The study of personality and individual differences is one of the oldest and most extensive literature in all of psychology (see Pervin, 1990; Barenbaum & Winter, 2008; Revelle, Wilt, & Condon, 2011). Variations in personality and individual differences have been linked to a vast array of behavioral, cognitive, and affective outcomes within the context of many social processes (e.g., see Chamorro-Premuzic, von Stumm, & Furnham, 2011; John, Robbins, & Pervin, 2008). The study of social influence is no exception. Over the past few decades, a sizeable amount of empirical literature has accumulated documenting the effects of numerous personality traits and individual differences in social influence processes such as conformity, compliance, obedience, and persuasion (e.g., see Briñol & Petty, 2005).
The goal of the present report is to provide an overview of the research literature on the role of personality and individual differences in social influence. Our overview will draw primarily from the discipline of social-personality psychology, but as will be seen, at various points we will also draw on research from areas as diverse as consumer behavior, organizational behaviour, communications, health psychology, clinical psychology, and political psychology. The intent of this report is not to provide a detailed scholarly review of the many individual studies comprising this literature (although a number of specific research findings will be discussed). Rather, our objective is to provide a more conceptual introduction to this area of research. In doing so, our focus will be on explicating a theoretical framework in which to organize this literature and reviewing the key themes and principles that have emerged in empirical research. The report will aim to provide the reader with a guide focused on the “forest rather than the trees.”
We will begin our report by providing an introduction to the key constructs in the personality/individual difference literature and the social influence literature, as well to some of the key methodological practices that have shaped this literature. In the second section of our report, we will introduce the reader to the wide array of personality and individual difference constructs that have been studied and illustrate how these constructs can be organized more parsimoniously within the context of a general conceptual framework. We will also discuss how this framework permits the many seemingly disparate effects associated with these constructs to be understood in the context of a relatively finite set of basic underlying psychological processes. Our review of this framework will conclude with a discussion of some of the general conclusions and implications that emerge from this conceptual perspective. In the third section of this report, we will turn our attention to a more detailed review of the empirical literature on the role of personality traits and individual differences in social influence. Our review of this literature will be structured along the lines of the framework presented. For each set of personality traits and individual differences, we will provide an introduction to the various individual characteristics making up this set, discuss the various effects that have been documented for each characteristic, and discuss the potential mechanisms that might be responsible for these effects. In the final section of the report, we will conclude with a general summary of the key empirical themes that have emerged from the literature and comment on some of the applied implications of this literature within the context of the Canadian Forces. We will also highlight important issues that remained to be resolved within the literature.