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Set-point Theory and Personality Development: Reconciliation of a Paradox

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Abstract and Figures

Set-point trait theories presume homeostasis at a specified level (stability/trait) and a surrounding “bandwidth” (change/state). The theory has been productively applied in studies on subjective well-being (SWB) but hardly in research on stability and change in personality (e.g. neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness). This divergence may be explained by the traditional but wrong assumption that SWB primarily responds to environmental influences, whereas personality traits do not. Three set-point models for personality courses are discussed: (1) The immutable set-point model, in which personality scores fluctuate around their set-point in reaction to experiences, but always return to their person-specific set-point; (2) the experience-dependent set-point model, in which an individual’s set-point can permanently change when prompted by major life events; (3) the mixed set-point model separating variation in personality scores into a stable component and a changing experience-dependent component. Research does not support the immutable model. The experience-dependent and mixed model explains trajectory courses of personality best. The chapter describes environmental changes that may change set-points, including life events. We end with recommendations on optimal research designs and time scales, characteristics of experiences that may have the potential to change set-points, and the potential of dynamic system models for understanding personality development.
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Set-Point Theory and personality
development: Reconciliation of a
Johan Ormel
, Michael VonKorff
, Bertus F. Jeronimus
, and
Harrie¨tte Riese
University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen,
The Netherlands,
Group Health Research Institute, Group Health Cooperative,
Seattle, WA, United States
Personality: Developmental perspectives
Personality is defined as enduring differences between individuals in thoughts,
feelings, and behaviors that are not situation-specific (Specht, 2015). Personality
reflects the often unconscious, reflexive ways in which people respond to environ-
mental cues (Allport & Odbert, 1936; Magidson, Roberts, Collado-Rodriguez, &
Lejuez, 2014). Conventionally five high-order personality characteristics are identi-
fied (the “Big Five”): extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness,
and openness to experience (Kotov, Gamez, Schmidt, & Watson, 2010). Personality
is typically assessed by self-report questionnaire or interview (John, Robins, &
Pervin, 2008) using items with nonspecific descriptors of frequency, intensity, and
duration. For example, in the NEO-PI-3 (McCrae, Costa, Paul, & Martin, 2005) neu-
roticism is assessed with items like “I often worry about things that might happen”
or “sometimes I feel completely worthless.” Designed to capture the unique ways in
which people think, feel, and interact with others, these questionnaires indicate an
individual’s general level on a particular personality trait.
Developmental models
A popular developmental model is McCrae and Costa’s Five-Factor Theory (FFT) of
personality traits. It posits that personality traits follow a common life course trajec-
tory, viz. traits emerge early in life, reach maturity in young adulthood, followed by
a gradual change in response to age-related brain maturation, and changes in gene
expression (McCrae & Costa, 2003; McCrae, 2010). However, longitudinal evidence
indicates that people can differ substantially in these trajectories of personality
development and change across the lifespan (Luhmann, Orth, Specht, Kandler, &
Lucas, 2014; Roberts & DelVecchio, 2000; Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006).
Personality Development Across the Lifespan. DOI:
©2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Nowadays theorists convene that personality trait changes are driven by both
genes and experiences (Plomin, DeFries, & Loehlin, 1977; Scarr & McCartney,
1983), but the exact processes underlying adult personality development remain
controversial (Cramer et al., 2012b; Roberts, Wood, & Caspi, 2008; Specht et al.,
2014). Several theories stress the significance of life experiences in personality sta-
bility and change (Jeronimus, Riese, Sanderman, & Ormel, 2014). The best known
is the neosocioanalytic theory or social investment principle, which emphasizes the
impact of social roles on personality, and posits that environmentally driven person-
ality changes may occur throughout life (Roberts & Wood, 2006, Roberts, Wood,
& Smith, 2005).
Another perspective emphasizing environmental influences is the set-point (or
dynamic equilibrium) model of traits, recently proposed by Ormel, Riese, and
Rosmalen (2012; but see also Fleeson & Gallagher, 2009;Fraley & Roberts, 2005;
Luhmann et al., 2014). According to this perspective, personality traits have a person-
specific set-point around which trait levels fluctuate in response to life experiences.
Thus personality levels can temporarily be changed by life experiences, but eventually
people return to their characteristic set-point level. Importantly, major life events or
enduring changes in social circumstances may also change the set-point of personality
traits for long periods of time or even permanently.
Another alternative, proposed by Cramer et al. (2012b), conceives personality as
a system (or network) of affective, cognitive, and behavioral elements. Rather than
a shared underlying factor producing covariance among these elements (as assumed
in the latent factor model of personality traits), the network model suggests that
these elements are causally interdependent (see Fig. 9.1). Personality dimensions
“emerge out of the connectivity structure that exists between the various compo-
nents of personality” (Cramer et al., 2012a, p. 414). The components are jointly
influenced by genetic and environmental forces, and therefore develop synchro-
nously. In factor analysis, the interconnectedness “produces” the latent factors.
Personality development and life experiences
That life experiences can be followed by small but meaningful changes in
personality is well established (Jeronimus et al., 2014; Luhmann et al., 2014;
Figure 9.1 Schematic presentation of two models of traits: the latent factor model (left) and
the dynamic system (or network) model (right).
118 Personality Development Across the Lifespan
Riese et al., 2014; Specht, Egloff, & Schmukle, 2011; Sutin, Costa, Wethington,
& Eaton, 2010). Changes in personality are also observed subsequent to age-
related developmental role transitions (Bleidorn et al., 2013; Lodi-Smith &
Roberts, 2007; Roberts & Mroczek, 2008). For example, Specht et al. (2011)
found that individuals who got married became more introverted while those
who separated from a poor marriage became more agreeable and conscientious.
Men, but not women, became more open after separation. Conscientiousness
declined after having a baby and after retirement, whereas it increased after
starting a first job. After death of a spouse, conscientiousness declined among
women whereas it increased among men. Marriage, remarriage, and experienc-
ing satisfying and engaging employment are all associated with decreases in
neuroticism. In contrast, conflict, poor relationship quality, and chronic or
repeated unemployment have been found to associate with increases in neuroti-
cism (Lucas, Clark, Georgellis, & Diener, 2004; Lu
¨dtke, Trautwein, &
Husemann, 2009; Robins, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2000). Exposure to personal illness
or injury reduced concordance of neuroticism among monozygotic twins
(Middeldorp, Cath, Beem, Willemsen, & Boomsma, 2008). Jeronimus and collea-
gues (2013, 2014) found small but persistent decreases in neuroticism after
positive life events.
Subjective well-being and set-point theory
Subjective Well-Being (SWB) is a well-studied construct that refers to how
people feel and think about their lives (Diener, 1984). Popular measures of SWB
include items like: “How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?” The SWB
construct involves a hybrid of affective judgments (how do I usually feel) and
cognitive assessments of satisfaction with life and its main domains (such as
work and relationships). There is an important distinction between the feelings
people experience and the judgments they make about their lives. In SWB
research, happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being are often conceptualized as
enduring traits (Cummins, 2015; Davern, Cummins, & Stokes, 2007). People
tion (Cummins, 2015), in a process that Kahneman (2011) calls the “affect
heuristic.” It is not surprising, then, that SWB is highly correlated with neuroti-
cism, extraversion, and, although less, conscientiousness (DeNeve & Cooper,
1998; Steel, Schmidt, & Shultz, 2008; Weiss, Bates, & Luciano, 2008).
Like personality traits, SWB shows substantial continuity over time (Lucas &
Donnellan, 2007). Long-term studies of SWB have yielded data that permit evalua-
tion of key hypotheses about the development of SWB and its determinants. While
research on dynamic changes in personality traits is limited, there are relevant theo-
retical constructs and empirical studies pertaining to SWB that can help evaluate the
stable and changing components of personality traits. Stability may be due to
119Set-Point Theory and personality development: Reconciliation of a paradox
genetic factors and other enduring influences, while change may be influenced by
the social environment and by shifts in a person’s physical or psychological health.
Research has not evaluated these dynamic processes for personality per se, but it has
for SWB. An important theoretical model that explains the relationship between the
stability and change of SWB is the set-point theory.
History of set-point theory
Set-point theory has its roots in the concept of physiological homeostasis. In
Canon’s (1932) classic essay, “The Wisdom of the Body,” set-point refers to steady
states of the body that are actively maintained by corrective physiological and
behavioral mechanisms (also referred to as negative feedback loops). This active
defense mechanism or dynamic compensation, generates a degree of stability in the
factor it regulates, such as blood pressure, body temperature, blood glucose level, or
weight (Keesey & Powley, 1986). Before that, psychologists Wundt and James had
transformed the then-dominant humor theory of temperament into a concept of
dimensional psychological traits, a theory that incorporated the principle of a fixed
internal milieu: a set-point with homeostasis (Dumont, 2010; Jeronimus, 2015). The
key feature of a set-point is that it defies change via compensatory mechanisms that
regulate short-term fluctuations caused by internal or external events back to their
typical state (i.e., set-point). Importantly, physiological set-points (e.g., blood pres-
sure) often change with age.
Set-point theory played a prominent role in SWB research over the past 40 years
because this idea of adaptation to changing environments could explain counterintui-
tive properties of SWB. For example, that gains in health, income, and relationships
only had temporary effects on SWB. This kind of adaptive processes also explained
the observation that people with substantial resources are, on average, not much hap-
pier than those with limited resources. Original SWB theories became therefore
founded on the idea that people’s levels of SWB change temporarily in anticipation
and response to life experiences, but do not permanently change (Brickman, Coates,
& Janoffbulman, 1978). This led some to conclude that “trying to be happier [may
Lykken & Tellegen, 1996,p.189).
Cummins (2010, 2015) explicitly argued that a set of psychological processes
actively control and maintain SWB in a manner analogous to the homeostatic main-
tenance of blood pressure or body temperature. These homeostatic processes apply
particularly to the affective component of SWB. The dynamic equilibrium theory of
SWB posits that this continuity in SWB is based on personality, especially neuroti-
cism and extraversion, whereas change is attributed to life experiences (Headey &
Wearing, 1989; Headey, 2006).
Recent revisions of set-point theory for SWB
The results from major longitudinal panel studies led to at least six significant revi-
sions in SWB set-point theory (Diener, Lucas, & Scollon, 2006; Headey, 2006,
120 Personality Development Across the Lifespan
2010; Luhmann, Hofmann, Eid, & Lucas, 2012) that merit discussion when imple-
menting a set-point theory for personality traits:
1. Personal set-point. Person-specific levels of SWB can be accurately predicted from per-
sonality traits. Fig. 9.2 illustrates three trajectories of SWB with personalized individual
2. Persistent negativity. The major components of SWB differ in terms of their set-point and
stability, most saliently that “negative affect” is more stable over increasing time intervals
than “positive affect” or “life satisfaction.”
3. Cultural differences. SWB levels and composition differ substantially between countries,
partly due to economic, social, and political characteristics (Diener & Diener, 1995;
Minkov, 2009).
4. Persistent changes in SWB. About 1530% of the population shows long-lasting changes
in SWB following life experiences and typically do not return to their previous baseline
levels within 35 years (Anusic, Yap, & Lucas, 2014; Luhmann et al., 2012). This holds
true in particular for major negative experiences such as disability, widowhood, unem-
ployment, or divorce.
5. Differences in adaptability. Initially SWB theorists assumed that people adapted in similar
ways. For example, Diener et al. (2006, p. 310) observed that, “If adaptation results from
automatic and inevitable homeostatic processes, then all individuals should return to neu-
trality or at least to their own unique baseline.” However, studies observed significant
individual differences in the rate and extent of adaptation after experiencing “objectively”
similar life events (see Fig. 9.2).
6. Differences in susceptibility. Trait stability is partly driven by the tendency of people to
repeatedly experience specific events (cf. corresponsive principle). So, life experiences
may not only cause disequilibrium in SWB, but personalityenvironment correlations
may also maintain stability (Headey & Wearing, 1989; Jeronimus et al., 2014; Ormel &
Schaufeli, 1991). Persistent within-subject changes in SWB may be partially explained by
individual differences in susceptibility to life experiences (see Fig. 9.3). For example, peo-
ple who combine high extraversion with low neuroticism levels may increase in SWB
whereas introverted but highly neurotic people may tend to decrease in SWB.
Personality psychology and set-point theory
Despite the popularity of set-point theory in the psychology of SWB, it has only
occasionally been applied in personality psychology (Costa & McCrae, 1980;
Figure 9.2 Trajectories of SWB of three individuals (A, B, C) with person-specific
set-points and susceptibilities.
121Set-Point Theory and personality development: Reconciliation of a paradox
Jeronimus et al., 2013; Lykken & Tellegen, 1996; Lykken, 2007; Ormel et al.,
2013; Vachon & Krueger, 2015). For example, Williams (1993) proposed a set-
point hypothesis to explain the stability of personality traits: “In this set-point
hypothesis, psychological function is treated as having a substantial basis in physi-
ology with a specified level and a surrounding ‘bandwidth’ of typical behavior for a
given individual [...] it is necessary to determine whether a prevailing personality
pattern, stable or otherwise, is actively defended by appropriate behavioral or psy-
chological adjustments” (p. 52).
Also the network perspective on personality traits describes people as functioning
within a relatively fixed region of a potentially large behavioral space, resulting in
stable states. The causally interconnected affective, cognitive, and behavioral ele-
ments are “in relative equilibrium with themselves and their environments” (Cramer
et al., 2012a, p. 416), suggesting sort of trait set-point. In the network perspective,
life experiences may support trait stability (as they influence the total complex of
elements) but can also induce personality change as the system finds an alternative
stable state (see “Alternative Explanations for Homeostatic Stable States” section).
Provided that SWB may be a manifestation of underlying personality traits, as
assumed in set-point theory, it seems timely to consider whether set-point theory
can help explain stability and change in personality traits over the lifespan.
Immutable, experience-dependent, and mixed
set-point models
In considering the application of set-point theory to research on stability and change
of personality traits, it is useful to differentiate three set-point models (Ormel &
Rijsdijk, 2000; Ormel et al., 2012): (1) the immutable set-point model; (2) the
experience-dependent set-point model; and (3) the mixed set-point model.Fig. 9.4
depicts these three models. The time scale describing stability and change in these
models is measured in years, rather than days or weeks.
Figure 9.3 Four different within-subject trajectories of personality trait scores. Note: Capital
letters A, B, C, and D refer to each of the individuals; StoC 5sensitivity to context;
SP 5set-point.
122 Personality Development Across the Lifespan
Immutable set-point model
The immutable set-point model posits that individual set-points of personality traits
are “set like plaster” (James, 1890). This notion of an immutable person-characteristic
set-point of personality traits is compatible with the “basic tendencies” in Costa and
McCrae’s classical (FFT) trait model (1990; McCrae, 2010), being both internally
determined and largely independent of environmental influences. In this model,
homeostatic forces keep an individual’s trait set-point constant over time. Deviations
Figure 9.4 (A) Immutable set-point model. Note:T5latent trait factor; O
5observed trait
scores at 5 waves. (B) Experience-dependent set-point model. Note:O
5observed trait
scores at 5 waves; S
5latent changing component; z
5influence of unobserved
determinants of change; b (if intervals are equal, these will typically be equal as well);
e5time-specific and measurement error variance. (C) Mixed set-point model. Note:
T5latent trait factor; O
5observed trait scores at 5 waves; S
5latent changing component;
e5measurement error variance; z
5influence of unobserved determinants of change in
changing component; b 5autoregression coefficient (if intervals are equal, these will
typically be equal as well).
123Set-Point Theory and personality development: Reconciliation of a paradox
from the set-point, which may be due to life experiences, are assumed to be temporal,
and levels eventually return to the set-point. Thus the immutable set-point model fits
both the FFT and genotypeenvironment theory of personality development.
The “environment perspectives” of personality development (e.g., neo-
socioanalytic model) are incompatible with an immutable set-point model, which
permits only temporary experience-driven changes. Also the “network perspective”
is definitely inconsistent with the immutable set-point model.
The statistical model that corresponds with the immutable set-point model is the
common factor model, which asserts that items on a trait scale and their summary
scores correlate over time because of underlying latent traits, which are essentially
immutable. The immutable set-point model predicts that testretest correlations are
virtually independent of the length of time between assessments. While the notion
of an immutable set-point fits the evidence of high stability of personality traits, it
is inconsistent with a large body of evidence showing a gradual but persistent
decline in the differential stability of personality traits over time and experience-
driven change.
Experience-dependent set-point model
The experience-dependent set-point model posits that set-points can change over
the lifespan when impelled by life experiences with long-term behavioral conse-
quences. The experience-dependent model assumes that these consequences can
result in set-point change (see person C in Fig. 9.3) through three mechanisms,
viz. cognitive, biological, and environmental embedding. Cognitive embedding
occurs when such consequences lead to persistent alterations in beliefs about the
self and others and changes in the approach to appraising and coping with stress-
ful events (Laceulle, Jeronimus, Van Aken, & Ormel, 2015; Ormel & Rijsdijk,
2000). An example of biological embedding is when environmental factors trigger
chemic changes that activate or silence genes via epigenetic processes such as
DNA methylation and chromatin remodeling (Van der Knaap et al., 2015;
Weaver et al., 2004; Zhang & Meaney, 2010). Such epigenetic changes occur
most frequently early in life but continue to occur throughout the lifespan (Fraga
et al., 2005; Kanherkar, Bhatia-Dey, & Csoka, 2014). Biological embedding may
follow cognitive embedding if cognitive alterations bring about persistent changes
in the regulatory neurophysiological systems, e.g., via epigenetic processes
(McEwen, 2012; Zhang & Meaney, 2010). Environmental embedding occurs
when changes in behavioral repertoires become maintained by correspondingly
changed environments.
The statistical model that corresponds with environmentally dependent set-points
is the autoregressive (or simplex) model, which asserts ongoing cumulative differ-
ential change. That is, traits change continuously at a very slow rate. The autore-
gressive model predicts that testretest correlations decrease gradually over time,
theoretically declining toward a correlation of zero (Ormel & Rijsdijk, 2000;
Roberts & Jackson, 2008; Roberts & Mroczek, 2008).
124 Personality Development Across the Lifespan
Mixed set-point model
The mixed set-point model combines the previous two models and basically extends
on the experience-dependent set-point model by incorporating features of an
immutable set-point. The mixed model seeks to differentiate variation in personality
traits into a stable trait component (T, in Fig. 9.4C) and an in time varying compo-
nent (Si). In contrast to the experience-dependent model, the mixed model allows
for two possibilities. The first is that some people have (virtually) immutable set-
points but that other people’s set-points change. The second possibility is that the
trait set-point is complex, and has partly an immutable component and partly a
changing component. Thus changes in the set-point itself are possible in the mixed
model, for example, in response to long-term difficulties and marked altered life
circumstances. In contrast to the immutable set-point model, the mixed set-point
model assumes that differential stability correlations will fall with time but, due to
the enduring influence of stable personality components, will never reach zero,
something which is possible with the experience-dependent model.
Between-subject and within-subject models
These set-point models have been used primarily to analyze between-subject differ-
ences and cannot be directly generalized to understand within-subject changes
(Barlow & Nock, 2009; Molenaar, 2008; Van der Krieke et al., 2015). The mixed
model may provide a better fit to longitudinal data compared to either the
immutable or experience-dependent set-point models, because at the population
level, it is more flexible for modeling within-subject change. New statistical
approaches have been developed to formally test the differences in person-specific
developmental trajectories (Borsboom et al., 2016).
It remains complex to account for within-subject changes in analyses of stability
and change in personality traits. Fig. 9.3 displays the hypothetical development of a
personality trait during adulthood in four individuals who differ in terms of both their
trait set-point and sensitivity to context. The trait set-point is highest for D (blue), fol-
lowed by C (purple), B (red), and then A (green). Low sensitivity to context is char-
acteristic of A and D. High sensitivity to context is characteristic of B and C, evident
as relatively low and high amplitudes of deviation from the set-point, respectively. If
individuals differ in sensitivity to context the most sensitive may experience enduring
changes in personality in response to major life experiences and long-term difficulties
(Boyce & Ellis, 2005). Individuals with low sensitivity to context may resist the
effects of environmental events on personality traits; person A and D respond more
or less the same way to the same events. In addition, individual C is exposed to far-
reaching positive and negative experiences which change C’s set-point twice.
Theories to explain set-point change
Two theories may help explain the association between personality trait change and
life experiences or (age-graded) role transitions: the social investment principle and
125Set-Point Theory and personality development: Reconciliation of a paradox
the social production function (SPF) theory, which are outlined later. Roberts et al.
(2005) introduced the social investment principle explicitly to explain why role tran-
sitions and associated life events can change personality. The social production the-
ory, in contrast, has been developed to explain individual differences in SWB,
especially the impact of life experiences on SWB (Ormel, Lindenberg, Steverink, &
Vonkorff, 1997). Note that neither of these theories preclude genetic effects on per-
sonality change; rather, they address in particular the transactional and random fac-
tors that contribute to personality development.
Social investment principle
According to the social investment principle, people build identities through commit-
ments to age-graded social roles, such as work, marriage, family, and community.
Each role comes with a set of expectations and contingencies that create a reward
structure that promotes becoming more socially dominant, agreeable, and conscien-
tious, and less neurotic. These expectations and contingencies induce and maintain
altered behavior patterns and these, in turn, may change personality traits in a
bottom-up fashion. A growing body of evidence supports the social investment prin-
ciple (Bleidorn et al., 2013; Hudson & Roberts, 2016). However, the evidence is
largely limited to crude, epidemiological measures of role experiences as presented
above, rather than psychological experiences. Thus it is still necessary to demonstrate
that role expectations drive personality development and not vice versa.
Social production function theory
Whereas the social investment principle seems particularly suited to understand how
role transitions may change personality traits, SPF theory might help explain why
particular experiences have long-term behavioral consequences that might, in turn,
alter self-perception and hence personality. In addition, SPF theory seems better
suited to clarify non-normative personality change compared to the social invest-
ment principle. However, the evidence supporting the utility of SPF theory in under-
standing personality development is lacking and SPF remained limited to SWB.
SPF theory holds that people seek physical and social well-being (Lindenberg,
1996; Ormel et al., 1999;Steverink, Lindenberg, & Ormel, 1998), which they
achieve through behaviors that enhance status, affection, and behavioral confirma-
tion. Physical well-being is achieved by behaviors that are stimulating or activating,
and that enhance physical comfort. Over an adult’s lifespan, having work, being
happily married, and having good friends and family gives a person status, behav-
ioral confirmation, affection, and comfort.
The SPF perspective suggests that the initial magnitude and persistence of per-
sonality change is likely to depend on how the consequences of altered life circum-
stances affect one’s ability to achieve physical and social well-being. For example,
a harmonious intimate relationship provides opportunities for activities that produce
comfort, affection, and behavioral confirmation. Moreover, SPF theory holds that
enduring impairments of the resources and ability to produce physical or social
126 Personality Development Across the Lifespan
well-being should have unfavorable effects on personality development. Empirical
evidence regarding how social production influences personality comes entirely
from research linking changes in SWB to major life events. Therefore, it is unclear
what effects social circumstances have on traits other than those that are associated
with SWB (neuroticism, extraversion, and, to a lesser extent, conscientiousness).
Life events and depression
Research into the effects of life events and major role transitions on personality
development is still limited, especially regarding SPF theory. This is in contrast to
the enormous amount of research into the relationship between life events and
psychological states, especially depression. Core symptoms of major depressive
disorder are depressed mood and loss of interest that last for at least 2 weeks.
Depression is strongly associated with low levels of SWB and high neuroticism.
Importantly, the onset and remission of major depressive illnesses are often
accompanied by alterations in neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness.
Often these alterations are temporary, in that they wax and wane in parallel with
depression status (Ormel, Oldehinkel, Nolen, & Vollebergh, 2004). Although lim-
ited in quantity, some recent research indicates that psychotherapeutic interventions
are associated with more persistent personality change (Clark, Vittengl, Kraft, &
Jarrett, 2003; De Fruyt, Van Leeuwen, Bagby, Rolland, & Rouillon, 2006; Tang
et al., 2009). For instance, Tang and colleagues found that the combination of cog-
nitive therapy and antidepressant medication not only associated with remission of
depression but reduced neuroticism as well. Importantly, the improvements in
depression seemed driven by decreases in neuroticism. De Fruyt et al. (2006),
investigating a similar combined treatment, reported more extraversion, openness to
experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and substantially less neuroticism
after treatment. Therefore, life events involved in the onset and remission of major
depressive episodes may yield important insights into what kind of experiences
might change personality traits.
Brown and Harris and their colleagues have contributed much to our insights into
the life events that can induce depressive illness and significant decreases in SWB.
These events include loss events, humiliating events, and entrapment events (Brown,
Harris, & Hepworth, 1995). They also explored the specific experiences that are likely
to reduce depression and enhance SWB, including anchoring, a fresh start, and events
that neutralize a long-term environmental difficulty (Brown, Lemyre, & Bifulco,
1992). Loss includes not only loss of a person but also loss of a social role (becoming
unemployed). Most loss events involve core roles and relationships, with a substantial
proportion linked to events likely to produce a sense of defeat. Entrapment events
occur in the context of a prolonged and marked difficulty, emphasizing that the diffi-
culty may last much longer than initially thought. Anchoring events involved
increased security, increased hope, or amelioration of a difficulty. It would be interest-
ing to determine whether loss, humiliation, or entrapment events produce enduring
negative changes in personality, and whether anchoring, fresh start, and difficulty-
neutralizing events yield enduring positive changes in personality.
127Set-Point Theory and personality development: Reconciliation of a paradox
Alternative explanations for homeostatic stable states
Cramer et al. (2012aand 2012b) have proposed that dynamic systems have alterna-
tive homeostatic stable states, also called “dynamic regimes” (Scheffer et al., 2009)
or “mechanistic property clusters” (Kendler, Zachar, & Craver, 2011). Marked tran-
sitions from one dynamic regime to another have been observed for diverse com-
plex dynamic systems such as lake ecosystems, climate, financial markets, and also
mood (Van de Leemput et al., 2014). Positive-feedback loops among related ele-
ments within a major trait domain might yield alternative stable states. This has
consequences for how complex dynamic systems respond to deviations from
homeostasis. Fig. 9.5 illustrates that when a system approaches a tipping point (due
to a major shock or cumulative incremental changes), the system becomes vulnera-
ble. It loses resilience and becomes unstable. Small perturbations may then cause a
shift to an alternative stable state.
How can this perspective help the modeling of stability and change in personal-
ity? If there are specific stable trait positions on a distribution one expects a
multimodal distribution of population scores, with relatively high frequencies at
stable state positions and low frequencies at regions in between. In existing data-
bases, multimodal trait score distributions are not observed (Van der Krieke et al.,
2015). At the individual level, the question becomes whether someone can have
two or more person-characteristic stable trait levels? Currently we lack the data to
test this question. Nonetheless, we do know that personality trait change scores tend
to be normally distributed, with frequent small changes and fewer marked changes.
However, this does neither falsify nor confirm the idea of multiple person-
characteristic stable trait levels if these levels differ between individuals (Fig. 9.3).
Future directions
Databases with sufficient participants, assessments, and time coverage to formally
test expected differences in set-point models have not been available. Optimal
Figure 9.5 Ball-in-a-cup diagram (A vs B). Note: This example assumes two stable states
normal and depressed. The stability of a healthy person may become more fragile close to a
transition toward depression, which can intuitively be understood from these two ball-in-a-
cup diagram.
Source: With permission from Van de Leemput, I. A., Wichers, M., Cramer, A. O. J.,
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128 Personality Development Across the Lifespan
research designs are needed to: (1) compare between-subject set-point models;
(2) determine the impact of major life events and altered social circumstances on
personality, both in terms of the magnitude of change and rate of adaptation; and
(3) identify typical within-subject trajectories before and after major life events or
changes in social circumstances. But first it is important to consider how long a
change in personality trait score must persist to indicate set-point change.
Identifying set-point change
Trait set-points are theoretical constructs that cannot be measured directly.
Identifying a set-point involves inference from repeated measurements. In order to
distinguish measurement error, temporary deviation from the set-point, and enduring
change in trait set-point, personality needs to be measured multiple times. The key
question remains what true set-point change is and what that interpretation implies
for the time scale of assessments.
One operational definition might depart from the assumption that personality
trait set-points are immutable and determined entirely by an individual’s genetic
make-up. In this view, all change is temporary. According to this view, the best
operational definition of set-point would be the average observed trait score across
multiple assessments over an extended period of time, at least decade.
An alternative is to identify the time scale over which an observed change in trait
score may indicate a true change in set-point. One approach could be based on the
adaptation period plus a few months. In this approach, it is crucial to establish when
the adaption process has entirely leveled off. If the trait level has not returned to its
pre-event level, say a few months after leveling off, we could define the difference
as a change in set-point. Some evidence suggests that the leveling off period may
last as long as 1 year (e.g., retirement, marriage) to more than 5 years (e.g., disabil-
ity, widowhood), depending on the specifics of the event and contextual factors,
such as age (Diener et al., 2006; Luhmann et al., 2012). For personality traits, these
dynamics require further study (Jeronimus, 2015; Ormel et al. 2013).
Optimal research designs
Compare the between-subject set-point models
In this chapter, we distinguished three fundamental set-point models that have dif-
ferent implications which can be empirically tested. First, the immutable set-point
model predicts a constant differential stability, independent of the time interval.
Conversely, the experience-dependent model predicts an ongoing drop, even after
intervals of 1020 years. The mixed set-point model predicts that the drop in differ-
ential stability levels off over time. Second, because the mixed model assumes that
part of the trait score variance is not influenced by life events, the prospective asso-
ciation between major life events and trait scores at successive follow-ups is pre-
dicted to drop faster in the mixed model than in the experience-dependent model.
Third, if the trait is entirely plastic, which implies there is no trait component, the
129Set-Point Theory and personality development: Reconciliation of a paradox
experience-dependent model should fit longitudinal data better than a mixed model
with a large immutable variance component.
However, sufficient statistical power is needed to distinguish the experience-
dependent and mixed set-point models. Assuming a steady drop of testretest trait
correlations with time and a 25-year testretest correlation of between 0.40 and
0.50, a sample of at least 1200 individuals would be necessary to differentiate the
models (Ormel & Rijsdijk, 2000). Moreover, multiple assessments (at least four)
over a long time period (preferably .10 years) are needed (see also Kenny &
Zautra, 1995;Ormel & Rijsdijk, 2000).
Determine the impact of major life events and altered social
circumstances on personality, both in terms of the magnitude of
change and rate of adaptation
Since the average occurrence rate of major life events and importantly altered social
circumstances is low in most segments of the population-at-large, evaluation of
their effects on personality traits may require novel research designs. For example,
studies of the impact of the planned closure of a large employer could assess
changes in personality traits before and after closure relative to a similar population
that did not experience job displacement. To obtain reliable and valid data for
modeling nonlinear change, the interval between the postevent assessments should
gradually increase from 12to36 months and continue for at least 5 years. The
timing of measurement intervals is important and, ideally, should match theory-
based predictions on trajectories of personality development, the impact of events,
and the rate of adaptation (Luhmann et al., 2014). With a sufficient frequency of
measurements, it is possible to estimate measurement error variance, and short-term
and long-term mean-level and rank-order stability and change adjusted for measure-
ment error.
Identification of typical within-subject trajectories
The designs proposed above, with 1025 assessments during at least 5 years would
not only allow for diverse between-subject analyses but within-subject panel regres-
sion analyses as well. The latter could address a variety of questions. For instance,
whether typical trajectories exist, in terms of set-point bandwidth and adaptation
rate, and the associated individual characteristics. This would address important
sensitivity-to-context issues (Boyce & Ellis, 2005) and help to identify the kinds of
environmental changes and personal events that have the potential to change per-
sonality trait set-points. Another possibility would be to examine whether changes
in personality traits relate to simultaneous changes in level of life event exposure
(Heady, 2006). Another advantage of so many assessments across an extended
period is the potential to examine hypotheses about both event and individual char-
acteristics that determine the effects of major life events on personality.
130 Personality Development Across the Lifespan
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set-point models provide a promising framework for future research to better under-
stand stability and change in adult personality development because they fit avail-
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... The model is known as the complication model, stagnation model, or scar model. Whereas the complication and stagnation models do not imply lasting personality change after disorder remission, the scar model does; it assumes a change in an individual's personality set points (Ormel, VonKorff, & Riese, 2017). This assumption does not imply that personality traits can never return to premorbid levels long after disorder remission; however, in this respect, it is different from the permanent and irreversible personality changes that can be generated by progressive or chronic brain diseases such as dementia and severe autism (Rettew, 2013;Widiger & Smith, 2008). ...
... Adult personality is rather stable (McCrae et al., 2000;Roberts & DelVecchio, 2000;Roberts & Mroczek, 2008). In the set-point model of personality, most personality changes are even considered temporary because homeostatic processes will return trait values to their person-characteristic set point (Ormel et al., 2017;Ormel, Riese, & Rosmalen, 2012). Major role transitions and life events do have some impact on personality, but these effects are typically temporary ( Jeronimus, Riese, Sanderman, & Ormel, 2014;Löckenhoff, Terracciano, Patriciu, Eaton, & Costa, 2009;Mroczek & Spiro, 2003;Specht et al., 2014). ...
... Given the persistence of the mental disorder effects, especially on effortful control, the observed effects might represent set-point change. As a reliable assessment of an individual's set point requires at least two personality assessments before and two after a potential change agent (Ormel et al., 2017), we could not perform a critical test of set-point change with the current data set. ...
The experience of a mental disorder may affect the development of personality in multiple ways, but empirical evidence regarding psychopathology effects on personality development that persist after remission of the disorder is limited and inconsistent. In the longitudinal cohort TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS), mental disorders during adolescence were assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and parent-reported effortful control, fearfulness, and frustration at age 11 and age 19 through the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire. We found that adolescent mental disorders had small effects on personality change. Internalizing disorders predicted increases of fearfulness and frustration but hardly affected effortful control; externalizing disorders were unrelated to frustration and fearfulness but predicted a decrease of effortful control. Whereas fearfulness and frustration partially caught up after disorder remission, virtually all delay in effortful control was still present 2.9 years later, suggesting scarring effects.
... While Five-Factor Theory assumes that personality traits are endogenous dispositions that are "essentially independent of environmental influences" (McCrae et al., 2000, p. 173), other theories suggest that major life events may cause personality trait change. For instance, Set-Point Theory proposes that people have a biologically determined point of origin for their personality traits (i.e., the set point), but that strong environmental influences such as major life events can permanently change this set point (Ormel et al., 2017). ...
... The fact that the association between perceived valence and changes in neuroticism was time interval dependent leads to the question why this association was changing over time. One explanation may be that neuroticism returns to its set point after an event (Ormel et al., 2017): Negative events might cause short-term increases in neuroticism; ...
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Major life events can trigger personality trait change. However, a clear, replicable pattern of event-related personality trait change has yet to be identified. We examined whether the perception of major life events is associated with personality trait change. Therefore, we assessed young adults’ personality traits at five measurement occasions within one year. At the second measurement occasion, we also assessed their perception of a recently experienced major life event using the Event Characteristics Questionnaire. Contrary to our expectations, perceived impact of the event was not associated with the amount of personality trait change, but perceived valence was associated with changes in agreeableness and neuroticism. Exploratory analyses revealed some weak associations between other perceived event characteristics and the amount of personality trait change as well as interactions between perceived event characteristics and event categories in predicting changes in neuroticism. In general, effect sizes were small, and associations depended on the time interval between pre-event and post-event personality assessment. Results indicate that perceived event characteristics should be considered when examining event-related personality trait change.
... We chose this kind of modeling because it seemed reasonable to assume that the perceived event characteristics, personality traits, and affective well-being change in such a manner after a major life event. This assumption is also supported by existing equilibrium theories for well-being and personality traits (for an overview see Luhmann & Intelisano, 2018;Ormel et al., 2017). However, other dynamics can also be modeled with the employed first-order stochastic differential equations. ...
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The occurrence of major life events is associated with changes in mental health, well-being, and personality. To better understand these effects, it is important to consider how individuals perceive major life events. Although theories such as Appraisal Theory and Affective Adaptation Theory suggest that event perceptions change over time and that these changes are relevant for personality and well-being, stability and change of the perceptions of major life events have not been systematically examined. The present paper aims to fill this gap using data from a longitudinal study (N = 619 at T1). In this study, participants rated nine characteristics of the same major life event up to five times within one year with the Event Characteristics Questionnaire. We estimated rank-order and mean-level stabilities as well as intraclass correlations of the nine life event characteristics with continuous time models. Furthermore, we computed continuous time models for the stability of affective well-being and the Big Five personality traits to generate benchmarks for the interpretation of the stability coefficients. Rank-order stabilities of the life event characteristics were lower than for the Big Five, but higher than for affective well-being. Furthermore, we found significant mean-level changes for the life event characteristics extraordinariness, change in world views and external control. Most of the variance in life event characteristics was explained by between-person differences. Future research should examine whether these changes in perceived event characteristics are associated with changes in other constructs and which factors contribute to the stability and change of perceived event characteristics.
... A major limitation is that cross-sectional associations do not inform about causation, and do not support clear suggestions for intervention strategies. Nevertheless, it is generally believed that personality typically changes slowly (over months and years), which would limit the possibility of reverse causation [55], although some studies showed that declines in health status may indeed lead to changes in dispositional characteristics such as the Big Five personality traits [12,53]. Moreover, specific personality traits also increase the risk of developing CHCs [14,56]; differences in neuroticism and conscientiousness, for example, predict anxiety disorders and major depression [25,57], as well as Alzheimer's disease [58,59]. ...
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The link between personality traits and employment status in individuals with chronic health conditions (CHCs) is largely unexplored. In this study, we examined this association among 21,173 individuals with CHCs and whether this association differs between individuals suffering from a heart disease, depression, anxiety, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, musculoskeletal disease (MSD) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Methods: The study was conducted using baseline data from the Lifelines Cohort Study. Employment status and the presence of CHCs were determined by questionnaire data. The Revised Neuroticism-Extroversion-Openness Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) was used to measure eight personality facet traits. We conducted disease-generic and disease-specific logistic regression analyses. Results: Workers with higher scores on Self-consciousness (OR:1.02; 95% CI: 1.01-1.02), Impulsivity (1.03; 1.02-1.04), Excitement seeking (1.02; 1.01-1.02), Competence (1.08; 1.07-1.10) and Self-discipline (1.04; 1.03-1.05) were more often employed. Adults with higher scores on Angry-hostility (0.97; 0.97-0.98), Vulnerability (0.98; 0.97-0.99), and Deliberation (0.96; 0.95-0.97) were least often employed. Personality facets were strongest associated with employment status among individuals suffering from MSD and weakest in individuals with T2DM. Conclusions: Personality might be a key resource to continue working despite having a CHC. This may be relevant for the development of targeted personality-focused interventions.
... These may reflect either an inherent vulnerability to develop depression or anxiety disorder, or a consequence of an earlier episode. According to the set-point theory (Ormel, Von Korff, Jeronimus, & Riese, 2017), changes in the affect regulation system may be reflected in lasting set-point changes (higher for NA, lower for PA) with increased instability of PA en NA leading to higher vulnerability for relapse after remission. Further longitudinal studies are needed to investigate this. ...
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Background There is increasing interest in day-to-day affect fluctuations of patients with depressive and anxiety disorders. Few studies have compared repeated assessments of positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) across diagnostic groups, and fluctuation patterns were not uniformly defined. The aim of this study is to compare affect fluctuations in patients with a current episode of depressive or anxiety disorder, in remitted patients and in controls, using affect instability as a core concept but also describing other measures of variability and adjusting for possible confounders. Methods Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data were obtained from 365 participants of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety with current ( n = 95), remitted ( n = 178) or no ( n = 92) DSM-IV defined depression/anxiety disorder. For 2 weeks, five times per day, participants filled-out items on PA and NA. Affect instability was calculated as the root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD). Tests on group differences in RMSSD, within-person variance, and autocorrelation were performed, controlling for mean affect levels. Results Current depression/anxiety patients had the highest affect instability in both PA and NA, followed by remitters and then controls. Instability differences between groups remained significant when controlling for mean affect levels, but differences between current and remitted were no longer significant. Conclusions Patients with a current disorder have higher instability of NA and PA than remitted patients and controls. Especially with regard to NA, this could be interpreted as patients with a current disorder being more sensitive to internal and external stressors and having suboptimal affect regulation.
... (1995), Dunbar (2003), Larsen (2019, chapter 10), Tay & Diener (2011). Differences in social need fulfilment align with personality and social resources (Ormel et al., 2017;Wrzus et al., 2013) and prove stable over the life course (Buijs et al., 2020). 52 See Cartmill (2009), Jeronimus (2015 or Panksepp ea (2012). ...
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Novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) disease (COVID-19) was a major public health emergency and psychosocial shock event that affects most humans on Earth. The virus emerged around Wuhan in China and spread around the globe over 2020-22 and in these years >16 million humans died and >70% of humanity had been subjected to social restrictions and societal lockdown. Coronavirus exploited societies marked by social interaction, urbanization, public transport, and liberalism, and elicited the strongest global economic perturbation in a century (-3% world GDP). This study describes the emotional, cognitive, physical, social, and societal responses over 2020-2022; a snapshot of time marked by loneliness, polarization, demonstrations, riots, violence, long-Covid, virus mutations, vaccines, and breakthrough infections, up to conspiracy theories, and individual, sociocultural, and geopolitical changes. Humans have to improve their engagement with natural hazards as a master task of civilization now the climate disaster deepens and this coronavirus pandemic was a unique period in time to learn about human preparedness and psychology, as its relevance has rarely been so clear. Method: To structure the immense amount of available information we use the Dutch (NL) mainstream media (MSM) as our lens and frame of reference to document societal responses over 2020-22. This unique story is enriched with examples and perspectives from Europe and the United States, and a range of academic and government studies. The review revolves around five key interests: (a) differences in what humans felt, thought, did, need, and wanted during the years 2020-2021 i.e. the role of personality differences; (b) how humans coped with the rapid changes in daily rhythms and societal restrictions and who was able to maintain their subjective well-being (resilience); (c) how human (pandemic) preparedness panned out over 2020-22; (d) how did the Dutch MSM reflect on this unfolding Covid pandemic, the largest in a century; and (e) how did the pandemic influence development, with a special focus on youth (aged 0-30). Results: Globally governments decisions to curb the pandemic were driven by public sentiment rather than ratio and science. These collective emotions shifted like the weather, however, as populations are unpredictable, contradictory, and prone to emotional swings. Most humans tolerated repeated lockdowns over 2020-22 (e.g., 675 days with restrictions in NL) against the consensus prediction by social scientists. Humans grappled with the asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus, the duration and ambiguity of the pandemic, and the reevaluation of their lives. The Dutch construed a collective master narrative to structure their understanding and handling of the pandemic, and to accept their continuous vulnerability as a collective despite high vaccination rates. Over 2020-22 humans were forced to adjust to a rapidly changing world and many citizens struggled to return to a normal that was lost. Human resilience and adjustment to coronavirus was influenced primarily by social and financial resources, cognitive ability and risk position, values, personality profiles, skills, and contextual differences (e.g., living in a rich social welfare state), among others. Several countries started with an aim to derive herd immunity while others employed a zero-tolerance strategy that became untenable after the rise of Delta and Omicron variants. One cardinal observation over 2020-22 was the lack of human prudence, such as the genuine surprise when humans and governments where confronted with novel coronavirus, the series of climate disasters, and open wars over 2020-22; and their general lack of preparedness despite the certainty these events would come. Moreover, many humans and governments continued to be surprised by the second to sixth waves of Covid-19, often months apart, which illustrates that anticipatory failure was a system feature rather than a bug. In the Netherlands the polarization and loss of government trust was phenomenal (from 80% to 25% of adults). Citizens entered a prisoners dillemma as a subgroup participated in massive protests, riots, and refused to be vaccinated (~10%), while many Dutch adults and companies refused to adhere to even the most basic measures of social distancing (1.5m), testing, quarantining, and a reduction in social contact, at the expense of healthcare workers and people in need of intensive hospital treatment and prolonged the restrictions for all. Conclusion: Coronavirus was a risk multiplier that helped identify specific human weaknesses, from their hubris and lack of prudence to poor international collaboration. MSM described how human irrationality, naievity, ignorance, complacency, hubris, immoderation, recklessness, callousness, self-centredness, and hostility and greed, were part of the personality trais that stimulated the observed catastrophies over 2020-22, including Covid-19, the rapidly accelerating climate disasster, and European war. Pandemic studies also highlighted human flexibility and positive capacities, and the key role of family and friends in human health and well-being, as well as rapid advances in public medicine and health. The coming decade we can witness how humans managed the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical changes, adapted their social and healthcare systems to the new challenges, and whether those young in 2020-21 remained slightly more insecure, introverted, risk aversive, and collectivistic, compared to previous cohorts. The coronavirus pandemic was a symptom of a rapidly changing climate that stared humanity in the face in terms of an unprecedented series of extreme heat waves, wildfires, floods, droughts, and hurricanes over 2020-22, and the ongoing (sixth) global mass extinction event, all human made; a species both astonishing powerful and stupid. The events over 2020-22 changed the world and their shadow influences decades ahead. It is therefore key that humans take stock of the lessons learned and aim for prudence and collaboration to successfully navigate the next two centuries and flourish.
... While these perspectives hence imply a lasting change in personality which, if anything, would only become more pronounced as people grow older, life-event perspectives would argue that the observed drastic changes in Machiavellianism right before and after age 65 may actually be of temporary nature. For instance, on the one hand, the set-point hypothesis (Ormel, Von Korff, Jeronimus, & Riese, 2017;Schwaba & Bleidorn, 2019) might propose that the all-time low in Machiavellianism at age 65 could in fact be an outlier which reflects the initial excitement that comes with the freedom of retirement. Accordingly, once this excitement wears off, retirees return to the levels of Machiavellianism that they had before they retired. ...
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Objective: Lifespan perspectives on personality development have gained much momentum in recent years, mostly focusing on benevolent and neutral traits such as the Big Five. Despite their strong associations with critical personal outcomes, surprisingly little research has investigated the development of malevolent traits. Addressing this gap, we examined age trends in Machiavellianism across the lifespan. Methods: Using data from a large-scale cross-sectional sample (n = 1,118,643), we analysed mean-level changes from age 10 to 67. Results: Age differences in Machiavellianism were most pronounced as a strong upward trend during the transition from late childhood to adolescence, when it peaked. Throughout adulthood it exhibited a steady downward trend, reaching an overall minimum at age 65. Across the lifespan, Machiavellianism tended to be higher in men and high-income participants. Compared to Machiavellianism, the age trends in agreeableness and - to a lesser extent - conscientiousness showed almost perfectly polar opposite patterns. Conclusions: Age trends in malevolent personality conform to established patterns of normative change, indicating temporary disruption in adolescence and social maturation across adulthood. The results advance theory and research on personality trait development across the lifespan and highlight crucial developmental windows that can inform targeted interventions to keep socially aversive traits in check.
Treatments for depression have improved, and their availability has markedly increased since the 1980s. Mysteriously the general population prevalence of depression has not decreased. This “treatment-prevalence paradox” (TPP) raises fundamental questions about the diagnosis and treatment of depression. We propose and evaluate seven explanations for the TPP. First, two explanations assume that improved and more widely available treatments have reduced prevalence, but that the reduction has been offset by an increase in: 1) misdiagnosing distress as depression, yielding more “false positive” diagnoses; or 2) an actual increase in depression incidence. Second, the remaining five explanations assume prevalence has not decreased, but suggest that: 3) treatments are less efficacious and 4) less enduring than the literature suggests; 5) trial efficacy doesn't generalize to real-world settings; 6) population-level treatment impact differs for chronic-recurrent versus non-recurrent cases; and 7) treatments have some iatrogenic consequences. Any of these seven explanations could undermine treatment impact on prevalence, thereby helping to explain the TPP. Our analysis reveals that there is little evidence that incidence or prevalence have increased as a result of error or fact (Explanations 1 and 2), and strong evidence that (a) the published literature overestimates short- and long-term treatment efficacy, (b) treatments are considerably less effective as deployed in “real world” settings, and (c) treatment impact differs substantially for chronic-recurrent cases relative to non-recurrent cases. Collectively, these 4 explanations likely account for most of the TPP. Lastly, little research exists on iatrogenic effects of current treatments (Explanation 7), but further exploration is critical.
In this chapter we examine some consequences of personality on health and adjustment. Personality differences are highly predictive of resilient and coping and readjustment during stress and other challenges in life. We focus on two important outcomes in this domain – physical and mental health – and explore which personality profiles predict differences in health outcomes.
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Both the fulfilment of affection, status, and behavioral confirmation needs and their role in happiness may differ along the adult lifespan. We examined age-graded differences in (a) the fulfilment of the need for affection, status, and behavioral confirmation, (b) disharmonious profiles of need fulfillment (e.g., high affection but low status), and (c) the associations between these needs and happiness. Methods. Data from 11,406 Dutch respondents (age range 18-87 (M=44.82, SD=14.62), 67% female) were collected via the HowNutsAreTheDutch platform and categorized over six age groups (early, young, middle-aged and late adults, young-old and oldest-old). Age-graded differences in social need fulfilment and their link to happiness were examined using regression analyses. Need fulfillment profiles were identified with LCA cluster analyses. Age-graded differences in social need fulfilment were virtually absent (Cohen’s d=0.20 or smaller) and their link with happiness was stable across the age groups. Social need fulfilment profiles were harmonious as people reported either low, middle, or high need fulfilment in general, irrespective of age. The idea that different social needs are more important in different phases of adult life received only weak support in our data. No strategic investment in specific social needs was observed (no substitution-effects). People typically differed in their capacities to fulfill their affection, status, and behavioral confirmation needs in general, regardless of age. The implications of these results for the social production function theory of well-being and socioemotional selectivity theory are outlined in the discussion.
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The question of whether psychopathology constructs are discrete kinds or continuous dimensions represents an important issue in clinical psychology and psychiatry. The present paper reviews psychometric modelling approaches that can be used to investigate this question through the application of statistical models. The relation between constructs and indicator variables in models with categorical and continuous latent variables is discussed, as are techniques specifically designed to address the distinction between latent categories as opposed to continua (taxometrics). In addition, we examine latent variable models that allow latent structures to have both continuous and categorical characteristics, such as factor mixture models and grade-of-membership models. Finally, we discuss recent alternative approaches based on network analysis and dynamical systems theory, which entail that the structure of constructs may be continuous for some individuals but categorical for others. Our evaluation of the psychometric literature shows that the kinds-continua distinction is considerably more subtle than is often presupposed in research; in particular, the hypotheses of kinds and continua are not mutually exclusive or exhaustive. We discuss opportunities to go beyond current research on the issue by using dynamical systems models, intra-individual time series and experimental manipulations.
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HowNutsAreTheDutch (Dutch: HoeGekIsNL) is a national crowdsourcing study designed to investigate multiple continuous mental health dimensions in a sample from the general population (n = 12,503). Its main objective is to create an empirically based representation of mental strengths and vulnerabilities, accounting for (i) dimensionality and heterogeneity, (ii) interactivity between symptoms and strengths, and (iii) intra-individual variability. To do so, HowNutsAreTheDutch (HND) makes use of an internet platform that allows participants to (a) compare themselves to other participants via cross-sectional questionnaires and (b) to monitor themselves three times a day for 30 days with an intensive longitudinal diary study via their smartphone. These data enable for personalized feedback to participants, a study of profiles of mental strengths and weaknesses, and zooming into the fine-grained level of dynamic relationships between variables over time. Measuring both psychiatric symptomatology and mental strengths and resources enables for an investigation of their interactions, which may underlie the wide variety of observed mental states in the population. The present paper describes the applied methods and technology, and presents the sample characteristics.
What is personality if not a combination of all individual levels of generalized personality traits? I argue that personality is (1) the entirety of all personality traits that (2) capture individual differences in thoughts, feelings and behaviour that (3) are apparent in weak situations, and are (4) hierarchically organized. With that definition in mind, speaking of 'contextualized personality, beyond personality traits' appears as an oxymoron, a combination of contradictory words. Nevertheless, understanding variability across contexts remains important to, for example, understand processes of personality development. Copyright (C) 2015 European Association of Personality Psychology
There are enduring effects of early experience on neural function. Such effects are often referred to under the rubric of "developmental programming." This chapter reviews the emerging evidence for epigenetics as a candidate mechanism for such effects. Epigenetics refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in nucleotide sequence and focuses on the study chemical modifications to chromatin that regulate transcription at specific genomic sites. Environmental events can directly modify the epigenetic states. Studies with rodent models suggest that during both early development and in adult life, environmental signals activate intracellular pathways that directly remodel the "epigenome," leading to changes in gene expression and neural function. While essentially correlational, clinical studies implicate epigenetic mechanisms in the pathophysiology of human disease. These studies define a biological basis for the interplay between environmental signals and the genome in the regulation of individual differences in neural function.
The present study was a close replication of Hudson, Roberts, and Lodi-Smith (2012). Participants' personality traits and social investment in work were measured twice over three years. Latent change models were used to examine the associations among the intercepts (levels) and slopes (changes) for these variables. Results revealed that levels of all of the big five traits except openness were generally related to levels of social investment at work. Longitudinally, changes in social investment in work were generally associated with simultaneously co-occurring changes in only conscientiousness and agreeableness. Age did not moderate these correlated changes. Overall, the results directly replicated those of Hudson et al. (2012) and suggest that personality traits develop in concert with job experiences.
This article introduces the subjective side of quality of life as it has evolved within the discipline of psychology. Subjective well-being is also of special interest within medicine due to its links to pathology and the fact that it is managed by a homeostatic system. This form of management offers an explanation for the unusual properties of subjective well-being, including its normal positivity, stability, and nonlinear relationship to objective variables, such as physical health. Central to understanding is the proposition that subjective well-being mainly consists of a specific form of trait mood. This homeostatically protected mood has a genetic set point and it is the experience of this set-point mood that homeostasis is defending. The resources required to maintain normal homeostatic control are described. If these resources are inadequate to protect the experience of set-point mood, mood positivity falls, and there is a high probability of depression. In this article, the process of homeostasis is shown to assist understanding of intervention effectiveness within both psychology and medicine. This concerns matters of resilience, the nonlinear relationship between levels of subjective well-being, and the strength of challenging agents, and the important understanding that interventions designed to raise subjective well-being are critically dependent on its level at baseline. Key teaching points: • • The physiological process of homeostasis has a parallel in psychology in the homeostatic management of subjective well-being. • • Subjective well-being is a more globally informative construct than health-related quality of life. • • How people feel about themselves and their lives cannot be simply predicted through measures of health. • • When subjective well-being homeostasis is defeated, there is a high probability of depression.
In this book Frank Dumont presents current personality psychology with a fresh description of its current status as well as its prospects. Play, sex, cuisine, creativity, altruism, pets, grieving rituals, and other oft-neglected topics broaden the scope of this fascinating study. This tract is imbued with historical perspectives that reveal the continuity in the evolving science and research of this discipline over the past century. The author places classic schemas and constructs, as well as current principles, in the context of their socio-political catalysts. He further relates this study of the person to life-span developmental issues and to cultural, gender-specific, trait-based, genetic/epigenetic, and evolutionary research findings. Personality psychology has recently reconciled itself to more modest paradigms for describing, explaining, and predicting human behaviour than it generated in the 19th and 20th centuries. This book documents that transformation, providing valuable information for health-service professionals as well as to teachers, researchers, and scientists.