The ability of personality traits to predict important life outcomes has traditionally been questioned because of the putative small effects of personality. In this article, we compare the predictive validity of personality traits with that of socioeconomic status (SES) and cognitive ability to test the relative contribution of personality traits to predictions of three critical outcomes: mortality, divorce, and occupational attainment. Only evidence from prospective longitudinal studies was considered. In addition, an attempt was made to limit the review to studies that controlled for important background factors. Results showed that the magnitude of the effects of personality traits on mortality, divorce, and occupational attainment was indistinguishable from the effects of SES and cognitive ability on these outcomes. These results demonstrate the influence of personality traits on important life outcomes, highlight the need to more routinely incorporate measures of personality into quality of life surveys, and encourage further research about the developmental origins of personality traits and the processes by which these traits influence diverse life outcomes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Preparation of this paper was supported by National Institute of Aging Grants AG19414 and AG20048; National Institute of Mental Health Grants MH49414, MH45070, MH49227; United Kingdom Medical Research Council Grant G0100527; and by grants from the Colgate Research Council. We would like to thank Howard Friedman, David Funder, George Davie Smth, Ian Deary, Chris Fraley, Linda Gottfredson, Josh Jackson, and Ben Karney for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.