Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 464
Personality traits/moods/states/social psychology/Robinson/Sedikides: We suggest that conflicts between trait and state sources of self-knowledge are likely to be problematic. From the self-verification perspective, people desire trait-consistent mood states in part because such states are more frequent in daily life and therefore more conducive to habitual ways of interacting with the world (Swann and Schroeder 1995)(1).
Therefore, trait-inconsistent mood states may engender some degree of uncertainty and confusion, in turn disrupting established routines for appraising the significance of momentary events. In support of such a framework, trait-state mismatches, whether related to Extraversion and positive mood (Tamir, Robinson and Clore 2002)(2) or Neuroticism and negative mood (Tamir and Robinson 2004)(3), have been shown to undermine appraisal abilities, defined in terms of slowed reaction times in evaluating affective stimuli.
Moreover, we have suggested that people generally prefer to make their emotion judgments on the basis of state-related knowledge to the extent possible (Robinson and Clore 2002b)(4). However, when such knowledge is less accessible, we have suggested that individuals may ‘default’ to their more generalized beliefs concerning the self, and a large body of research at least inferentially supports this prediction (Robinson and Clore 2002a)(5). If we are correct, individuals who are less capable of appraising the significance of momentary events should report emotional states that are more biased by their emotional traits. E.g.,

Neuroticism/distress relations are higher among individuals:
(a) less capable of making momentary distinctions between threatening and non-threatening stimuli (Tamir, Robinson and Solberg 2006)(6);
(b) higher in cognitive perseveration tendencies (Robinson, Wilkowski, Kirkeby and Meier 2006)(7);
(c) higher in dominant-response tendencies (Robinson, Goetz, Wilkowski and Hoffman 2006)(8);
(d) slower in reaction time (Robinson and Clore2007)(9);
(e) higher in reaction time variability (Robinson, Wilkowski and Meier 2006)(10); and
(f) lower in self-regulation capacity (Robinson, Ode, Wilkowski and Amodio 2007)(11).

Trait Neuroticism, then, appears to play an important ‘fill in’ role among individuals less capable of appreciating the nuances of moment-to-moment experience (Robinson and Clore 2007)(9). The implications of this research
Corr I 465
are notable. Traits are not inevitable predictors of emotion and behaviour in daily functioning. Rather, their influence on such outcomes depends on the extent to which the individual is attuned to the nuances of daily life.


1. Swann, W. B. and Schroeder, D. G. 1995. The search for beauty and truth: a framework for understanding reactions to evaluations, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 21: 1307–18
2. Tamir, M., Robinson, M. D. and Clore, G. L. 2002. The epistemic benefits of trait-consistent mood states: an analysis of Extraversion and mood, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 83: 663–77
3. Tamir, M. and Robinson, M. D. 2004. Knowing good from bad: the paradox of Neuroticism, negative affect, and evaluative processing, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 87: 913–25
4. Robinson, M. D. and Clore, G. L. 2002b. Episodic and semantic knowledge in emotional self-report: evidence for two judgment processes, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 83: 198–215
5. Robinson, M. D. and Clore, G. L. 2002a. Belief and feeling: an accessibility model of emotional self-report, Psychological Bulletin 128: 934–60
6. Tamir, M., Robinson, M. D. and Solberg, E. C. 2006. You may worry, but can you recognize threats when you see them?: Neuroticism, threat identifications, and negative affect, Journal of Personality 74: 1481–1506
7. Robinson, M. D., Wilkowski, B. M., Kirkeby, B. S. and Meier, B. P. 2006. Stuck in a rut: perseverative response tendencies and the Neuroticism/distress relationship, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 135: 78–91
8. Robinson, M. D., Goetz, M. C., Wilkowski, B. M. and Hoffman, S. J. 2006. Driven to tears or to joy: response dominance and trait-based predictions, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 32: 629–40
9. Robinson, M. D. and Clore, G. L. 2007. Traits, states, and encoding speed: support for a top-down view of neuroticism/stress relations, Journal of Personality 75: 95–120
10. Robinson, M. D., Wilkowski, B. M. and Meier, B. P. 2006. Unstable in more ways than one: reaction time variability and the Neuroticism/distress relationship, Journal of Personality74: 311–43
11. Robinson, M. D., Ode, S., Wilkowski, B. M. and Amodio, D. M. 2007. Neurotic contentment: a self-regulation view of Neuroticism-linked distress, Emotion 7: 579–91


Michael D. Robinson and Constantine Sedikides, “Traits and the self: toward an integration”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

EconRobin I
James A. Robinson
James A. Acemoglu
Why nations fail. The origins of power, prosperity, and poverty New York 2012

Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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