Contra-Trait Effort and Trait Stability: A Self-Regulatory Personality Process
Despite the considerable influence of situational factors and the resulting variability in behavior, individuals maintain stable average ways of acting. The purpose of the studies presented in this paper was to investigate one possible explanation of this trait stability. It is hypothesized that contra-trait behaviors, those that are different from typical trait levels, demand more effort, or self-control, than do trait-typical behaviors. In Study 1, participants reported on the trait content of their behavior along with several other variables. In Study 2, participants completed several tasks in the lab and were instructed to act at contra-trait or trait-typical levels of conscientiousness. Support for the contra-trait effort hypothesis was found in Study 1: Participants reported that contra-trait behavior was more effortful than trait-typical behavior. In addition, habitual contra-trait behaviors, which do not require self-control, were exempt from this effect. In Study 2, no support was found for contra-trait hypotheses: Participants generally did not rate contra-trait behaviors as more effortful, and subsequent behaviors were not affected by contra-trait behaviors. The implications of the findings and the possible explanations of the non-findings are discussed.
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