Re-conceptualizing Trait Adaptability: Introducing the Situationally-Adaptive Personality Index

Scott Parrigon, Purdue University


This paper seeks to expand our understanding of trait adaptability by putting forth a novel, theoretically-grounded conceptualization of trait adaptability as situationally-adaptive personality. This re-conceptualization of trait adaptability is accomplished by integrating the Big Five personality taxonomy with a recently-developed taxonomy of situations. This integration allows for the assessment of stable "If…Then" patterns of situation-contingent personality response that can be evaluated for their generally-adaptive properties (via the domain expertise of clinical psychology researchers). This enables an assessment of trait adaptability that 1) is conceptualized independent of adaptive performance, 2) does not rely on transparent self-reports of trait adaptability, and 3) effectively accounts for the situations that individuals are adapting to – major challenges facing that have held back the effective assessment of trait adaptability. After developing the SAPI instrument, it is validated across two studies to assess its relations with the correlates (i.e., related constructs, personality traits, personality variability, emotion regulation ability, self-control, self-efficacy, and cognitive ability; Study 1) and consequences (i.e., career success; job satisfaction; and occupational health and general well-being; Study 2) of trait adaptability. This reconceptualization of trait adaptability is found to relate with outcomes in a theoretically-consistent manner; predict unique, incremental, and relative variance across many important outcomes; and to advance our understanding of the beneficial aspects of personality by explicating its differentially-adaptive properties across situations.




Woo, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Psychology|Personality psychology

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