Toward the integration of personality theory and decision theory in explaining economic behavior: An experimental investigation

Aldo Rustichini, Colin G DeYoung, Jon E. Anderson, Stephen V. Burks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Economics and trait-based personality psychology have taken different approaches to understanding individual differences. The former emphasizes variables measured according to formal decision theory; the latter instead emphasizes variables derived from the factor analysis of trait assessments. In a data set on trainee truckers in a large US company, we provide a systematic assessment of the empirical pattern of relationships and correlations between the measurements used in these two approaches by comparing the predictive power of variables derived from personality theory and decision theory for several individual characteristics and outcomes, and relating the two sets of measurements to each other. We show that personality traits have a comparable or stronger statistical predictive power than do economic preferences for several dependent variables, including credit score, job persistence, and heavy truck accidents. They also have strong predictive power for Body Mass Index (BMI) and smoking status. Further, decision theory and personality variables are meaningfully related. For example, we confirm that cognitive ability explains a substantial part of time preferences, and find that Neuroticism and cognitive ability together explain attitudes toward risk. In an experimental game, cognitive skills and Agreeableness explain important aspects of strategic behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-137
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge generous financial support for the Truckers and Turnover Project from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on the Nature and Origin of Preferences, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation , the Trucking Industry Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology , and the University of Minnesota , Morris, and both financial and in-kind support from the cooperating motor carrier , its staff, and its executives. Rustichini also thanks the NSF (grant SES-0924896 ). The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of the supporting institutions.


  • Decision theory
  • Heavy truck accident
  • Job performance
  • Personality theory
  • Strategic behavior
  • Trucker
  • Truckload
  • Turnover

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