Send to

Choose Destination
J Pers Soc Psychol. 2016 Feb;110(2):287-301. doi: 10.1037/a0039490. Epub 2015 Aug 17.

Are traits useful? Explaining trait manifestations as tools in the pursuit of goals.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Groningen.
Department of Psychology, Wake Forest University.


Traits and motivation mainly have been treated separately for almost a century. The purpose of these studies is to test the proposal that traits and motivation are intricately linked. Specifically, that 1 explanation for traits, at least in terms of their descriptiveness of what people actually do, is the goals people pursue. Study 1 used experience-sampling methodology to show that almost half the variance in extraversion and conscientiousness manifestation was explained by goal pursuit differences. Both why people enacted more of extraversion and/or conscientiousness than others, and why people enacted extraversion and/or conscientiousness at any given moment were explained by the goals people were pursuing at those moments. Study 2 used experimental methodology to show that extraversion and conscientiousness enactment was in fact caused by the goal pursuit. Study 3 employed observer ratings to show that the goal-dependent enactments of traits were observer-verified actual behaviors. In all 3 studies, different goals affected different traits discriminatively. Thus, these findings provided strong evidence for 1 explanation of traits, that they are useful for accomplishing goals. These findings provided 1 answer to long-standing questions about the conceptual relations between traits and motivation. And these findings clarified the meaning and nature of extraversion and conscientiousness by revealing part of what these traits are for.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Psychological Association Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center