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Concept: Neuroticism


Social competition is a fundamental mechanism of evolution and plays a central role in structuring individual interactions and communities. Little is known about the factors that affect individuals' competitive success, particularly in humans. Key factors might include stress, a major evolutionary pressure that can affect the establishment of social hierarchies in animals, and individuals' trait anxiety, which largely determines susceptibility to stress and constitutes an important determinant of differences in competitive outcomes. Using an economic-choice experiment to assess competitive self-confidence in 229 human subjects we found that, whereas competitive self-confidence is unaffected by an individual’s anxiety level in control conditions, exposure to the Trier social stress test for groups drives the behavior of individuals apart: low-anxiety individuals become overconfident, and high-anxiety individuals become underconfident. Cortisol responses to stress were found to relate to self-confidence, with the direction of the effects depending on trait anxiety. Our findings identify stress as a major regulator of individuals' competitiveness, affecting self-confidence in opposite directions in high and low anxious individuals. Therefore, our findings imply that stress may provide a new channel for generating social and economic inequality and, thus, not only be a consequence, but also a cause of inequality through its impact on competitive self-confidence and decision making in financially-relevant situations.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Neuroticism


This study explores listeners' experience of music-evoked sadness. Sadness is typically assumed to be undesirable and is therefore usually avoided in everyday life. Yet the question remains: Why do people seek and appreciate sadness in music? We present findings from an online survey with both Western and Eastern participants (N = 772). The survey investigates the rewarding aspects of music-evoked sadness, as well as the relative contribution of listener characteristics and situational factors to the appreciation of sad music. The survey also examines the different principles through which sadness is evoked by music, and their interaction with personality traits. Results show 4 different rewards of music-evoked sadness: reward of imagination, emotion regulation, empathy, and no “real-life” implications. Moreover, appreciation of sad music follows a mood-congruent fashion and is greater among individuals with high empathy and low emotional stability. Surprisingly, nostalgia rather than sadness is the most frequent emotion evoked by sad music. Correspondingly, memory was rated as the most important principle through which sadness is evoked. Finally, the trait empathy contributes to the evocation of sadness via contagion, appraisal, and by engaging social functions. The present findings indicate that emotional responses to sad music are multifaceted, are modulated by empathy, and are linked with a multidimensional experience of pleasure. These results were corroborated by a follow-up survey on happy music, which indicated differences between the emotional experiences resulting from listening to sad versus happy music. This is the first comprehensive survey of music-evoked sadness, revealing that listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation. Such beneficial emotional effects constitute the prime motivations for engaging with sad music in everyday life.

Concepts: Psychology, Personality psychology, Empathy, Emotion, Personal life, Neuroticism, Mood, Trait


INTRODUCTION: Susceptibility to pain varies among individuals and may predispose to a higher risk for pain disorders. Thus, it is of interest to investigate subjects who exhibit higher resistance to pain. We therefore tested pain tolerance and assessed personality traits of ultra-marathon athletes who are able to run 4487 km (2789 mi) over 64 days without resting days and compare the results to controls. METHODS: After approval of the local ethics committee and with informed consent, 11 participants of the TransEurope FootRace (TEFR09 participants) and 11 matched (age, sex, and ethnicity) controls without marathon experience in the last 5 years were enrolled. They were tested for cold pain tolerance (cold pressor [CP] test), and the 240 item trait and character inventory (TCI) as well as the general self-efficacy (GSE) test were obtained. RESULTS: TransEurope FootRace participants had a highly significant greater cold pain tolerance in the CP test than controls (P = 0.0002). While the GSE test showed no differences, the TCI test provided TEFR09 participants to be less cooperative and reward dependent but more spiritually transcendent than the controls. Significant positive correlations were found between the CP test pain score at 180 seconds and several TCI subscales showing that higher pain scores correlate with higher reward dependence, dependence, cooperativeness, empathy, and pure-hearted conscience. CONCLUSIONS: Personality profiles as well as pain tolerance of our sample of TEFR09 participants differ from normal controls and-as obtained in previous studies-probably also from chronic pain patients. Low pain perception may predispose a person to become a long-distance runner. It remains unclear, however, whether low pain perception is cause or consequence of continuous extreme training.

Concepts: Psychology, Informed consent, Personality psychology, Pain, Neuroticism, Chronic pain, Trait theory, Marathon


Personality is thought to affect obesity risk but before such information can be incorporated into prevention and intervention plans, robust and converging evidence concerning the most relevant personality traits is needed. We performed a meta-analysis based on individual-participant data from nine cohort studies to examine whether broad-level personality traits predict the development and persistence of obesity (n = 78,931 men and women; mean age 50 years). Personality was assessed using inventories of the Five-Factor Model (extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience). High conscientiousness - reflecting high self-control, orderliness and adherence to social norms - was associated with lower obesity risk across studies (pooled odds ratio [OR] = 0.84; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.80-0.88 per 1 standard deviation increment in conscientiousness). Over a mean follow-up of 5.4 years, conscientiousness predicted lower obesity risk in initially non-obese individuals (OR = 0.88, 95% CI = 0.85-0.92; n = 33,981) and was associated with greater likelihood of reversion to non-obese among initially obese individuals (OR = 1.08, 95% CI = 1.01-1.14; n = 9,657). Other personality traits were not associated with obesity in the pooled analysis, and there was substantial heterogeneity in the associations between studies. The findings indicate that conscientiousness may be the only broad-level personality trait of the Five-Factor Model that is consistently associated with obesity across populations.

Concepts: Psychology, Personality psychology, Neuroticism, Big Five personality traits, Trait theory, Personality traits, Psychoticism, Openness to experience


ObjectiveResearch has revealed an association between personality traits and health outcomes, and in multiple sclerosis (MS), there are preliminary data showing a correlation between personality traits and brain volume. We examined the general hypothesis that personality influences the relationship between gray matter volume (GMV) and cognitive/neuropsychiatric MS features.MethodsParticipants were 98 patients with MS who underwent magnetic resonance imaging and were tested with the Symbol Digit Modalities Test and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, the latter providing measures of depression and euphoria that can be characteristic of MS, that is, cheerful indifference and disinhibition. Personality traits were assessed with the NEO Five Factor Inventory. We examined the correlation between personality traits and both GMV and symptoms, and then modeled mediation and moderation influences on the relationships between GMV and cognitive/neuropsychiatric features.ResultsLinear regression modeling revealed that GMV (r = 0.54, p < .001) and NEO Five Factor Inventory low conscientiousness (r = 0.36, p = .001) were associated with cognitive function, but no mediator or moderator effects were observed. However, conscientiousness mediated the relationship between GMV and symptoms of euphoria (p = .002). The moderator analysis revealed a significant influence of high neuroticism on the GMV-euphoria relationship (p = .029).ConclusionsLow conscientiousness and high neuroticism are associated with neuropsychiatric complications in MS, and each influences the relationship between GMV and euphoria. The findings suggest that patients with low conscientiousness are at higher risk for MS-associated cognitive dysfunction and neuropsychiatric symptoms, a conclusion that has implications for the emerging role of personality in clinical neuroscience.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Personality psychology, Magnetic resonance imaging, Multiple sclerosis, Neuroticism, Big Five personality traits, Trait theory


Sandal, G. M. Bye, H. H. & Pallesen, S. (2012). Personality trait inferences of Turkish immigrant and neutral targets: An experimental study. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 53, 528-533. The study investigated whether personality traits attributed to immigrant targets differ from personality inferences made for a neutral target, and whether trait attributions differ for assimilated and integrated immigrant targets. Participants (n = 340) were randomized to one of three conditions in which they read the same story about a person, but where the person was described as either: (a) an assimilated Turkish immigrant; (b) an integrated Turkish immigrant; or © neutral (no nationality or religious practice indicated). Subsequently, they rated the personality of the described person on the NEO-Five Factor Inventory (observer rating version) and completed the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (Impression Management scale) with reference to themselves. Both immigrant targets were rated as significantly higher on extraversion and lower on neuroticism than the neutral target. The integrated target was rated as more open than the neutral target, and as higher than the assimilated target on neuroticism when controlling for impression management.

Concepts: Psychology, Personality psychology, Neuroticism, Big Five personality traits, Trait theory, Personality traits, 16 Personality Factors, Psychoticism


Stable personality traits have long been presumed to have biological substrates, although the evidence relating personality to biological stress reactivity is inconclusive. The present study examined, in a large middle aged cohort (N = 352), the relationship between key personality traits and both cortisol and cardiovascular reactions to acute psychological stress. Salivary cortisol and cardiovascular activity were measured at rest and in response to a psychological stress protocol comprising 5-minutes each of a Stroop task, mirror tracing, and a speech task. Participants subsequently completed the Big Five Inventory to assess neuroticism, agreeableness, openness to experience, extraversion, and conscientiousness. Those with higher neuroticism scores exhibited smaller cortisol and cardiovascular stress reactions, whereas participants who were less agreeable and less open had smaller cortisol and cardiac reactions to stress. These associations remained statistically significant following adjustment for a range of potential confounding variables. Thus, a negative personality disposition would appear to be linked to diminished stress reactivity. These findings further support a growing body of evidence which suggests that blunted stress reactivity may be maladaptive.

Concepts: Psychology, Personality psychology, Neuroticism, Big Five personality traits, Trait theory, Personality traits, Openness to experience, Agreeableness


The present study aimed to investigate Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) in a German student sample over a period of one year. While mean FAD level did not increase during the investigation period, a significant increase was shown in the number of participants reaching the critical cutoff score. FAD was significantly positively related to the personality trait narcissism and to negative mental health variables (depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms). Furthermore, FAD fully mediated the significant positive relationship between narcissism and stress symptoms, which demonstrates that narcissistic people can be specifically at risk to develop FAD. Present results give a first overview of FAD in Germany. Practical applications for future studies and limitations of present results are discussed.

Concepts: Present, Time, Psychology, Personality psychology, Future, Neuroticism, Narcissistic personality disorder, Trait theory


Higher cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with lower trait anxiety, but research has not examined whether fitness is associated with state anxiety levels and the interpretation of these symptoms. The aim of this paper was to (1) reexamine the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and general anxiety and (2) examine anxiety intensity and perceptions of these symptoms prior to an acute psychological stress task.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Symptoms, Cognition, Spanish language, Positive psychology, Neuroticism


Personality traits are stable predictors of many life outcomes that are associated with important decisions that involve tradeoffs over time. Therefore, a fundamental question is how tradeoffs over time vary from person to person in relation to stable personality traits. We investigated the influence of personality, as measured by the Five-Factor Model, on time preferences and on neural activity engaged by intertemporal choice. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), participants made choices between smaller-sooner and larger-later monetary rewards. For each participant, we estimated a constant-sensitivity discount function that dissociates impatience (devaluation of future consequences) from time sensitivity (consistency with rational, exponential discounting). Overall, higher neuroticism was associated with a relatively greater preference for immediate rewards and higher conscientiousness with a relatively greater preference for delayed rewards. Specifically, higher conscientiousness correlated positively with lower short-term impatience and more exponential time preferences, whereas higher neuroticism (lower emotional stability) correlated positively with higher short-term impatience and less exponential time preferences. Cognitive-control and reward brain regions were more activated when higher conscientiousness participants selected a smaller-sooner reward and, conversely, when higher neuroticism participants selected a larger-later reward. Both cases involved choices that went against predispositions implied by personality. These findings reveal that stable personality traits fundamentally influence how rewards are chosen over time.

Concepts: Psychology, Personality psychology, Magnetic resonance imaging, Choice, Neuroticism, Big Five personality traits, Exponential discounting, Temporal discounting