URC

Using Personality Profiles and Gender to Predict Affect

Chelsey L. VanDyke
Jonathan S. Gore*
Eastern Kentucky University

Abstract

Despite the abundance of research examining the association between personality traits and affect, few researchers have examined personality profiles. The hypotheses tested in this study examined how gender, extraversion, and neuroticism interact to predict positive and negative affect. Participants (n = 2,542) completed personality and mood surveys online. Bivariate correlation analyses and hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted to analyze the data. Results supported previous findings about the correlation between neuroticism, extraversion, and negative and positive affect, and people who are high on extraversion and high on neuroticism experienced the most affect variability. The correlation of extraversion and positive affect was stronger among men than women. The three-way interaction between gender, extraversion, and neuroticism showed that neuroticism is most strongly related to negative affect for men who are low in extraversion. These findings are important because they show the importance of accounting for personality profiles when predicting affect.

Introduction

Emotions, moods, and affect are important in people's daily lives. Moods are defined as emotions that last for a longer period of time (Davidson, 1984), whereas affect may be considered a trait level version of mood. In the past, researchers have typically examined personality traits as predictors of affect, but little research has examined the role of personality profiles (i.e., the interaction of personality traits) in predicting affect. The current study examines how personality profiles relate to affect. Specifically, we have three goals in this study: (a) to examine how personality profiles (the interaction of extraversion and neuroticism) predict affect; (b) to examine how gender moderates the correlation between personality and affect; and (c) to examine how gender moderates the relation between personality profiles and affect.

A lot of the variance in mood states are influenced by affect, specifically positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) (Meites, Lovallo, & Pishkin, 1980; Meyer & Shack, 1989; Watson & Tellegen, 1985). The PA dimension includes emotions such as excitement, activeness, being elated, enthusiastic, peppy, joyful, interested, confident, and alert (Watson & Clark, 1992; Watson & Tellegen, 1985). The NA dimension includes emotions such as distress, fear, jitters, nervousness, hostility, scorn, anger, sadness, guilt, contempt, and disgust (Watson & Clark, 1992; Watson & Tellegen, 1985). The likelihood of a person experiencing PA or NA depends in large part upon their personality. The two personality traits most often recognized as being associated with affect and temperament are extraversion and neuroticism.

Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Mood

Personality researchers have discovered five distinguishable personality factors. These Big 5 factors of personality include extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness (Costa & McCrae, 1992; Goldberg, 1993; Pervin & John, 1999). The Big 5 factors are named that because each dimension summarizes a large number of more specific personality traits (Pervin & John, 1999). Two of the Big 5, extraversion and neuroticism, will be the focus in the current study. Extraversion is composed of personality traits such as being assertive, active, talkative, and warm (Costa & McCrae, 1992; Goldberg, 1993). In contrast, neuroticism is composed of personality traits such as being anxious, hostile, impulsive, self-conscious, nervous, and moody (Costa & McCrae, 1992; Goldberg, 1993). Every individual can be characterized by their levels of extraversion and neuroticism, which is why examining the consequences of these levels on outcomes such as affect is important.

Personality accounts for over 30 percent of the variance in mood (Hepburn & Eysenck, 1989), and a significant amount of that variance is attributable to extraversion and neuroticism. Specifically, extraversion tends to be positively associated with PA, whereas neuroticism tends to be positively associated with NA (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Emmons & Diener, 1986; Watson & Clark, 1984; Tellegen, 1985; Watson & Tellegen, 1985). People who are high on extraversion maintain positive emotions (Ng & Diener, 2009) and keep experiencing a positive mood most of the day (David, Green, & Suls, 1997). This is because extraversion is related to functional emotional coping styles that include rational action and positive thinking (McCrae & Costa, 1986), as well as interpreting and regulating emotions (Ciarrochi, Chan, & Caputi, 2000). People high on extraversion can maintain their good moods and turn their negative moods to positive moods.

Unlike extraversion, neuroticism is associated with increased negative emotions and decreased tendencies to repair those negative emotions (Ng & Diener, 2009). This shows that people high on neuroticism have maladaptive coping strategies when it comes to their emotions (Parkes, 1986; Soldz & Vaillant, 1999). Neuroticism also predisposes people to experience more negative events (David, Green, Martin & Suls, 1997), which is due in part to them already being in a negative mood and not repairing it.

Despite the amount of research examining these two personality factors and their association with mood, there are some unanswered questions. The most important question stems from the fact that everyone has a set level of both extraversion and neuroticism; each person has a profile depending on levels of both traits. Some people are high on both, some people are low on both, and some exhibit high levels of one and low levels on the other. What are the consequences of these combinations, and how can evaluating personality as a profile help us better understand the expression of affect? The following section outlines some of the ways in which personality profiles are associated with the expression of affect and some of the areas that need further investigation.

Personality Profiles

Personality profiles involve looking at the personality traits such as extraversion and neuroticism and seeing how they interact. Interactions between extraversion and neuroticism traits occur in four different personality profiles. The first profile involves people high in extraversion and low in neuroticism. People with this type of profile have a more stable mood than people high in neuroticism and low in extraversion (Williams, 1990).  Since extraversion is associated with PA, people with this profile usually experience a positive mood (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985; Williams, 1990), whereas their low neuroticism leads to less NA.

The next profile includes those who are low in extraversion and high in neuroticism. Neurotic introverts tend to be unhappy individuals (Williams, 1990) and report less PA than all other personality profiles (McFatter, 1994). It is easy to predict the affect of people who are high in extraversion and low in neuroticism and also those who are low in extraversion and high in neuroticism, because they are relatively stable in terms of maintaining positive and negative affect (Williams, 1990).

The third profile includes people low on extraversion and also low on neuroticism.  These people are seldom depressed, but seldom elated (Costa & McCrae, 1980). Stable introverts rarely experience either PA or NA, but they show higher depression peaks and averages than stable extraverts (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985). Affect is harder to predict among people with this personality profile because it is hard to tell when they are going to experience PA or NA.

The fourth profile includes people high on extraversion and high on neuroticism. They have been found to have the greatest overall mood variability because they vary between the extremes of high PA and NA (Costa & McCrae, 1980). They also are prone to impulsive behavior that could lead to experiencing more NA than PA (McFatter, 1994). Moods are also harder to predict using this personality profile because they experience so much mood variability.

Gender and Personality Profiles

Despite the importance of considering the interaction of traits rather than single traits when predicting affect, there have been very few studies conducted on personality profiles and affect. Gender is another aspect of one’s profile that can also influence the expression of positive and negative affect, but very little has been done regarding the role that gender plays within these profiles. The following section outlines some untested predictions regarding how gender moderates the degree to which personality profiles are associated with mood. Because there are gender differences for personality traits and affect, gender is an important factor in personality, because the influence of the profile will be different for men and women. Women tend to score higher on neuroticism (Goodwin & Gotlib, 2004; Heaven & Shochet, 1995; Lippa, 2010), which leads them to experience more NA than men (Arnten, Jansson, & Archer, 2008; Fujita, Diener, & Sandvik, 1991; Karlsson & Archer, 2007). Although women experience more NA than men, neuroticism is also related to a reduction in the attempt to repair, dampen, or maintain emotions, especially in men (Kokkonen & Pulkkinen, 2001). Women repair their negative emotions more than men; therefore men should have a stronger correlation between neuroticism and negative affect than women.

Women also experience more emotional reactivity to daily events (Almeida & Kessler, 1998; Mohr, Armeli, Ohannessian, Tennen, Carney, Affleck, & Del Boca, 2003). Previous research has shown that individuals higher in neuroticism react more strongly to events and stimuli (Longua, DeHart, Tennen, & Armeli, 2009). This may lead to the conclusion that women’s affect has less to do with personality traits and more to do with the daily events they experience. Therefore, interactions between neuroticism and extraversion should show a stronger correlation among men than among women. The current study examines 2-way and 3-way interactions between neuroticism, extraversion, and gender, some of which have not been examined before. The results will provide us with new knowledge about personality profiles linked to positive and negative affect as well as affect variability.

This study is important because it examines combinations of traits, unlike previous research that usually only examines traits separately. It is important to examine traits in combinations because personality is better understood in terms of profiles than in terms of single traits. Traits interact to produce variability in affect, moods, and emotions; so only examining one trait is not enough to predict overall affect. Gender, another individual difference component to consider in a personality profile, can also interact with personality traits to influence levels of affect. As men’s affect is based upon internal states more so than women, their personality traits will likely influence their affect more so than for women. Taken together, these lead us to the hypotheses of this study:

  • Hypothesis #1: There will be a positive association between neuroticism and negative affect.
  • Hypothesis #2: There will be a positive association between extraversion and positive affect.
  • Hypothesis #3: People low on extraversion and high on neuroticism will experience the most negative affect.
  • Hypothesis #4: people high on extraversion and low on neuroticism will experience the most positive affect.
  • Hypothesis #5: People high on extraversion and high on neuroticism experience the most affect variability.
  • Hypothesis #6: Men will have a stronger association between neuroticism and negative affect than women.
  • Hypothesis #7: Men will have a stronger association between extraversion and positive affect than women.
  • Hypothesis #8: The extraversion and neuroticism interaction will be stronger among men than among women when pertaining to negative affect.
  • Hypothesis #9: The extraversion and neuroticism interaction will be stronger among men than among women when pertaining to positive affect.
  • Hypothesis #10: The extraversion and neuroticism interaction will be stronger among men than among women when pertaining to affect variability. 

Method

Participants

There were 2,542 participants (651 men, 1,548 women, 343 unspecified), who were undergraduate students at a Midsouth university enrolled in introductory psychology courses. The participants of this study all gave their consent by signing up for the study and then following through with participation. They completed questionnaires online pertaining to personality, affect, and gender and were informed that they could stop the study at any time.  Participants received course credit for psychology classes.

Materials

Big Five Personality Traits. To assess participants’ Big Five personality traits, participants completed a 25-item version of the Big 5 personality measure (John, 1989; Cronbach’s α = .73 for extraversion, α = .78 for neuroticism). Participants rated single words or phrases (e.g., affectionate, competitive, etc.) based on how self-descriptive they were on a 5-point scale (1 = not at all descriptive of me, 5 = extremely descriptive of me). This measure was used because of its brevity and ease in assessing traits.

Positive Affect, Negative Affect and Affect Variability. The 20-item Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988; Cronbach’s α = .86 for positive affect, α = .84 for negative affect) was used to measure participants’ tendencies to experience positive feelings (e.g., “attentive”) and negative feelings (e.g., “anxious”). Participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they experienced the feelings using a 5-point scale (1 = not at all, 5 = very much). Separate scores were created for Positive Affect and Negative Affect. The scores for Affect Variability were created by multiplying each participant’s Positive Affect score with the Negative Affect score.

Gender. Participants indicated their gender by selecting male or female. 

Results

Associations between Personality Traits and Affect

To test the hypotheses that neuroticism would be positively associated with negative affect and extraversion would be positively associated with positive affect, bivariate correlation analyses were conducted. Neuroticism was found to be positively associated with negative affect (r = .54, p < .01) and extraversion was found to be positively associated with positive affect (r = .54, p <.01), which supported Hypotheses # 1 and #2.

Extraversion X Neuroticism Interactions on Affect

To test the hypothesis that people low on extraversion and high on neuroticism would experience the most negative affect, a hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted with Negative Affect as the dependent variable, and the centered Extraversion and Neuroticism scores and their interaction term as the independent variables. The results showed a significant interaction effect (α = -.03, p = .05). Simple slopes analysis showed that the relation between negative affect and neuroticism was stronger at low levels of extraversion (α = .55, p < .01) than at high levels of extraversion (α = .51, p < .01). This supported Hypothesis #3.

To test the hypothesis that people high on extraversion and low on neuroticism experience the most positive affect, a hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted with Positive Affect as the dependent variable, and the centered Extraversion and Neuroticism scores and their interaction term being the independent variables. The interaction effect was not significant; therefore Hypothesis #4 was not supported.

To test the hypothesis that people high on extraversion and high on neuroticism experience the most affect variability, a hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted with Affect Variability as the dependent variable, and the centered extraversion and neuroticism scores and their interaction term being the independent variables. The results showed a significant interaction effect (α = .03, p < .05). Simple slopes analysis showed that the relation between Neuroticism and Affect Variability was stronger at high levels of Extraversion (α = .49, p < .01) than at low levels of Extraversion (α = .45, p < .01), which supported Hypothesis #5.

Gender X Personality Interactions on Affect

To test the hypothesis that men have a stronger association between neuroticism and negative affect than women, a hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted. The dependent variable was Negative Affect and the independent variables were Gender and Neuroticism and their interaction term. The interaction was not significant (α = .00, ns). Therefore, Hypothesis #6 was not supported.   
To test the hypothesis that men have a stronger association between extraversion and positive affect than women, a hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted. The dependent variable was Positive Affect. The independent variables were Gender and Extraversion and their interaction term. The interaction was significant (α = -.07, p < .05). Simple slope analysis showed that men had a stronger association between Extraversion and Positive Affect (α = .60, p < .01) than women (α = .53, p < .01). Therefore, Hypothesis #7 was supported.   

Extraversion X Neuroticism X Gender Interactions on Affect

To test the hypothesis that the extraversion and neuroticism interaction is stronger among men than among women on negative affect, a hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted with Negative Affect as the dependent variable and Gender, the centered Extraversion scores, centered Neuroticism scores, all two-way interaction terms and the three-way interaction term being the independent variables. The results showed a significant three-way interaction effect (α = .06, p < .05). Follow-up analyses were conducted by testing the Extraversion X Neuroticism effect for each gender group. The interaction between Extraversion and Neuroticism on Negative Affect was significant for men (α = -.09, p < .01), but not for women (α = -.01, ns). Simple slopes analysis revealed that, for men, the relation between Neuroticism and Negative Affect at low levels of Extraversion was stronger (α = .61, p < .01) than the relationship between Neuroticism and Negative Affect at high levels of Extraversion (α = .50, p < .01). This supported Hypothesis #8.
To test the hypotheses that the extraversion and neuroticism interaction will have a stronger effect on positive affect and affect variability among men than among women, two hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted. The dependent variables were Positive Affect for the first hypothesis and Affect Variability for the second hypothesis. The independent variables were Gender, centered Extraversion, centered Neuroticism, all two-way interaction terms, and the three-way interaction term. Neither of the interaction effects was significant (α = -.04 and .03, ns). Therefore, Hypotheses #9 and #10 were not supported.

Discussion

Four of the hypotheses of this study were supported, some replicated past studies whereas others expanded upon them. Results showed that people who are high on neuroticism experience negative affect and that people who are high on extraversion experience positive affect. This replicated and confirmed previous research that showed extraversion is correlated with PA and neuroticism is correlated with NA (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Emmons & Diener, 1986; Watson & Clark, 1984; Tellegen, 1985; Watson & Tellegen, 1985).

We found that people who are low on extraversion and high on neuroticism experience the most negative affect. This supports Williams (1990) when he found that neurotic introverts were the least happy individuals. People with this profile experience emotions such as distress, fear, jitters, nervousness, and hostility, but they do not experience many positive emotions, which can make them unhappy people. In addition, we found that people who are high on both extraversion and neuroticism experienced the most mood variability. These findings also confirm previous research by Costa and McCrae (1980), which showed that people high on both extraversion and neuroticism experience the most mood variability because they experience both PA and NA.  

Finding that men have a stronger association between extraversion and positive affect than women has not been shown before in past research. Research has previously shown the correlation between extraversion and positive affect (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Emmons & Diener, 1986; Watson & Clark, 1984; Tellegen, 1985; Watson & Tellegen, 1985), but the current study added the variable of gender. It is now known that men lower on extraversion experience less PA than women low on extraversion, and also that men higher on extraversion experience more PA than women high on extraversion. This is likely due to women basing their mood more so on daily events than men, suggesting that men’s moods may be based on internal states and temperament rather than on situational cues.

Showing that neuroticism is most strongly related to negative affect for men who are low in extraversion was also a new finding. This showed a new personality profile interaction between men, extraversion, neuroticism, and negative affect. This finding may be explained by men not trying to repair their emotions when they are high on neuroticism (Kokkonen & Pulkkinen, 2001), therefore experiencing more negative affect. Since these men are also low in extraversion, they are not going to experience much PA.

Limitations and Future Directions

There were a few limitations to the current study. Self-report data were used in this study, which could have caused inaccuracy in responses. Participants may have engaged in a social desirability bias, and they may have also answered differently to certain questions on different days, depending on their current mood. Since a person who is high on both extraversion and neuroticism experience a lot of mood variability, they may have answered the survey questions by the way they were feeling at the time. This also raises concerns for the women, who are more likely than men to base their mood on daily events. With the higher number of women completing the measures than men (women were about 60% of the total sample), this adds to the concerns of this study.

Another limitation was that the affect, neuroticism, and extraversion scales did not include a lot of items. Having more items in the scales may have created a more thorough profile. Adding more descriptive words for each category would have produced a better description of the participant’s traits, which would have led to a more accurate personality profile. The last limitation is that a causal direction cannot be determined because this is a correlational study. It is inconclusive from our results if personality factors cause negative or positive affect or if the expression of mood leads to the expression of personality traits.

Future research should investigate the reasons why men have a stronger association between extraversion and positive affect than women and also find out what positive affect traits are the same or different between genders. Interviews could be conducted asking which traits men and women feel on average and can be compared to each other. This would help researchers better understand gender differences pertaining to positive affect. Future research should also investigate the other Big 5 personality factors that were not studied. This would lead to a more complete understanding of how personality profiles and gender interact to predict mood as well as other important outcomes.

Implications

This study contributes several new ideas to the literature on the link between personality and affect. The influence of personality traits on mood and affect is usually examined as if each trait functions independently from one another (e.g., David et al., 1997; Horwitz, Luong, & Charles, 2008; Longua et al., 2009). We have shown that it is important to consider not only the individual traits, but also their interactions, to fully understand the expression of positive and negative affect. To date, no one has examined these associations nor the role that gender has in these associations.

Extraversion and positive affect have been shown multiple times to be positively correlated. The current study found that men who are low on extraversion experience less PA than women who are low on extraversion and that men who are high on extraversion experience more PA than women who are high on extraversion. Showing that the extraversion and positive affect correlation is stronger among men than among women suggests that accounting for personality profiles, rather than individual traits, provides a richer understanding of the expression of affect.

It has also been shown in previous research that neuroticism is related to negative affect. The current study also took that further and factored in gender and extraversion. The results showed that neuroticism is most strongly related to negative affect for men who are low in extraversion. Men who are high on neuroticism and low on extraversion experience the most NA and men who are low on neuroticism and high on extraversion experience very little NA. Men who are low on both neuroticism and extraversion experience a little more NA than those low on neuroticism and high on extraversion, and men who are high on both neuroticism and extraversion experience the second most NA. These results provide further insight into the influence of gender and personality profiles in predicting mood. 

The results of this study can be used in mental health counseling. If men are extraverted, they will be more likely to experience more positive affect than women who are also extraverted. This may suggest a gender difference in experiencing positive emotions. If men experience more positive affect, they may be happier than women. McCrae and Costa (1991) suggest that people who differ on the traits of neuroticism and extraversion should have more specialized treatment in counseling. The results of our study suggest that it would be more effective for women and men to receive specialized treatments in counseling based on their personality profile. It is easier to predict moods based off of personality than from daily experiences since personality traits and what moods they experience are becoming more clearly defined. Since women experience more emotional reactivity to daily events than men (Almeida & Kessler, 1998; Mohr, Armeli, Ohannessian, Tennen, Carney, Affleck, & Del Boca, 2003), men’s moods should be easier to predict than women’s because they are being based off personality. When clinicians have a highly neurotic, introverted male client, they would know that he is likely experiencing more negative moods than other clients. The psychologist could focus on helping the male understand and repair his emotions and turn them into more positive ones.

Conclusion

Our study examined the role of personality profiles in predicting mood and found important interactions among extraversion and neuroticism in predicting both negative affect and affect variability. It also added new findings to the literature about personality and affect by including gender as a part of the profile. The results showed that men have a stronger association between extraversion and positive affect than women and that neuroticism is most strongly related to negative affect for men who are low in extraversion. Using the new personality profiles and the results of gender differences, mental health counseling could improve for people significantly by using more focused techniques. This would lead to improved mental health that would lead people toward happier life. 

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