This research examines the form of the relationship between Big Five-oriented personality predictors and occupational performance throughout the predictor and criterion score ranges. Building on rationale that individuals can be either "too low" or "too high" in their standing on various personality attributes for optimal performance, previous research has produced discrepant findings with regard to whether and when to expect curvilinear relationships between these attributes and job performance. Previous studies have relied on small samples and unsystematic sampling, a variety of performance criteria, the use of personality inventories for which construct validity evidence is not immediately available, and a focus on only one or two of the Big Five personality factors (typically conscientiousness). If personality--performance relationships exhibit nonlinearity within the score range where decisions are made, there could be immediate implications for the inferences that could be drawn from the use of such test scores, such as whether top-down or cutoff-score based uses are most appropriate. Incorporating large sample (n > 11,000) operational personality and performance data, this research had several goals: (a) replicate and extend previous research on conscientiousness and emotional stability to clarify existing conflicts in findings, (b) provide the first major tests of nonlinearity for agreeableness, openness, and extraversion, and (c) use a theoretically linked framework to identify and test for relevant occupation-level moderating variables by incorporating job complexity and personality based job analytic information. Results showed a general lack of meaningful curvilinear effects for each Big Five scale in relation to overall job performance. Any expected declines in performance at high ends of the predictor range were very small on average, and would be highly unlikely to produce scenarios in which those passing a realistic cut score would be expected to underperform those screened out due a curvilinear effect. Indices of job complexity and the importance of the personality trait to performance did not exhibit moderating effects for the forms of each personality--performance relationship. Results are useful for evaluating whether nonlinearity is likely to be an issue when self-report personality assessments are used to make decisions with tangible employment consequences. Even with slight curvilinear trends for several of the scales examined, the results suggest that curvilinearity is highly unlikely to present problems for typical uses of personality test scores in employment settings.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2013. Major:Psychology. Advisor: Paul R. Sackett. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 159 pages.
Walmsley, Philip T..
Investigating the presence of nonlinear personality--job performance relationships.
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