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The double negative: Personality differentially predicts sensitivity to need support and thwarting, and subsequent behavioural response planning

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Emily OliverORCiD


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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Research extending self-determination theory (SDT) recognises that individual differences alter responses to basic psychological need thwarting or supportive environments. Here, two underlying pathways were proposed and tested, namely whether personality alters: (i) sensitivity to support or thwarting, and/or (ii) more or less adaptive responses to experienced satisfaction or frustration. We also examined whether the influence of personality was stronger as conditions became more unfavourable. The model was tested then replicated, in two different populations. Undergraduate students (N = 177; Mage = 19.63) and retired older adults (N = 117; Mage = 66.28) completed self-report personality questionnaires and responded to a series of SDT-informed vignettes tailored to, and standardised within, each sample context. In both samples hypothesised associations supported both a sensitivity and response pathway. Extraversion and conscientiousness positively predicted adaptive responses, and extraversion and openness (negatively) and neuroticism (positively) maladaptive responses. Moderated regressions provided some evidence that the influence of personality was stronger when more need frustration was experienced (i.e., when conditions were more unfavourable). These findings have important implications for interventions promoting psychological health; targeted rather than universal approaches are required to identify and support those with trait-linked vulnerabilities to perceiving environments as less favourable.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Thomas LB, Fadeeva A, Oliver EJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Personality and Individual Differences

Year: 2020

Volume: 156

Online publication date: 16/12/2019

Acceptance date: 05/12/2019

ISSN (print): 0191-8869

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2019.109767


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