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When assessing the differences among people in their tendencies to behave in ways related to a certain trait, the context of the situation matters a great deal.

But why is the situation not sufficient enough to assess one personality trait, meaning why can't we guess how a person will behave in a situation, based on how he/she behaved in a different situation ?

People still differ consistently in their overall level of a given trait, as observed across many situations

--> important to assess peoples overall patterns of behavior

e.g.: effect of aggregating


Within person variability

Occurs when the same person acts very differently on different occasions


Person argument

Suggests that due to the fact that behavior is determined in large part by a persons traits, a given individual will act similarly much of the time


Situation argument

Suggests that due to the fact that the immediate situation is the primary determinant of behavior, a given individual will act very differently on different occasions



Suggests that the processes whereby people react to changing situations should be assessed + personality consists of the differences between individuals in how they react to situations

--> finds middle ground between situationists + personists, BUT puts more emphasis on situationists


Density-distributions approach



a) observing people as they conduct their daily lives

b) measuring large numbers of their behaviors in a manner that allows their similarity to be assessed


--> used to determine how differently the typical person acts on different occasions


Fleeson's whole trait model

Suggests that personality traits are stable distributions of momentary states of any of the big 5

--> shifts occur in response to situational or personal events


Within person fluctuations for most of the Big 5 are attributable to fluctuations in affect/emotional states.

How does this show in any of the big 5 traits ?

1. Extraversion + Neuroticism are strongly related to affect


2. Conscientiousness is independent of affect, more dependent on the situation


Personality state

Refers to short-term variation in a personality construct

--> doesn't disqualify the personality trait


What are possible factors that contribute to within person variability ?

1. Life experiences

e.g.: work life different than private life

2. Approach or avoidance nature of an event

  • will trigger the cognitive, affective + behavioral content of avoidance and approach-oriented personality, meaning your dispositions will determine how you will react in any given situation


Personality situation transactions

People create/shape their environment based on their personality traits/dispositions

ex.: extraverted - engage in more social situations


Why do people choose + create their daily environments + situations according to their personality ?

Because these environments are compatible with their behavioral dispositions (Personality)

--> thus, one might also change situations from incompatible to compatible when uncomfortable


Each trait of the big 5 is associated/compatible with a certain type of behavior.

Which are those ?

1. Neuroticism

  • being alone + more intense negative effect

2. Extraversion

  • being with friends

3. Openness to experience

  • engaging less often in passive leisure activities (TV)

4. Conscientiousness

  •  tenacious goal pursuit + high task orientation

5. Agreeableness

  • being more cooperative + avoiding conflicts


Is age significant for personality-situation transactions becoming stronger ?

Is it a moderator ?


it was first assumed that they might increase with age due to increasing selectivity, but this wasn't the case

--> BUT: age differences occurred in situations with few constraints


The following graph is consistent with the ... view.

This suggests a ... within variation.



1. Personist

2. Small


Ecological momentary assessment task


Collecting info based on self reports

--> participants have to report multiple times a day how they feel etc, which then results in a density report


The following graph describes the ... view. 

This suggests a ... within variation.

1. Situationist

2. High


The following graph describes the ... view. 

This suggests a ... within variation.

1. Personist

2. Small


The following barcharts describe the ... view. 

This suggests a ... within variation.

1. Situationist 

2. High