Self-Other Agreement in Happiness and Life-Satisfaction: The Role of Personality Traits

Abstract

The aim of the current study is to examine the role of personality traits in self-other agreement in happiness and life-satisfaction which are often seen as the essential components of subjective well-being (SWB). Self-reports on the SWB measure and the NEO Personality Inventory-3 were obtained from 1,251 Estonians aged between 18 and 86 years. Other-ratings on the same measures were provided by knowledgeable informants. The measure of SWB showed significant self-other agreement, r = .55 (p = .000). We found this agreement to be transmitted (i.e., mediated) through the self- and other-rated personality facet scores of N3 (Depression) and E6 (Positive Emotions), Z = 2.8001–11.7142. The findings suggest that when an informant evaluates someone’s happiness or life-satisfaction, his/her rating is inflated by the image held about the personality of this person. Furthermore, self-reported SWB reflects, to some extent, what other people think about one’s personality.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We also tested for potential moderator variables, as proposed by Schneider and Schimmack (2009). In our dataset, interaction terms for age of the target, age of the informant, acquaintanceship length, and, most importantly, the 30 personality facets were not significant.

  2. 2.

    For the sake of accuracy, we tested the remaining significant predictors of SWB observed in Table 1. Entered together with N3 (Depression) and E6 (Positive Emotions), multiple mediation analyses in which SWB-self reflects, to some extent, other-opinions about the person’s personality showed significant indirect effects for self-rated A1 (Trust), Z = 3.5954, and other-rated E5 (Excitement Seeking), A1 (Trust), and A2 (Straightforwardness), Z = −1.7951, 2.3662, 3.1586, and −3.1488, respectively. If SWB-self is proposed to account for SWB-other, significant indirect effects were observable for other-rated N1 (Anxiety), Z = 2.8401, and self-rated N6 (Vulnerability), Z = 2.4185. However, the direct effects of the IVs on the DVs (c′ paths) did not change in any significant way.

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Acknowledgments

Estonian Genome Centre of the University of Tartu is financed by two FP7 grants (201413, 245536). It has also received targeted financing from the Estonian Government (SF0180142s08) and from the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund in the framework of Centre of Excellence in Genomics. This project was also supported by the University of Tartu (SP1GVARENG), by a grant from the Estonian Ministry of Science and Education to Jüri Allik (SF0180029s08), and by the European Social Fund‘s Doctoral Studies and Internationalization Program, DoRa. We thank Oliver Lauenstein, Delaney Michael Skerrett and the anonymous reviewer(s) for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Henrik Dobewall.

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Dobewall, H., Realo, A., Allik, J. et al. Self-Other Agreement in Happiness and Life-Satisfaction: The Role of Personality Traits. Soc Indic Res 114, 479–492 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-012-0157-y

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Keywords

  • Happiness and life-satisfaction
  • Subjective well-being
  • Personality ratings
  • NEO PI-3
  • Self-other agreement