Personality is dynamic and it matters:
The role of personality dynamics in
, Joeri Hofmans
, John Rauthmann
Although the dynamic nature of personality has long
been acknowledged (Allport, 1937), research on per-
sonality dynamics has recently gained momentum
helped by the development of methodological and
statistical tools that allow examining not only how
people think, feel and behave in general but also
how they fluctuate in their thoughts, feelings and
behaviours over time and across situations. These
developments have led to an increased interest in per-
sonality dynamics as a perspective that can help to
understand personality structure, processes and func-
tioning (Hofmans et al., 2019; Kuper et al., 2021;
Rauthmann, 2021). This dynamic approach to per-
sonality might be useful not only in more fundamen-
tal but also applied research on individual differences.
Unfortunately, however, these two fields have devel-
oped rather independently in the past, leaving a gap
between fundamental and more applied personality
research. In this special issue, we seek to bridge this
gap, drawing on the conviction that applied research
can benefit from recent advances in basic personality
science and that basic personality science can benefit
at least as much from applied research as well.
This special issue of the European Journal of
Personality brings together 11 papers that showcase
not only how personality dynamics advance our
understanding of behaviours in applied settings but
also how applied research can advance our under-
standing of personality dynamics. Across those con-
tributions, three themes emerge: (1) within-person
variability and its role in applied contexts, (2) stability
and change in personality and its relationship to spe-
cific experiences and/or different contexts and (3)
methodological advances in the study of personality
dynamics in applied settings.
The first theme in this special issue focusses on an
important question: Does within-person variability
matter in applied contexts? Although personality
research in organisational and educational settings
has typically focussed on the predictive validity of
stable, between-person differences, several papers in
this special issue show that (1) there are substantial
within-person fluctuations in personality constructs
and (2) these fluctuations are relevant to the predic-
tion of various organisational and educational out-
comes. Looking at momentary changes in
personality states, Beckmann et al. (2021) reported
evidence of stable individual differences in state-
level variability in neuroticism and conscientiousness,
with such individual differences in state-level variabil-
ity being observed in both laboratory and field con-
ditions across time. Focussing on the predictive
power of within-person variability, Vossen and
Hofmans (2021) examined associations between
within-person variability in conscientiousness
and core self-evaluations on the one hand and
Organisational Citizenship Behaviours (OCB) and
Counterproductive Work Behaviours (CWB) on the
other, showing that high levels of within-person var-
iability might be a liability in a work context. Shifting
the focus from prediction to explanation, the study of
oci et al. (2021) looked at personality dynamics at
work through an interpersonal lens. Zooming in on
leader-follower dyads, they found that across repeat-
ed interactions, leaders’ and followers’ state core self-
evaluations fluctuate ‘in sync’. Finally, Brandt et al.
(2021) focussed on long-term changes in personality
traits rather than momentary fluctuations in person-
ality states. They demonstrated that, over a 20-year
period, the dynamic interplay between personality
and motivation predicted objective and subjective
The second important question that this addressed
by several papers in the special issue is how specific
Leadership and Management, Amsterdam Business School,
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Work and Organizational Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel,
Differential Psychology, Personality and Psychological Assessment,
at Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany
Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent,
Joanna Sosnowska, Amsterdam Business School, University of
Amsterdam, Plantage Muidergracht 12, Amsterdam 1018 TV,
European Journal of Personality
2021, Vol. 35(4) 418–420
!The Author(s) 2021
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experiences and different contexts affect stability and
change in personality-related constructs. The papers
by Etzel and Nagy (2021) and Hanna et al. (2021)
looked at the dynamic processes underlying person-
environment fit. Etzel and Nagy (2021) examined sta-
bility and change in vocational interest profiles and
congruence based on longitudinal sample of trainees
in vocational education and training. Similarly,
Hanna et al. (2021) looked at mechanisms that drive
changes in interest congruence in young adults during
the transition from education to workforce. Both
papers showed that interest congruence increased
over time as a result of occupational selection (e.g.,
vocational training, education and work during
young adulthood), rather than socialisation – over
time people’s jobs become more like them rather
than people becoming more like their jobs. Shifting
the focus to how specific life events impact personal-
ity development, Zimmermann et al. (2021) looked
into international student mobility (ISM).
Interestingly, they found that the effects of ISM
aligned with maturation patterns and that these
patterns could not be explained by previous ISM
experiences, sociodemographic characteristics or
anticipation effects. Finally, Nu
¨bold et al. (2021)
investigated the impact of a structured mindfulness
intervention on personality states at work. Their
results showed an increase in daily emotional stability
and agreeableness after the intervention, which, in
turn, had an impact on daily job satisfaction and
The last noteworthy theme in this special issue
pertains to methodological advances for studying per-
sonality dynamics. Rebele et al. (2021) proposed a
classification of behaviour-change problems based
on personality (i.e., short- vs. long-term processes,
dispositional vs. counter-dispositional). Their frame-
work explores how key concepts and findings from
the personality dynamics literature can inform the
design and implementation of behaviour-change
interventions. Lang et al. (2021), in turn, provided a
typology of basic conceptualisations of dynamic indi-
vidual differences (e.g., variability, transition, acceler-
ation). Of particular interest to applied researchers is
that – in addition to proposing a new conceptual
framework – the paper also provides several tutorials
on how to formally test these concepts using the R
language. Finally, the work of Abrahams et al. (2021)
also made an important methodological contribution
by examining the dynamics between self- and other-
rated situation characteristics, personality traits and
personality states in an educational setting. Their
innovative, multi-rater experience sampling design
can inform future studies on the processes underlying
person-situations dynamics. As a set, the different
papers in this special issue showcase a wide variety
of statistical techniques and models suitable for exam-
ining dynamics, including various forms of latent
growth models (Hanna et al., 2021; Brandt et al.
¨bold et al., 2021; Zimmermann et al.,
2021), multilevel regression models (Abrahams
et al., 2021; D
oci et al., 2021) and indices of relative
variability (Vossen & Hofmans, 2021).
The purpose of this special issue is to encourage
both personality and applied researchers to consider
the relevance of the dynamics approach to personality
in applied settings. We are convinced that the articles
published in this issue provide diverse perspectives on
personality dynamics and processes in applied set-
tings and, by doing so, they advance our understand-
ing of how personality manifests and functions on a
fundamental level. We want to thank all contributing
authors (and the invited reviewers!) for their excellent
work, and we sincerely hope that their work opens up
new and exciting avenues to explore personality
dynamics in applied contexts.
Declaration of conflicting interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of
The author(s) received no financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
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