Thursday, May 17, 2012

Journal club on personality stability and change

The papers for the online journal club tomorrow are below (2pm using Google hangout). It is on personality stability and change over the lifespan. We will discuss how personality changes, why, the effects of life events and interventions, and why these changes might be important for welfare and other economic outcomes.

Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2011). Personality development across the life span:Longitudinal analyses with a national sample from Germany. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 847-861.

Specht, J., Egloff, B., & Schmukle, S. C. (2011). Stability and change of personalityacross the life course: The impact of age and major life events on mean-leveland rank-order stability of the Big Five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 862-882.

The key questions that will be covered in the journal club are outlined below:

What is personality and why is personality research important for contemporary social science? (see Funder et al., 2010 article, posted by Martin in his comment below).
How is the stability of personality typically measured? (population-level/mean-level stability and differential/rank-order stability) (see Lucas & Donnellan above and also Almlund, Duckworth, Heckman, & Kautz, 2011 pages 170-180).

Why is stability/change in personality relevant to economics?

What patterns of change in mean-levels and rank-order differences in personality are typically observed over the lifespan? (principally, increases in C and A and decreases in N, some evidence O and E decline; increasing/cumulative consistency; little evidence that traits are ‘set in plaster’ by age 30 as often cited from W. James 1892, also see Specht et al., 2011 above pg . 863)

What effect might within-trait interactions have on such patterns? (e.g. social dominance increases over the lifespan whilst another component of extraversion, social vitality decreases).

What are the effects of genetic (ontogenic) versus social role changes (sociogenic) causes in determining personality change/stability (see Almlund et al., 2011 pg. 176). What role might biological factors more generally have towards the end of life? (curvilinear patterns?) What potential implications might this have?

Can we distinguish between normative and non-normative causes of personality stability/change? Where non-normative may include intentionally driven changes, such as those derived from selecting into interventions, and also effects of atypical life events that do not occur in clear life-stages (e.g. trauma of sibling death, divorce, potentially the effect of unemployment).

What is the role of measurement error? (stability estimates are higher when accounted for). How is it likely to vary based on the number of items in the personality measure? How do Lucas & Donnellan, 2011 estimate this? (‘disattenuate’ rank-order stability from measurement error using latent variable modelling).

How does the GSOEP personality data work? What is the sample and what measure is used in the papers reviewed (John et al., 1991)? How does this measure line up with more extensive versions? How reliable are the personality traits measured and how does the measure perform over time?

What patterns of stability (see page 853 of Lucas & Donnellan) and mean-level change findings (see page 854, page 872 of Specht et al.- differences?) were identified?

What mechanisms might underlie these patterns of stability/change?

What effect does repeatedly filling out the measure have (panel-conditioning effects)? Was there evidence of period and cohort effects?

Can specific life events affect personality? (see Specht et al., 2011 above) What sample characteristics are required to detect these? (large, heterogeneous, longitudinal).

Again, biological maturation vs. socialization (e.g. demands of new roles, the expectancies of others, feedback from interaction etc.) is the key argument. Secondary to this is the question as to what extent socialization (see page 879 of Specht et al.) and selection effects (e.g. choosing particular situations – extraverts more likely to experience positive events, opposite for neurotic individuals – see page 876 of Specht et al. for summary of findings) can be separated. So personality can lead to and change as a result of major life events (see page 867 for list of those examined) and this was a central point of investigation for Lucas & Donnellan (2011).


Martin Ryan said...

For those looking for more reading material, this NSF "Grand Challenges" document may be of interest:

Michael Daly said...

Thanks for this Martin, very useful overview of future directions in personality research.