Reactive personality-environment transactions and adult developmental trajectories

Gregory T. Smith, Suzannah F. Williams, Melissa A. Cyders, Scott Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The possibility, which is based on the concept of reactive personality-environment transactions, that individuals learn different things from the same experience as a function of personality differences may help explain individual differences in adult developmental trajectories. In an analogue, longitudinal design, business students were taught about stock market investing, and they engaged in 5 practice investment sessions. Although all participants earned the same returns on their investments, they varied in the expectancies they formed about stock investing as a function of their personality status. As anticipated, behavioral inhibition (heightened sensitivity to punishment) facilitated formation of negative investing expectancies and antagonized formation of positive investing expectancies, and behavioral activation (heightened sensitivity to reward) facilitated formation of positive investing expectancies and antagonized formation of negative investing expectancies. Differential learning in a task that approximated skill acquisition for a developmental transition implies that personality may help shape individual developmental trajectories in the adult years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-887
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Adult developmental trajectories
  • Differential learning
  • Individual differences
  • Learning
  • Personality
  • Reactive personality- environment transactions
  • Reactive transactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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