Refining the Relationship between Personality and Subjective Well-Being

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American Psychological Association (APA)
Understanding subjective well-being (SWB) has historically been a core human endeavor and presently spans fields from management to mental health. Previous meta-analyses indicated that personality traits are one of the best predictors. Still, the results previously obtained indicate only a moderate relationship, weaker than several lines of reasoning suggests. This may be because of the commensurability problem, where researchers have grouped together substantively disparate measures in their analyses. We review and address this problem directly, focusing on individual measures of personality (e.g., the NEO) and categories of SWB (e.g., Life Satisfaction). In addition, we take a multivariate approaching, assessing how much variance personality traits account for individually as well as together. Results indicate that different personality and SWB scales can be substantively different and that the relationship between the two is typically much larger (e.g., four times) than previous meta-analyses indicate. Total SWB variance accounted for by personality can reach as high as 41% or 63% unattenuated. These results also speak meta-analysis in general and the need to account for scale differences once a sufficient research base has been generated.
This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record. This is a post-print file as per the journal publisher's requirements.
Steel, P., Schmidt, J., & Shultz, J. (2008). Refining the relationship between personality and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 134(1), 138-161.