 10 categories of SES), which may
provides a point of reference to understand the relative contri-
lead to seemingly huge hazard ratios. In contrast, researchers
bution of personality. Table 1 presents the findings from 33
with smaller samples may only dichotomize or trichotomize the
studies examining the prospective relations of low SES and low
same variables, thus resulting in smaller hazard ratios and what
cognitive ability with mortality.3 SES was measured using
appear to be smaller effects for identical predictors. Finally,
measures or composites of typical SES variables including in-
many researchers may not categorize their continuous variables
come, education, and occupational status. Total IQ scores were
at all, which can result in hazard ratios very close to 1.0 that are
commonly used in analyses of cognitive ability. Most studies
nonetheless still statistically significant. These procedures for
demonstrated that being born into a low-SES household or
analyzing odds, rate, and hazard ratios produce a haphazard
achieving low SES in adulthood resulted in a higher risk of
array of results from which it is almost impossible to discern a
mortality (e.g., Deary & Der, 2005; Hart et al., 2003; Osier et al.,
meaningful average effect size.1
2002; Steenland, Henley, & Thun, 2002). The relative risk ratios
One of the primary tasks of this review is to transform the
and hazard ratios ranged from a low of 0.57 to a high of 1.30 and
results from different studies into a common metric so that a fair
averaged 1.24 (CIs = 1.19 and 1.29). When translated into the
comparison could be made across the predictors and outcomes.
correlation metric, the effect sizes for low SES ranged from -.02
For this purpose, we chose the Pearson product-moment cor-
to .08 and averaged .02 (CIs = .017 and .026).
relation coefficient. We used a variety of techniques to arrive at
Through the use of the relative risk metric, we determined that
an accurate estimate of the effect size from each study. When
the effect of low IQ on mortality was similar to that of SES,
transforming relative risk ratios into the correlation metric, we
ranging from a modest 0.74 to 2.42 and averaging 1.19 (CIs =
used several methods to arrive at the most appropriate estimate
1.10 and 1.30). When translated into the correlation metric,
of the effect size. For example, the correlation coefficient can be
however, the effect of low IQ on mortality was equivalent to a
estimated from reported significance levels (p values) and from
correlation of .06 (CIs = .03 and .09), which was three times
test statistics such as the t test or chi-square, as well as from
larger than the effect of SES on mortality. The discrepancy
other effect size indicators such as d scores (Rosenthal, 1991).
between the relative risk and correlation metrics most likely
Also, the correlation coefficient can be estimated directly from
resulted because some studies reported the relative risks in
relative risk ratios and hazard ratios using the generic inverse
terms of continuous measures of IQ, which resulted in smaller
variance approach (The Cochrane Collaboration, 2005). In this
procedure, the relative risk ratio and confidence intervals (CIs) 2The population effects for the rate ratio and correlation metric were not
are first transformed into z scores, and the z scores are then based on identical data because in some cases the authors did not report rate
transformed into the correlation metric. ratio information or did not report enough information to compute a rate ratio
and a CI.
For most studies, the effect size correlation was estimated
Most of the studies of SES and mortality were compiled from an exhaustive
from information on relative risk ratios and p values. For the
review of the literature on the effect of childhood SES and mortality (Galobardes
et al., 2004). We added several of the largest studies examining the effect of
latter, we used the requivaient effect size indicator (Rosenthal &
adult SES on mortality (e.g., Steenland et al., 2002), and to these we added the
Rubin, 2003), which is computed from the sample size and results from the studies on cognitive ability and personality that reported SES
p value associated with specific effects. All of these techniques
effects. We also did standard electronic literature searches using the terms
transform the effect size information to a common correlationalsocioeconomic status, cognitive ability, and all-cause mortality. We also exam-
ined the reference sections from the list of studies and searched for papers that
cited these studies. Experts in the field of epidemiology were also contacted and
asked to identify missing studies. The resulting SES data base is representative
of the field, and as the effects are based on over 3 million data points, the effect
lfrhis situation is in no way particular to epidemiological or medical studies
using odds, rate, and hazard ratios as outcomes. The field of psychology reports sizes and CIs are very stable. The studies of cognitive ability and mortality
results in a Babylonian array of test statistics and effect sizes also. represent all of the studies found that reported usable data.

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

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318 Volume 2- Number 4

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

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The Comparative Predictive Validity of Personality Traits

relative risk ratios (e.g., St. John, Montgomery, Kristjansson, & & Williamson, 1996; Wilson, Mendes de Leon, Bienias, Evans,
McDowell, 2002). Merging relative risk ratios from these studies & Bennett, 2004). It should be noted, however, that two studies
with those that carve the continuous variables into subgroups reported a protective effect of high Neuroticism (Korten et al.,
appears to underestimate the effect of IQ on mortality, at least in 1999; Weiss & Costa, 2005).
terms of the relative risk metric. The most telling comparison of The domain of Agreeableness showed a less clear association
IQ and SES comes from the five studies that include both vari- to mortality, with some studies showing a protective effect of
ables in the prediction of mortality. Consistent with the aggre- high Agreeableness (Wilson et al., 2004) and others showing
gate results, IQ was a stronger predictor of mortality in each case that high Agreeableness contributed to mortality (Friedman et
(i.e., Deary & Der, 2005; Ganguli, Dodge, & Mulsant, 2002; Hart al., 1993). With respect to the domain of Openness to Experi-
et al., 2003; Osier et al., 2002; Wilson, Bienia, Mendes de Leon, ence, two studies showed that Openness or facets of Openness,
Evans, & Bennet, 2003). such as creativity, had little or no relation to mortality (Osier et
Table 2 lists 34 studies that link personality traits to mortality/ al., 2002; Wilson et al., 2004).
longevity.4 In most of these studies, multiple factors such as SES, Because aggregating all personality traits into one overall
cognitive ability, gender, and disease severity were controlled effect size washes out important distinctions among different
for. We organized our review roughly around the Big Five tax- trait domains, we examined the effect of specific trait domains by
onomy of personality traits (e.g., Conscientiousness, Extraver- aggregating studies within four categories: Conscientiousness,
sion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, and Openness to Experience; Positive Emotion/Extraversion, Neuroticism/Negative Emotion,
Goldberg, 1993b). For example, research drawn from the Ter- and Hostility/Disagreeableness.5 Our Conscientiousness do-
man Longitudinal Study showed that children who were more main included four studies that linked Conscientiousness to

conscientious tended to live longer (Friedman et al., 1993). This mortality. Because only two of these studies reported the infor-
effect held even after controlling for gender and parental di- mation necessary to compute an average relative risk ratio, we
vorce, two known contributors to shorter lifespans. Moreover, a only examined the correlation metric. When translated into a
number of other factors, such as SES and childhood health correlation metric, the average effect size for Conscientiousness
difficulties, were unrelated to longevity in this study. The pro- was -.09 (CIs = - .12 and -.05), indicating a protective effect.
tective effect of Conscientiousness has now been replicated Our Extraversion/Positive Emotion domain included six studies
across several studies and more heterogeneous samples. Con- that examined the effect of extraversion, positive emotion, and
scientiousness was found to be a rather strong protective factor optimism. The average relative risk ratio for the low Extraver-
in an elderly sample participating in a Medicare training pro- sion/Positive Emotion was 1.04 (CIs = 1.00 and 1.10) with a
gram (Weiss & Costa, 2005), even when controlling for educa- corresponding correlation effect size for high Extraversion/
tion level, cardiovascular disease, and smoking, among other Positive Emotion being -.07 (-.11, -.03), with the latter
factors. Similarly, Conscientiousness predicted decreased rates showing a statistically significant protective effect of Extraver-
of mortality in a sample of individuals suffering from chronic sion/Positive Emotion. Our Negative Emotionality domain in-
renal insufficiency, even after controlling for age, diabetic sta- cluded twelve studies that examined the effect of neuroticism,
tus, and hemoglobin count (Christensen et al., 2002). pessimism, mental instability, and sense of coherence. The av-
Similarly, several studies have shown that dispositions re- erage relative risk ratio for the Negative Emotionality domain
flecting Positive Emotionality or Extraversion were associated was 1.15 (CIs = 1.04 and 1.26), and the corresponding corre-
with longevity. For example, nuns who scored higher on an index lation effect size was .05 (CIs = .02 and .08). Thus, Neuroticism
of Positive Emotionality in young adulthood tended to live was associated with a diminished life span. Nineteen studies
longer, even when controlling for age, education, and linguistic reported relations between Hostility/Disagreeableness and all-
ability (an aspect of cognitive ability; Danner, Snowden, & cause mortality, with notable heterogeneity in the effects across
Friesen, 2001). Similarly, Optimism was related to higher rates studies. The risk ratio population estimate showed an effect
of survival following head and neck cancer (Allison, Guichard, equivalent to, if not larger than, the remaining personality do-
Fung, & Gilain, 2003). In contrast, several studies reported that mains (risk ratio = 1.14; CIs =1.06 and 1.23). With the cor-
Neuroticism and Pessimism were associated with increases in relation metric, this effect translated into a small but statistically
one's risk for premature mortality (Abas, Hotopf, & Prince, significant effect of .04 (CIs = .02 and .06), indicating that
2002; Denollet et al., 1996; Schulz, Bookwala, Knapp, Scheier, hostility was positively associated with mortality. Thus, the
specific personality traits of Conscientiousness, Positive Emo-
tionality/Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Hostility/Disagree-
4We identified studies through electronic searches that included the terms ableness were stronger predictors of mortality than was SES
personality traits, extraversion, agreeableness, hostility, conscientiousness, emo-
when effects were translated into a correlation metric. The effect
tional stability, neuroticism, openness to experience, and all-cause mortality. We
also identified studies through reference sections of the list of studies and
through studies that cited each study. A number of studies were not included in
this review because we focused on studies that were prospective and controlled 5We did not examine the domain of Openness to Experience because there
for background factors. were only two studies that tested the association with mortality.

322 Volume 2- Number 4

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

of personality traits on mortality appears to be equivalent to In


IQ,terms of SES and IQ, we found 1 1 studies that showed a
wide range of associations with divorce and marriage (see Table
although the additive effect of multiple trait domains on mor-
tality may well exceed that of IQ. 3).6 For example, the SES of the couple in one study was un-
systematically related to divorce (Tzeng & Mare, 1995). In
Why would personality traits predict mortality? Personality
traits may affect health and ultimately longevity through at contrast,
least Kurdek (1993) reported relatively large, protective
three distinct processes (Contrada, Cather, & O'Leary, effects
1999; for education and income for both men and women.
Pressman & Cohen, 2005; Rozanski, Blumenthal, & Kaplan,
Because not all these studies reported relative risk ratios, we
1999; T.W. Smith, 2006). First, personality differences may
computed
be an aggregate using the correlation metric and found
the relation between SES and divorce was -.05 (CIs = -.08 and
related to pathogenesis or mechanisms that promote disease.
-.02), which indicates a significant protective effect of SES on
This has been evaluated most directly in studies relating various
facets of Hostility/Disagreeableness to greater reactivity in across these studies. Contradictory patterns were found
divorce
response to stressful experiences (T.W. Smith & Gallo, for
2001)
the two studies that predicted divorce and marital patterns
and in studies relating low Extraversion to neuroendocrine andmeasures of cognitive ability. Taylor et al. (2005) reported
from
immune functioning (Miller, Cohen, Rabin, Skoner, & Doyle,
that IQ was positively related to the possibility of male partic-
1999) and greater susceptibility to colds (Cohen, Doyle, Turner,
ipants ever marrying but was negatively related to the possibility
Alper, & Skoner, 2003a, 2003b). Second, personality traits
ofmay
female participants ever marrying. Data drawn from the Mills
be related to physical-health outcomes because they are Longitudinal
asso- study (Helson, 2006) showed conflicting patterns
of For
ciated with health-promoting or health-damaging behaviors. associations between verbal and mathematical aptitude and
example, individuals high in Extraversion may foster social
divorce. Because there were only two studies, we did not ex-
relationships, social support, and social integration, all of which
amine the average effects of IQ on divorce.
Table 4 shows the data from thirteen prospective studies
are positively associated with health outcomes (Berkman, Glass,
Brissette, & Seeman, 2000). In contrast, individuals lowtesting
in whether personality traits predicted divorce. Traits as-
Conscientiousness may engage in a variety of health-risk be- with the domain of Neuroticism, such as being anxious
sociated
haviors such as smoking, unhealthy eating habits, lack of
andex-
overly sensitive, increased the probability of experiencing
ercise, unprotected sexual intercourse, and dangerous driving
divorce (Kelly & Conley, 1987; Tucker, Kressin, Spiro, & Rus-
cio, 1998). In contrast, those individuals who were more con-
habits (Bogg & Roberts, 2004). Third, personality differences
may be related to reactions to illness. This includes a wide scientious
class and agreeable tended to remain longer in their
of behaviors, such as the ways individuals cope with illnessmarriages
(e.g., and avoided divorce (Kelly & Conley, 1987; Kin-
Scheier & Carver, 1993), reduce stress, and adhere to pre-
nunen & Pulkkenin, 2003; Roberts & Bogg, 2004). Although
scribed treatments (Kenford et al., 2002). these studies did not control for as many factors as the health
These processes linking personality traits to physical health
studies, the time spans over which the studies were carried out
are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, different personalitywere
traitsimpressive (e.g., 45 years). We aggregated effects across
these studies for the trait domains of Neuroticism, Agreeable-
may affect physical health via different processes. For example,
ness,
facets of Disagreeableness may be most directly linked to dis-and Conscientiousness with the correlation metric, as too
ease processes, facets of low Conscientiousness may be impli-
few studies reported relative risk outcomes to warrant aggre-
cated in health-damaging behaviors, and facets of Neuroticism
gating. When so aggregated, the effect of Neuroticism on divorce
was In
may contribute to ill-health by shaping reactions to illness. .17 (CIs = .12 and .22), the effect of Agreeableness was
-.18
addition, it is likely that the impact of personality differences on (CIs = -.27 and -.09), and the effect of Conscientious-
ness on divorce was -.13 (CIs = -.17 and -.09). Thus, the
health varies across the life course. For example, Neuroticism
may have a protective effect on mortality in young adulthood,predictive
as effects of these three personality traits on divorce
individuals who are more neurotic tend to avoid accidents in were greater than those found for SES.
adolescence and young adulthood (Lee, Wadsworth, & Hotopf, Why would personality traits lead to divorce or conversely
2006). It is apparent from the extant research that personalitymarital stability? The most likely reason is because personality
traits influence outcomes at all stages of the health process, but traits help shape the quality of long-term relationships. For
much more work remains to be done to specify the processes that example, Neuroticism is one of the strongest and most consistent
account for these effects. personality predictors of relationship dissatisfaction, conflict,
abuse, and ultimately dissolution (Karney & Bradbury, 1995).
The Predictive Validity of Personality Traits for Divorce Sophisticated studies that include dyads (not just individuals)
Next, we considered the role that SES, cognitive ability, and and multiple methods (not just self reports) increasingly
personality traits play in divorce. Because there were fewer
studies examining these issues, we included prospective studies 6We identified studies using electronic searches including the terms divorce,
socioeconomic status, and cognitive ability. We also identified studies through
of SES, IQ, and personality that did not control for many examining the reference sections of the studies and through studies that cited
background variables. each study.

Volume 2- Number 4 327

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The Comparative Predictive Validity of Personality Traits

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332 Volume 2- Number 4

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

demonstrate that the links between personality traits and ment


rela- (Hauser, Tsai, & Sewell, 1983). The key question here is to
what extent SES and IQ predict educational and occupational
tionship processes are more than simply an artifact of shared
method variance in the assessment of these two domainsattainment
(Don- holding constant the remaining factors.
A great deal of research has validated the structure and
nellan, Conger, & Bryant, 2004; Robins, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2000;
Watson, Hubbard, & Wiese, 2000). One study that followed a of the Wisconsin model (Sewell & Hauser, 1980; Sewell
content
sample of young adults across their multiple relationships in
& Hauser, 1992), and rather than compiling these studies, which
early adulthood discovered that the influence of Negative
are highly similar in structure and findings, we provide repre-
Emotionality on relationship quality showed cross-relationship
sentative findings from a study that includes three replications of
the model (Jencks, Crouse, & Mueser, 1983). As can be seen in
generalization; that is, it predicted the same kinds of experi-
Table 5, childhood socioeconomic indicators, such as father's
ences across relationships with different partners (Robins,
Caspi, & Moffitt, 2002). occupational status and mother's education, are related to out-
comes,
An important goal for future research will be to uncover the such as grades, educational attainment, and eventual
proximal relationship-specific processes that mediate person-
occupational attainment, even after controlling for the remain-
ality effects on relationship outcomes (Reiss, Capobianco, &
ing variables in the Wisconsin model. The average beta weight of
SES and education was .09.7 Parental income had a stronger
Tsai, 2002). Three processes merit attention. First, personality
traits influence people's exposure to relationship events. For with an average beta weight of .14 across these three
effect,
example, people high in Neuroticism may be more likelystudies.
to be Cognitive abilities were even more powerful predictors
exposed to daily conflicts in their relationships (Bolger &
of occupational attainment, with an average beta weight of .27.
Zuckerman, 1995; Suls & Martin, 2005). Second, personality
Do personality traits contribute to the prediction of occupa-
tional attainment even when intelligence and socioeconomic
traits shape people's reactions to the behavior of their partners.
For example, disagreeable individuals may escalate negative
background are taken into account? As there are far fewer
studies linking personality traits directly to indices of occupa-
affect during conflict (e.g., Gottman, Coan, Carrere, & Swanson,
1998). Similarly, agreeable people may be better able to regulate
tional attainment, such as prestige and income, we also included
emotions during interpersonal conflicts (Jensen-Campbell &
prospective studies examining the impact of personality traits on
Graziano, 2001). Cognitive processes also factor in creating
related outcomes such as long-term unemployment and occu-
trait-correlated experiences (Snyder & Stukas, 1999). Forpational
ex- stability. The studies listed in Table 6 attest to the fact
ample, highly neurotic individuals may overreact to minor
that personality traits predict all of these work-related outcomes.
criticism from their partner, believe they are no longerFor
loved
example, adolescent ratings of Neuroticism, Extraversion,
when their partner does not call, or assume infidelity on the Agreeableness,
basis and Conscientiousness predicted occupational
status 46 years later, even after controlling for childhood IQ
of mere flirtation. Third, personality traits evoke behaviors from
(Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, & Barrick, 1999). The weighted-
partners that contribute to relationship quality. For example,
people high in Neuroticism and low in Agreeableness may be beta weight across the studies in Table 6 was .23 (CIs -
average
more likely to express behaviors identified as detrimental to .32), indicating that the modal effect size of personality
.14 and
relationships such as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and was comparable with the effect of childhood SES and IQ
traits
stonewalling (Gottman, 1994). on similar outcomes.8
Why are personality traits related to achievement in educa-
tional and occupational domains? The personality processes
The Predictive Validity of Personality Traits for involved may vary across different stages of development, and at
Educational and Occupational Attainment least five candidate processes deserve research scrutiny (Rob-
erts,
The role of personality traits in occupational attainment has 2006). First, the personality-to-achievement associations
may
been studied sporadically in longitudinal studies over the reflect "attraction" effects or "active niche-picking,"
last
few decades. In contrast, the roles of SES and IQ have whereby
been people choose educational and work experiences
studied exhaustively by sociologists in their programmatic whose
re-qualities are concordant with their own personalities. For
search on the antecedents to status attainment. In their seminal
work, Blau and Duncan (1967) conceptualized a model of status
attainment as a function of the SES of an individual's father. 7We did not transform the standardized beta weights into the correlation
metric because almost all authors failed to provide the necessary information for
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin added what theythe transformation (CIs or standard errors). Therefore, we averaged the results
considered social-psychological factors (Sewell, Haller, &in the beta weight metric instead. As the sampling distribution of beta weights is
unknown, we used the formula for the standard error of the partial correlation
Portes, 1969). In this Wisconsin model, attainment is a function(y/N-k-2) to estimate CIs.
of parental SES, cognitive abilities, academic performance, In making comparisons between correlations and regression weights* it
should be kept in mind that although the two are identical for orthogonal
occupational and educational aspirations, and the role of sig-
predictors, most regression weights tend to be smaller than the corresponding
nificant others (Haller & Portes, 1973). Each factor in the modelzero-order validity correlations because of predictor redundancy (R. A. Peterson
has been found to be positively related to occupational attain-& Brown, 2005).

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The Comparative Predictive Validity of Personality Traits

TABLE 5

SES, IQ, and Status Attainment

Study N Outcome Time span Control variables Predictor Results

Jencks, 1,789 Occupational 7 years Father and mother's Father's SES ($ = .15
Crouse, & attainment SES, earnings, aptitude, Mother's education ($ = .09
Meuser, 1983 grades, friends Parental income ft = .11
education plans, \Q /? = .31
educational and

occupational
aspirations, education
Earnings Father's SES p = -.01
Mother's education P = .01
Parent's income P = .16
IQ p = .14
Education Father's SES P = .13
Mothers education ft = .13
Parent's income P = .14
IQ P = .37

Note. SES = socioeconomic status.

Hollenbeck,
example, people who are more conscientious may prefer con- Ilgen, & Hedlund, 1997). Individuals who are not
ventional jobs, such as accounting and farming (Gottfredson,
leaders or supervisors may shape their work to better fit them-
selves may
Jones, & Holland, 1993). People who are more extraverted through job crafting (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001) or
jobsuch
prefer jobs that are described as social or enterprising, sculpting
as (Bell & Staw, 1989). They can change their day-
teaching or business management (Ackerman & Heggestad,
to-day work environments through changing the tasks they do,
1997). Moreover, extraverted individuals are more likely to as-their work differently, or changing the nature of the
organizing
sume leadership roles in multiple settings (Judge, Bono,relationships
Hies, & they maintain with others (Wrzesniewski & Dut-
ton, traits
Gerhardt, 2002). In fact, all of the Big Five personality 2001). Presumably these changes in their work environ-
ments the
have substantial relations with better performance when lead to an increase in the fit between personality and
work.
personality predictor is appropriately aligned with work In turn, increased fit with one's environment is associated
criteria
with elevated
(Hogan & Holland, 2003). This indicates that if people find jobs performance (Harms, Roberts, & Winter, 2006).
Fourth,
that fit with their dispositions they will experience greater levelssome personality-to-achievement associations emerge
as consequences
of job performance, which should lead to greater success, ten- of "attrition" or "deselection pressures,"
whereby
ure, and satisfaction across the life course (Judge et al., people leave achievement settings (e.g., schools or
1999).
Second, personality-to-achievement associations mayjobs) that do not fit with their personality or are released from
reflect
"recruitment effects," whereby people are selected these into
settings because of their trait-correlated behaviors (Cairns
& Cairns,
achievement situations and are given preferential treatment on 1994). For example, longitudinal evidence from
different countries shows that children who exhibit a combina-
the basis of their personality characteristics. These recruitment
effects begin to appear early in development. For example,
tion of poor self-control and high irritability or antagonism are at
heightened risk of unemployment (Caspi, Wright, Moffitt, &
children's personality traits begin to influence their emerging
Silva,
relationships with teachers at a young age (Birch & Ladd, 1998; Kokko, Bergman, & Pulkkinen, 2003; Kokko &
1998).
Pulkkinen,
In adulthood, job applicants who are more extraverted, consci- 2000).
entious, and less neurotic are liked better by interviewers and
Fifth, personality-to-achievement associations may emerge as
are more often recommended for the job (Cook, Vance,
a result of&direct effects of personality on performance. Per-
Spector, 2000). sonality traits may promote certain kinds of task effectiveness;
Third, personality traits may affect work outcomes because there is some evidence that this occurs in part via the processing
people take an active role in shaping their work environment of information. For example, higher positive emotions facilitate
(Roberts, 2006). For example, leaders have tremendous power to the efficient processing of complex information and are associ-
shape the nature of the organization by hiring, firing, and pro- ated with creative problem solving (Ashby, Isen, & Turken,
moting individuals. Cross-sectional studies of groups have 1999). In addition to these effects on task effectiveness, per-
shown that leaders' conscientiousness and cognitive ability af- sonality may directly affect other aspects of work performance,
fect decision making and treatment of subordinates (LePine, such as interpersonal interactions (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000).

334 Volume 2- Number 4

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

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Volume 2- Number 4 335

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The Comparative Predictive Validity of Personality Traits

Personality trait
tivation; for ex
jg
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GENERAL DISCUSSION

It is abundantly clear from this review that specific personali


21
o o
traits predict important life outcomes, such as mortality, divorce
and success in work. Depending on the sample, trait, and ou
1 S. >
s : come, people with specific personality characteristics are mo

I | likely to experience important life outcomes even after con


trolling for other factors. Moreover, when compared with t
effects reported for SES and cognitive abilities, the predicti
validities of personality traits do not appear to be markedl
different in magnitude. In fact, as can be seen in Figures 1-3,
many cases, the evidence supports the conclusion that perso

1 lliiUlIfllif!
ality traits predict these outcomes better than SES does. Despi
these impressive findings, a few limitations and qualificatio
must be kept in mind when interpreting these data.
The requirement that we only examine the incremental v
I OoSoowDOJoocSSoS^i
lidity of personality measures after controlling for SES an
cognitive abilities, though clearly the most stringent test of th
** cd
relevance of personality traits, is also arbitrarily tough. In fac
&
^ s controlling for variables that are assumed to be nuisance facto
sd ^ ^ can obscure important relations (Meehl, 1971). For exampl
SES, cognitive abilities, and personality traits may determi
life outcomes through indirect rather than direct pathway
Consider cognitive abilities. These are only modest predictors
occupational attainment when "all other factors are controlled

11 I- but they play a much more important, indirect role through the
effect on educational attainment. Students with higher cogniti
O o g g c

S* cd > b 1
cd > b
13 3 S >
c

- i

* Jll 1
3 S
3
^ -
S^ ^3
Q

's

I
I 8 S
gH N ||
Fig. 1. Average effects (in the correlation metric) of low socioeconom
tf ^ B CD status (SES), low IQ, low Conscientiousness (C), low Extraversion
^ ^ g cd 3 Positive Emotion(E/PE), Neuroticism (N), and low Agreeableness (A)
(n & cj h I Z mortality. Error bars represent standard error.

336 Volume 2- Number 4

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

this one can help adjust the norms researchers hold for what the
modal effect size is in psychology and related fields. Studies are
often disparaged for having small effects as if it is not the norm.
Moreover, small effect sizes are often criticized without any
understanding of their practical significance. Practical signifi-
cance can only be determined if we ground our research by both
predicting consequential outcomes, such as mortality, and by
translating the results into a metric that is clearly understand-
able, such as years lost or number of deaths. Correlations and
ratio statistics do not provide this type of information. On the
other hand, some researchers have translated their results into
metrics that most individuals can grasp. As we noted in the
introduction, Rosenthal (1990) showed that taking aspirin pre-
vented approximately 85 heart attacks in the patients of 10,845
physicians despite the meager -.03 correlation between this
practice and the outcome of having a heart attack. Several other
Fig. 2. Average effects (in the correlation metric) of low socioeconomic
studies in our review provided similar benchmarks. Hardarson
status (SES), low Conscientiousness (C), Neuroticism (N), and low
Agreeableness (A) on divorce. Error bars represent standard error.et al., (2001) showed that 148 fewer people died in their high
education group (out of 869) than in their low education group,
despite the effect size being equal to a correlation of -.05.
Danner et al. (2001) showed that the association between pos-
itive
abilities tend to obtain better grades and go on to achieve more in emotion and longevity was associated with a gain of almost
the educational sphere across a range of disciplines (Kuncel,
7 years of additional life, despite having an average effect size of
Crede, & Thomas, 2007; Kuncel, Hezlett, & Ones, 2001, 2004);
around .20. Of course, our ability to draw these types of con-
clusions necessitates grounding our research in more practical
in turn, educational attainment is the best predictor of occu-
pational attainment. This observation about cumulative
outcomes and their respective metrics.
indirect effects applies equally well to SES and personalityThere is one salient difference between many of the studies of
traits. SES and cognitive abilities and the studies focusing on per-
Furthermore, the effect sizes associated with SES, cognitive sonality traits. The typical sample in studies of the long-term
abilities, and personality traits were all uniformly small-to- effect of personality traits was a sample of convenience or was
medium in size. This finding is entirely consistent with those distinctly unrepresentative. In contrast, many of the studies of
from other reviews showing that most psychological constructs SES and cognitive ability included nationally representative
have effect sizes in the range between .10 and .40 on a corre- and/or remarkably large samples (e.g.; 500,000 participants).
lational scale (Meyer et al., 2001). Our hope is that reviews like Therefore, the results for SES and cognitive abilities are gen-
eralizable, whereas it is more difficult to generalize findings from
personality research. Perhaps the situation will improve if future
demographers include personality measures in large surveys of
the general population.

Recommendations

One of the challenges of incorporating personality measures in


large studies is the cost-benefit trade off involved with including
a thorough assessment of personality traits in a reasonably short
period of time. Because most personality inventories include
many items, researchers may be pressed either to eliminate them
from their studies or to use highly abbreviated measures of
personality traits. The latter practice has become even more
common now that most personality researchers have concluded
that personality traits can be represented within five to seven
broad domains (Goldberg, 1993b; Saucier, 2003). The tempta-
Fig. 3. Average effects (in the standardized beta weight metric) of high
tion is to include a brief five-factor instrument under the as-
socioeconomic status (SES), high parental income, high IQ, and high
personality trait scores on occupational outcomes. sumption that this will provide good coverage of the entire range

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The Comparative Predictive Validity of Personality Traits

of personality traits. However, the use of short, broad bandwidth Second, we need a greater understanding of the relationship
measures can lead to substantial decreases in predictive validity between personality and the social environmental factors al-
(Goldberg, 1993a), because short measures of the Big Five lack ready known to affect health and development. Looking over the
the breadth and depth of longer personality inventories. In studies reviewed above, one can see that specific personality
contrast, research has shown that the predictive validity of traits such as Conscientiousness predict occupational and
personality measures increases when one uses a well-elaborated marital outcomes that, in turn, predict longevity. Thus, it may be
measure with many lower order facets (Ashton, 1998; Mershon that Conscientiousness has both direct and indirect effects on
& Gorsuch, 1988; Paunonen, 1998; Paunonen & Ashton, 2001). mortality, as it contributes to following life paths that afford
However, research participants do not have unlimited time, better health, and may also directly affect the ways in which
and researchers may need advice on the selection of optimal people handle health-related issues, such as whether they exer-
measures of personality traits. One solution is to pay attention to cise or eat a healthy diet (Bogg & Roberts, 2004). One idea that
previous research and focus on those traits that have been found has not been entertained is the potential synergistic relation be-
to be related to the specific outcomes under study instead of tween personality traits and social environmental factors. It may
using an omnibus personality inventory. For example, given the be the case that the combination of certain personality traits and
clear and consistent finding that the personality trait of Con- certain social conditions creates a potent cocktail of factors that
scientiousness is related to health behaviors and mortality (e.g., either promotes or undermines specific outcomes. Finally, certain
Bogg & Roberts, 2004; Friedman, 2000), it would seem prudent social contexts may wash out the effect of individual difference
to measure this trait well if one wanted to control for this factor or factors, and, in turn, people possessing certain personality char-
include it in any study of health and mortality. Moreover, it acteristics may be resilient to seemingly toxic environmental
appears that specific facets of this domain, such as self-control influences. A systematic understanding of the relations between
and conventionality, are more relevant to health than are other personality traits and social environmental factors associated with
facets such as orderliness (Bogg & Roberts, 2004). If re- important life outcomes would be very helpful.
searchers are truly interested in assessing personality traits Third, the present results drive home the point that we need to
well, then they should invest the time necessary for the task. know much more about the development of personality traits at
This entails moving away from expedient surveys to more all stages in the life course. How does a person arrive in
in-depth assessments. Finally, if one truly wants to assess per- adulthood as an optimistic or conscientious person? If person-
sonality traits well, then researchers should use multiple ality traits affect the ways that individuals negotiate the tasks
methods for this purpose and should not rely solely on self- they face across the course of their lives, then the processes
reports (Eid & Diener, 2006). contributing to the development of those traits are worthy of
We also recommend that researchers not equate all individual study (Caspi & Shiner, 2006; Caspi & Shiner, in press; Rothbart
differences with personality traits. Personality psychologists & Bates, 2006). However, there has been a tendency in per-
also study constructs such as motivation, interests, emotions, sonality and developmental research to focus on personality
values, identities, life stories, and self-regulation (see Mayer, traits as the causes of various outcomes without fully considering
2005, and Roberts & Wood, 2006, for reviews). Moreover, these personality differences as an outcome worthy of study (Roberts,
different domains of personality are only modestly correlated 2005). In contrast, research shows that personality traits con-
(e.g., Ackerman & Heggested, 1997; Roberts & Robins, 2000). tinue to change in adulthood (e.g., Roberts, Walton, & Vie-
Thus, there are a wide range of additional constructs that may chtbauer, 2006) and that these changes may be important for
have independent effects on important life outcomes that are health and mortality. For example, changes in personality traits
waiting to be studied. such as Neuroticism have been linked to poor health outcomes
and even mortality (Mroczek & Spiro, 2007).
Conclusions Fourth, our results raise fundamental questions about how
personality should be addressed in prevention and intervention
In light of increasingly robust evidence that personality matters
for a wide range of life outcomes, researchers need to turnefforts.
their Skeptical readers may doubt the relevance of the present
results
attention to several issues. First, we need to know more about the for prevention and intervention in light of the common
assumption that personality is highly stable and immutable.
processes through which personality traits shape individuals'
However,
functioning over time. Simply documenting that links exist be- personality traits do change in adulthood (Roberts,
Walton,
tween personality traits and life outcomes does not clarify the & Viechtbauer, 2006) and can be changed through
therapeutic
mechanisms through which personality exerts its effects. In this intervention (De Fruyt, Van Leeuwen, Bagby,
Rolland,
article, we have suggested a number of potential processes that & Rouillon, 2006). Therefore, one possibility would be
to
may be at work in the domains of health, relationships, and focus on socializing factors that may affect changes in per-
educational and occupational success. Undoubtedly, sonality
other traits, as the resulting changes would then be leveraged
across multiple domains of life. Further, the findings for per-
personality processes will turn out to influence these outcomes
as well. sonality traits should be of considerable interest to professionals

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Brent W. Roberts et al.

dedicated to promoting healthy, happy marriages and socio-


Abelson, R.P. (1985). A variance explanation paradox: When a little is
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Barefoot, J.C., Dahlstrom, W.G., & Williams, R.B. (1983). Hostility,
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test and document how personality traits "work" to shape Barefoot,
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searchers are seeking to understand how SES "gets under the
Barefoot, J.C., Larsen, S., von der Lieth, L, & Schroll, M. (1995).
skin" to influence health, personality researchers need to part- Hostility, incidence of acute myocardial infarction, and mortality
ner with other branches of psychology to understand how per- in a sample of older Danish men and women. American Journal of
sonality traits "get outside the skin" to influence important life Epidemiology, 142, 477-184.
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Acknowledgments - Preparation of this paper was supported Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, 517-526.
by National Institute of Aging Grants AG19414 and AG20048;
Barefoot, J.C., Siegler, I.C, Nowlin, J.B., Peterson, B.L., Haney, T.L.,
National Institute of Mental Health Grants MH49414, & Williams, R.B. (1987). Suspiciousness, health, and mortality:
A follow-up stuffy of 500 older adults. Psychosomatic Medicine,
MH45070, MH49227; United Kingdom Medical Research
49, 450-457.
Council Grant G0100527; and by grants from the Colgate Re- Bassuk, S.S., Berkman, L.F., & Amick, B.C. (2002). Socioeconomic
search Council. We would like to thank Howard Friedman, status and mortality among the elderly: Findings from four U.S.
David Funder, George Davie Smth, Ian Deary, Chris Fraley, Communities. American Journal of Epidemiology, 155, 520-533.
Beebe-Dimmer, J., Lynch, J.W., Turrell, G., Lustgarten, S., Raghuna-
Linda Gottfredson, Josh Jackson, and Ben Karney for their
than, T., & Kaplan, G.A. (2004). Childhood and adult socioeco-
comments on earlier drafts of this article.
nomic conditions and 31 -year mortality risk in women. American
Journal of Epidemiology, 159, 481-490.
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