The Policy Relevance of Personality Traits

by Scott Barry Kaufman, December 25, 2019 in Study Alerts, Blog

The Policy Relevance of Personality Traits

Wiebke Bleidorn et al., in press at American Psychologist

Personality traits are powerful predictors of outcomes in the domains of education, work, relationships, health, and well-being. The recognized importance of personality traits has raised questions about their policy relevance – that is, their potential to inform policy actions designed to improve human welfare. Traditionally, the use of personality traits in applied settings has been predicated on their ability to predict valued outcomes, typically under the assumption that traits are functionally unchanging. This assumption, however, is both untrue and a limiting factor on using personality traits more widely in applied settings. In this paper, we present the case that traits can serve both as relatively stable predictors of success and actionable targets for policy changes and interventions. Though trait change will likely prove a more difficult target than typical targets in applied interventions, it also may be a more fruitful one given the variety of life domains affected by personality traits.

Public significance statement: This paper presents the case that personality traits can serve both as predictors of success and actionable targets for policy changes and interventions. The field of personality psychology has now amassed evidence necessary to address the policy relevance of personality traits. To that end, we pose and answer critical questions regarding personality traits and their applicability for policy initiatives in applied settings.

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