Fundamental to personality and social psychology is the premise that human behavior may be determined by the person, the situation, or a combination of both. While instruments for assessing the psychological characteristics of persons have been well developed, parallel instruments for situations have lagged far behind. Laboratory experiments have demonstrated that small changes in situations can create large change in behavior; however, the impact of real situations that people actually experience has rarely been investigated. The proposed research will fill these important gaps, and examine the nature of situational transitions, their antecedents, and their consequences in daily life. The results will afford a better understanding of the relationship between personality, situations, and behavior as they naturally occur. Moreover, the proposed research has the potential to be transformative by providing a template for investigating psychological processes in natural environments.
To address the study aims, the proposed research will capitalize on several recent methodological and technological advances. First, Ryne Sherman (Florida Atlantic University) and his colleagues have developed a psychometrically valid way to measure situations, which will be used in project. Second, it has been difficult to study real world situations due to a lack of technology for collecting information about situations as they are experienced in real time. This research will utilize advances in mobile sensing technology, which can visually capture the situations experienced by a participant. These images will later be rated by both participants and coders. Data analyses will examine associations among elements of situations, personality traits, and specific behaviors. The novel methodological approach developed in this project could be applied to other important questions, such as how naturally occurring situations affect outcomes such as aggression, relationship satisfaction, or well-being.