Neuroticism may not reflect emotional variability
AuthorKalokerinos, EK; Murphy, SC; Koval, P; Bailen, NH; Crombez, G; Hollenstein, T; Gleeson, J; Thompson, RJ; Van Ryckeghem, DML; Kuppens, P; ...
Source TitleProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA
PublisherNATL ACAD SCIENCES
University of Melbourne Author/sBastian, Brock; Koval, Peter; Murphy, Sean; Kalokerinos, Elise; Gleeson, John
AffiliationCentre for Youth Mental Health
Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsKalokerinos, E. K., Murphy, S. C., Koval, P., Bailen, N. H., Crombez, G., Hollenstein, T., Gleeson, J., Thompson, R. J., Van Ryckeghem, D. M. L., Kuppens, P. & Bastian, B. (2020). Neuroticism may not reflect emotional variability. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 117 (17), pp.9270-9276. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1919934117.
Access StatusAccess this item via the Open Access location
Open Access URLPublished version
Neuroticism is one of the major traits describing human personality, and a predictor of mental and physical disorders with profound public health significance. Individual differences in emotional variability are thought to reflect the core of neuroticism. However, the empirical relation between emotional variability and neuroticism may be partially the result of a measurement artifact reflecting neuroticism's relation with higher mean levels-rather than greater variability-of negative emotion. When emotional intensity is measured using bounded scales, there is a dependency between variability and mean levels: at low (or high) intensity, it is impossible to demonstrate high variability. As neuroticism is positively associated with mean levels of negative emotion, this may account for the relation between neuroticism and emotional variability. In a metaanalysis of 11 studies (N = 1,205 participants; 83,411 observations), we tested whether the association between neuroticism and negative emotional variability was clouded by a dependency between variability and the mean. We found a medium-sized positive association between neuroticism and negative emotional variability, but, when using a relative variability index to correct for mean negative emotion, this association disappeared. This indicated that neuroticism was associated with experiencing more intense, but not more variable, negative emotions. Our findings call into question theory, measurement scales, and data suggesting that emotional variability is central to neuroticism. In doing so, they provide a revisionary perspective for understanding how this individual difference may predispose to mental and physical disorders.
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