Personality-informed intervention design: Examining how trait regulation can inform efforts to change behavior

Contributors: Robert W Rebele, Peter Koval, Luke D Smillie

Research that helps people change their behavior has the potential to improve the quality of lives, but it is too often approached in a way that divorces behavior from the people who need to enact it. In this paper, we propose a personality-informed approach to classifying behavior-change problems and designing interventions to address them. In particular, we argue that interventions will be most effective when they target the appropriate psychological process given the disposition of the participant and the desired duration of change. Considering these dimensions can help to reveal the differences among common types of behavior-change problems, and it can guide decisions about what kinds of intervention solutions will most effectively solve them. We review key concepts and findings from the personality literature that can help us understand the dynamic nature of dispositions and to identify the psychological processes that best explain both short-term variance in behavior and long-term development of personality. Drawing on this literature, we argue that different types of behavior-change problems require different forms of “trait regulation,” and we offer a series of propositions to be evaluated as potential guides for the design of intervention strategies to address them.

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