Personality Across Situations

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Previous research has established the principle that situations can affect the expression of personality, though it is not well-understood what specific patterns characterize this change across situations. Here, we explore the possibility of fault lines in personality. A fault line implies that there is a change in personality expression initiated by a transition between two distinct types of situations. 474 University of Oregon undergraduate students completed a questionnaire in which 15 personality tendencies were juxtaposed with each of 41 differing situations. Our findings replicated previous research indicating that Honesty/Propriety yields the least variance between situations while Emotional Stability and Extraversion yield the most variance.

Principal components analysis was used to examine cross-situational inconsistency with four models already present in psychological literature, each implying a distinct fault line. We found that our models of threat vs reward, positive affect vs negative affect, and agency vs no agency were clear sources of cross-situational inconsistency.

Cianna Bedford-Petersen is a personality psychologist interested in online social networks, data visualization, and open science