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J Pers. 2002 Jun;70(3):345-84.

Life-satisfaction is a momentary judgment and a stable personality characteristic: the use of chronically accessible and stable sources.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Erindale College, Ontario, Canada.


Social cognition research indicates that life-satisfaction judgments are based on a selected set of relevant information that is accessible at the time of the life-satisfaction judgment. Personality research indicates that life-satisfaction judgments are quite stable over extended periods of time and predicted by personality traits. The present article integrates these two research traditions. We propose that people rely on the same sources to form repeated life-satisfaction judgments over time. Some of these sources (e.g., memories of emotional experiences, academic performance) provide stable information that explains the stability in life-satisfaction judgments. Second, we propose that the influence of personality traits on life satisfaction is mediated by the use of chronically accessible sources because traits produce stability of these sources. Most important, the influence of extraversion and neuroticism is mediated by use of memories of past emotional experiences. To test this model, participants repeatedly judged life-satisfaction over the course of a semester. After each assessment, participants reported sources that they used for these judgments. Changes in reported sources were related to changes in life-satisfaction judgments. A path model demonstrated that chronically accessible and stable sources are related to stable individual differences in life-satisfaction. Furthermore, the model supported the hypothesis that personality effects were mediated by chronically accessible and stable sources. In sum, the results are consistent with our theory that life-satisfaction judgments are based on chronically accessible sources.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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