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Did my Personality Change Today? Within-person Variability and Carry-Over Effects of Young Adults’ Personality States

Former IDA student Flavia Chereches wrote her Master thesis under the co-supervision of Anne Reitz and Inga Schwabe and presented the topic at the graduation ceremony on September 24, 2022.

To understand long-term changes in young adults’ personality traits, theoretical notions suggest looking at momentary processes, such as personality states. Yet, surprisingly little is known about how personality states unfold in daily life of young adults. In this study, we used 14-days experience sampling data from 276 young adults (mean age 20.84 years) to document the extent of within-person variability relative to between-person variability in Big-5 personality states, the extent to which states carry over to subsequent states (i.e., carryover effects) and how much individuals differ in these carry-over effects. Results of multilevel models showed that out of the total variance in Big-5 states, a larger proportion could be explained by within-person variability, suggesting that young adults change their personality states from moment-to-moment. Results of two-level autoregressive models showed significant small to medium carry-over effects (around .18) for all personality states, suggesting that the previous state lingers, at least to a small degree, into the current state. Young adults also differed significantly in how much their states carried over to subsequent states: While some young adults’ current states were independent of the previous state (carryover effects close to 0), others’ states were more rigid and persistent in time (carry-over effects close to 1). Overall, our findings suggest that personality state change from momentto-moment, but there are also between-person differences in how fast personality states change. Future research should bridge these specific patterns of personality state dynamics with long-term changes in traits. 

Keywords: personality states, short-term dynamics, young adults, carry-over effects, within-person variability

Currently, Flavia is continuing her academic path as a PhD candidate at Tilburg University.

Congratulations, Flavia! We wish you the best of luck with your PhD!

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