Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

John W. Lounsbury

Committee Members

Richard Saudargas, Debra Baldwin, Mary Sue Younger


The present study investigated the relationship between the Big Five personality traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, extroversion, and openness), as well as the relationship of more narrow personality traits, with academic performance. The issue of narrow traits adding incremental validity to the Big Five in predicting academic performance was investigated, using archival data collected from 552 university students.

Results from a correlation analysis indicated that openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability were all significantly related to GPA (college grade-point average), while extroversion was not related. Due to a significant gender difference in college GPA, gender interaction terms with each of the Big Five factors were employed for regression analyses. The regression analyses indicated that GPA was related to openness, emotional stability, and agreeableness.

Bivariate correlation analyses showed that, of the five narrow traits, aggression, self-directed learning, optimism, and work drive were related to GPA. Regression analysis indicated that aggression, self-directed learning, tough-mindedness, and work drive accounted for partial effects in GPA. Significant interactions were noted between gender and optimism and gender and self-directed learning.

Finally, a sequential multiple regression revealed that the following narrow traits added incremental validity to the Big Five in explaining variance in college GPA: conscientiousness from the Big Five, and the narrow traits of self-directed learning, aggression, tough-mindedness, and work drive. Significant interactions were noted between gender and optimism and gender and self-directed learning. These findings were interpreted as supporting the usefulness of both broad and narrow personality traits to predict real-world outcomes. Furthermore, these findings illuminate the relationship between personality and academic performance.

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