Are some people more consistent? Examining the stability and underlying processes of personality profile consistency

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2023 Jun;124(6):1314-1337. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000429. Epub 2022 Jul 11.


Personality traits are relatively consistent across time, as indicated by test-retest correlations. However, ipsative consistency approaches suggest there are individual differences in this consistency. Despite this, it is unknown whether these differences are due to person-level characteristics (i.e., some people are just more consistent) or exogenous forces (i.e., lack of consistency is due to environmental changes). Moreover, it is unclear whether the processes promoting long-term consistency are the same across people. We examine these two questions using item-level profile correlations across four to nine waves of data with four data sets (N = 21,616) with multilevel asymptotic growth models. Results indicated that there were, on average, high levels of profile consistency. However, there were notable individual differences in initial profile correlation values as well as in changes in levels of consistency across time, indicating that some people are more stably consistent than others. Moreover, the directions of people's trajectories across increasing time intervals suggest that the mechanisms responsible for reinforcing personality consistency vary across people. These effects were typically moderated by age at 30 years old, maturity-related traits, and education level. Overall, findings indicate some people are more consistent than others, such that this stable level of (in)consistency is a dispositional factor. Additionally, individual differences in profile consistency are shaped by different levels of three processes. On average, stochastic factors are not impactful for most individuals, and transactional processes have an important role in increasing consistency for a sizable amount of people-nuances not previously revealed when focusing on rank-order stability. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Personality Disorders*
  • Personality*