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Department of Psychology Individual Differences and Assessment

Wiebke Bleidorn

Wiebke Bleidorn, Prof. Dr.

  • Lehrstuhlinhaberin
+41 44 635 75 20
Binzmühlestrasse 14/7, CH-8050 Zürich
Room number
BIN 5.B.14


Current Research Interests:

Personality Traits and Civic Engagement Across the Lifespan

Voting, volunteering, and donating blood are examples of civic engagement that are vital to the health of democratic societies and individual well-being. People differ in their willingness to engage in these behaviors. Thus, considerable potential lies in a greater understanding of the psychological factors that impact civic engagement. There is growing evidence that personality traits shape our moral worldviews (Smillie et al., 2019) and predict civic engagement such as charitable giving (Ferguson et al., 2020), volunteerism (Habashi et al., 2016), and political voting (Furnham et al., 2019). However, much of this work has focused on broad personality domains and single forms of civic engagement in cross-sectional data. As such, important questions about the prospective and distinctive validity of traits in predicting civic engagement remain unanswered. The overarching goal of this project is to address these questions. To do this, we are 1) systematically integrating the literature on personality traits and civic engagement and 2) chart the course of higher- and lower-order traits and civic engagement across the lifespan. Together, these studies will advance our understanding of the ways in which personality traits shape civic engagement and provide a solid foundation upon which theorists and scholars can develop a more comprehensive model of moral trait development.

A growing body of research has tested the role of life events in personality trait change (Bleidorn et al., 2018). The most common approach in this research is to examine change in average levels of personality traits before and after an event. By focusing on the average change, this analytical approach implicitly assumes that people experience an event in similar ways, leading to similar patterns of trait change across people. This approach, however, has led to mixed and often conflicting results about whether and which life events are associated with personality change. One possible explanation of these mixed results is that previous studies neglected an individual’s unique experiences as they approach and adapt to life events. In this project, we test whether perceptions of event-related Big Five personality trait change correspond to measured Big Five personality trait change in the years before and after an event. We surveyed a large, representative sample of Dutch adults (N=5,513 participants ages 16-95) about whether, when, how and why a life event in the last 10 years may have affected their Big Five personality traits. This sample has also completed multiple Big Five personality trait assessments over the past 10 years, allowing us to link each participant’s perceptions of event-related change to their measured trajectories of personality trait change. 

Self-esteem and self-concept clarity in young adulthood

One of the most important processes along the path of becoming a mature adult is to develop a sense of self. Two aspects of the self are particularly important. Self-esteem promotes individuals’ confidence in relation to others and life’s challenges and Self-concept clarity provides individuals with a coherent sense of who they are and how they can contribute to society. Research has shown that self-development occurs primarily in young adulthood; however, growth in self-aspects varies across individuals and the specific factors that shape self-development are largely unknown. Using a theory-guided model of the mechanisms and consequences of self-development, we examine the normative (e.g., exposure to diverse experiences, relationship formation, and goal pursuit) and non-normative (cultural exploration via study abroad) mechanisms underlying changes in self-esteem and self-concept clarity over time. We further examine how changes in these two self-aspects influence each other, and how these changes may lead to long-term outcomes.

Changing Neuroticism through Psychological Treatment

Neuroticism, or emotional instability, describes the enduring tendency to frequently experience negative affect. The goal of this project is to develop a theory for reducing neuroticism. This theory will serve as the basis for creating scientifically validated, cost-effective, and personalized digital interventions that can be widely offered to reduce neuroticism and its negative consequences. This project combines digital interventions, longitudinal experiments, and computational modeling to develop a theory for changing neuroticism. In three work packages, the processes, mechanisms, and consequences of intervention-induced changes in this trait will be investigated. The results of these studies will provide a core contribution to theory development in the field of behavioral and personality change and form the basis for scientifically validated interventions to reduce neuroticism.