An “ideal empathizer” may attend to another person’s behavior in order to understand that person, but it is also possible that empathically accurate perceivers use top-down strategies to understand others. We hypothesized that perceivers draw on stereotypes to infer others’ thoughts, and that stereotype use increases accuracy. Perceivers (N = 161) inferred the thoughts of multiple targets. Inferences consistent with stereotypes for the targets’ group (new mothers) were more accurate, particularly when actual thought content was also stereotypic, suggesting that drawing upon valid stereotypes helps perceivers more accurately understand others’ thoughts. The study’s secondary goal was to decompose empathic accuracy variance into thought, target, and perceiver variance. Although past research frequently focused on variance between perceivers or targets (which assumes individual differences in ability to understand others or be understood, respectively), the current study found the most substantial variance was within targets due to differences among thoughts.
Some argue that there is an organic connection between being religious and being politically conservative. We evaluate an alternative thesis that the relation between religiosity and political conservatism largely results from engagement with political discourse that indicates that these characteristics go together. In a combined sample of national survey respondents from 1996-2008, religiosity was associated with conservative positions o n a wide range of attitudes and values among the highly politically engaged, but this association was generally weaker or nonexistent among those less engaged with politics. The specific political characteristics for which this pattern existed varied across ethno-religious groups. These results suggest that whether religiosity translates into political conservatism depends to an important degree on level of engagement with political discourse.
Srivastava, S., Guglielmo, S., & Beer, J. S. (2010). Perceiving others’ personalities: Examining the dimensionality, assumed similarity to the self, and stability of perceiver effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 520-534.
In interpersonal perception, “perceiver effects” are tendencies of perceivers to see other people in a particular way. Two studies of naturalistic interactions examined perceiver effects for personality traits: seeing a typical other as sympathetic or quarrelsome, responsible or careless, etc. Several basic questions were addressed. First, are perceiver effects organized as a global evaluative halo, or do perceptions of different traits vary in distinct ways? Second, does assumed similarity (as evidenced by self-perceiver correlations) reflect broad evaluative consistency or trait-specific content? Third, are perceiver effects a manifestation of stable beliefs about the generalized other, or do they form in specific contexts as group-specific stereotypes? Findings indicated that perceiver effects were better described by a differentiated, multidimensional structure with both trait-specific content and a higher-order global evaluation factor. Assumed similarity was at least partially attributable to trait-specific content, not just broad evaluative similarity between self and others. Perceiver effects were correlated with gender and attachment style; but in newly formed groups they became more stable over time, suggesting that they grew dynamically as group stereotypes. Implications for the interpretation of perceiver effects and for research on personality assessment and psychopathology are discussed.
Hirschberger, G., Marsh, P. A., Srivastava, S., Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. (2009). Attachment, marital satisfaction, and divorce in the first fifteen years of parenthood. Personal Relationships, 16, 401-420.
This study examines two overlapping longitudinal samples of U.S. couples with children, covering a period of 15 years after the first child’s birth. The first sample extended from the pregnancy with a first child until that child was 5.5 years old; the second from ages 4.5 to 14.5. Growth curve analyses revealed that marital satisfaction declined over 15 years for both husbands and wives. Attachment security measured in the second sample was associated with greater marital satisfaction, but did not buffer against declines in marital satisfaction over time. Husbands’ lower initial level of marital satisfaction measured around the first child’s transition to school was the only significant predictor of marital dissolution. The discussion emphasizes theoretical and practical implications of these findings.
Srivastava, S., Tamir, M., McGonigal, K. M., John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2009). The social costs of emotional suppression: A prospective study of the transition to college. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 883-897.
There is growing interest in understanding how emotion regulation affects adaptation. The present study examined expressive suppression (which involves inhibiting the overt expression of emotion) and how it affects one critical domain of adaptation, social functioning. This investigation focused on the transition to college, a time that presents a variety of emotional and social challenges. Analyses focused on two components of suppression: a stable component, representing individual differences expressed both before and after the transition; and a dynamic component, representing variance specific to the new college context. Both components of suppression predicted lower social support, less closeness to others, and lower social satisfaction. These findings were robustly corroborated across weekly experience reports, self-reports, and peer reports, and are consistent with a theoretical framework that defines emotion regulation as a dynamic process shaped by both stable person factors and environmental demands.
Srivastava, S., Angelo, K. M., & Vallereux, S. R. (2008). Extraversion and positive affect: A day reconstruction study of person-environment transactions. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1613-1618.
Extraversion is robustly correlated with positive affect, but the reasons for this correlation remain unclear. One possibility is that extraverts and introverts both enjoy interacting with others, but extraverts do so more frequently. Another possibility is that extraverts enjoy social interactions more. Both hypotheses were tested using the Day Reconstruction Method. Subjects reported on interactions with others and positive affect experienced during all of the episodes from a single day. Results were consistent with the first hypothesis: the relation between extraversion and positive affect was partially mediated by extraverts’ greater social participation. The findings support a transactional approach to personality, in which traits like extraversion are seen as styles of actively engaging with the environment.
Tamir, M., John, O. P., Srivastava, S., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Implicit theories of emotion: Affective and social outcomes across a major life transition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 731-744.
We demonstrate that people differ systematically in their implicit theories of emotion: Some view emotions as fixed (entity theorists) whereas others view emotions as more malleable (incremental theorists). Using a longitudinal and multi-method design, we show that implicit theories of emotion, as distinct from intelligence, are linked to both emotional and social adjustment during the transition to college. Before entering college, individuals who held entity (vs. incremental) theories of emotion had lower emotion regulation self-efficacy and made less use of cognitive reappraisal (Part 1). Throughout their first academic term, entity theorists of emotion had less favorable emotion experiences and received decreasing social support from their new friends, as evidenced by weekly diaries (Part 2). By the end of freshman year, entity theorists of emotion had lower well-being, greater depressive symptoms, and lower social adjustment as indicated in both self- and peer-reports (Part 3). The emotional, but not the social, outcomes were partially mediated by individual differences in emotion regulation self-efficacy (Part 4). Together, these studies demonstrate that implicit theories of emotion can have important long-term implications for socio-emotional functioning.
Anderson, C., Srivastava, S., Beer, J. S., Spataro, S. E., & Chatman, J. E. (2006). Knowing your place: Self-perceptions of status in social groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 1094-1110 .
Status is the prominence, respect, and influence individuals enjoy in the eyes of others. Theories of positive illusions suggest that individuals form overly positive perceptions of their status in face-to-face groups. In contrast, the authors argue that individuals’ perceptions of their status are highly accurate— that is, they closely match the group’s perception of their status— because forming overly positive status self-perceptions can damage individuals’ acceptance in a group. Therefore, the authors further argue that individuals are likely to refrain from status self-enhancement to maintain their belongingness in a group. Support for their hypotheses was found in 2 studies of status in face-to-face groups, using a social relations model approach (D. A. Kenny & L. La Voie, 1984). Individuals showed high accuracy in perceiving their status and even erred on the side of being overly humble. Moreover, enhancement in status self-perceptions was associated with lower levels of social acceptance.
Srivastava, S., McGonigal, K. M., Richards, J. M., Butler, E. A., & Gross, J. J. (2006). Optimism in close relationships: How seeing things in a positive light makes them so. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 143-153.
Does expecting positive outcomes – especially in important life domains such as relationships -- make these positive outcomes more likely? In a longitudinal study of dating couples, we tested whether optimists (who have a cognitive disposition to expect positive outcomes) and their romantic partners are more satisfied in their relationships, and if so, whether this is due to optimists perceiving greater support from their partners. In cross-sectional analyses, both optimists and their partners indicated greater relationship satisfaction, an effect that was mediated by optimists’ greater perceived support. When the couples engaged in a conflict conversation, optimists and their partners saw each other as engaging more constructively during the conflict, which in turn led both partners to feel that the conflict was better resolved one week later. In a one-year followup, men’s optimism predicted relationship status. Effects of optimism were mediated by the optimists’ perceived support, which appears to promote a variety of beneficial processes in romantic relationships.
Plaisant, O., Srivastava, S., Mendelsohn, G. A., Debray, Q., & John, O. P. (2005). Relations between the French version of the Big Five Inventory and the DSM classification in a French clinical sample of psychiatric disorders. Annales Médico Psychologiques, 163, 161-167.
The Big Five Inventory (BFI) was designed to provide researchers and clinicians with an efficient measure of individual differences on the so-called Big Five factors of normal personality: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience. The present article has two objectives: a) to introduce the BFI-Français, a French language version of the BFI; and b) to use the BFIFrançais to study the relations between normal personality traits and the DSM classification of psychiatric disorders. Three French samples (161 medical students, 200 hospital employees, 106 psychiatric inpatients) completed the 44-item BFI-Français. DSM-IV diagnoses were made for each inpatient. The psychometric data obtained from the combined French samples were compared to US and Spanish samples. Means, standard deviations, internal consistency reliabilities, and factor structure were similar in all samples; thus, the BFI-Français provides an efficient, psychometrically sound way to measure the five personality factors in French samples. As expected, scores on the BFI-Français were related systematically to DSM diagnoses on both Axis I and II. Findings were consistent with the recent literature; since past research has relied primarily on Anglo-American and non-clinical samples, the present findings contribute importantly to establishing the generality of the links between personality traits and DSM.
Srivastava, S., & Beer, J. S. (2005). How self-evaluations relate to being liked by others: Integrating sociometer and attachment perspectives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 966-977.
What is the relation between self-evaluation and being liked by others? Does being liked by others lead to more positive self-evaluations (as in sociometer theory), or do positive self-evaluations lead to being liked more (self-broadcasting)? Furthermore, what might affect the extent to which self-evaluations are influenced by likability (and vice versa)? The purpose of the present study was twofold. First, it used a naturalistic design to test the direction of the effect between social self-evaluations and others’ judgments of likability in real relationships. Second, it examined how individual differences in attachment avoidance and anxiety relate to self-evaluations and likability and whether attachment differences moderate the relation between the two. Social self-evaluations, actual interpersonal liking, and attachment were assessed in participants taking part in a longitudinal group study. The findings supported the sociometer theory: Being liked by others led to more positive self-evaluations. Both anxious and avoidant attachment predicted lower self-evaluations, and anxious attachment predicted stronger reactions to others’ liking (i.e., potentiated the sociometer). These findings have several implications for research on selfevaluation, adult attachment theory, and the importance of integrating interpersonal processes and individual differences.
Gosling, S. D., Vazire, S., Srivastava, S., & John, O. P. (2004). Should we trust Web-based studies? A comparative analysis of six preconceptions about Internet data. American Psychologist, 59, 93-104.
The rapid growth of the Internet provides a wealth of new research opportunities for psychologists. Internet data collection methods, with a focus on self-report questionnaires from self-selected samples, are evaluated and compared with traditional paper-and-pencil methods. Using a new large Internet sample (N=361,703) and 510 published traditional samples, comparisons focus on six preconceptions about Internet samples and data quality. Internet samples are shown to be relatively diverse with respect to sex, race, socioeconomic status, geographic region, and age. Moreover, Internet findings generalize across presentation formats, are not adversely affected by non-serious or repeat responders, and are consistent with findings from traditional methods. It is concluded that Internet methods can contribute to much, but not all, research in psychology.
Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2003). Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: Set like plaster or persistent change? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1041-1053.
Different theories make different predictions about how mean levels of personality traits change in adulthood. The biological view of the Five-factor theory proposes the plaster hypothesis: All personality traits stop changing by age 30. In contrast, contextualist perspectives propose that changes should be more varied and should persist throughout adulthood. This study compared these perspectives in a large (N=132,515) sample of adults aged 21-60 who completed a Big Five personality measure on the Internet. Conscientiousness and Agreeableness increased throughout early and middle adulthood at varying rates; Neuroticism declined among women but did not change among men. The variety in patterns of change suggests that the Big Five traits are complex phenomena subject to a variety of developmental influences.
Tested hypotheses (1) about personality characteristics associated with creative achievement and wisdom at midlife, (2) about personality antecedents and change in personality characteristics from ages 21-61 yrs, and (3) about kinds of career experience that add and combine differently with initial openness and complexity to predict creative achivement and wisdom in women. Women completed various measures at different times, including the California Psychological Inventory at each time point (N=141 at age 21, 99 at age 27, 108 at age 43, 105 at age 52, and 110 at age 61). Results show that in Q-sort descriptions, originality and ambition were particularly salient in creative individuals, whereas meaning-making and benevolence were salient in wise individuals. Inventory measures of openness, unconventionality, ambition, and autonomy at age 21 predicted creative achievement, and measures of openness and tolerance predicted wisdom. Creative achievers increased over time in social integration and wise women in status-awareness. A behavioral commitment (creative activity soon after college or psychotherapeutic or spiritual careers) added significantly to age 21 openness and complexity to predict the criteria of creative achievement and wisdom.
This study examined the development of individuals whose motivations and skills led them to develop in different but equally positive ways. C. D. Ryff's (1989) scales for Environmental Mastery (EM) and Personal Growth (PG) were used to identify three configurations of positive mental health in 111 women of the Mills Longitudinal Study: Achievers, high on both scales; Conservers, high on EM, low on PG; and Seekers, high on PG, low on EM. Each pattern showed a distinctive profile of strengths on four criteria of maturity--competence, generativity, ego development, and wisdom--and each was predicted by distinctive features of positive and negative emotionality, identity processes, and change in self-control across 31 years of adulthood. Identity at age 43 mediated the influence of personality at age 21 in predicting positive mental health pattern at age 60.
John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 102-138). New York: Guilford.
Reviews the history of the Big Five taxonomy of personality trait dimensions, including the discovery of the five dimensions (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness), research replicating and extending the model, its convergence with research in the questionnaire tradition, and the development of several instruments to measure the Big Five. The authors then compare three of the most frequently used instruments (P. T. Costa and R. R. McCrae's (1992) NEO Personality Inventory instruments, L. R. Goldberg's (1992) Trait Descriptive Adjectives, and O. P. John, E. M. Donohue, and B. L. Kentle's (1991) Big Five Inventory) and report data regarding their reliability and convergent validity. Finally, they address a number of critical issues, including how the Big Five taxonomy is structured hierarchically, whether the five dimensions predict important life outcomes, how they develop, how they combine into personality types, and whether they are descriptive or explanatory concepts.