Person Situation Well Being

The Person in Context
Prof. Alex Wood, Behavioural Science Centre, Stirling Management School, University of Stirling
This talk promotes better understanding of well-being and behaviour through studying how the person interacts with their environment. This contrasts with many areas of research in which the focus in on the general impact of person characteristics across situations (e.g., personality psychology) or the general impact of specific situations irrespective of individual differences in reaction (e.g., economics and social psychology). First, defining "the person" through measurable individual differences, three prospective analyses of over 6,000 people show that personality characteristics prior to major life events affect reaction and adaptation (e.g., conscientious people gain more happiness following increases in income, but lose greater well-being following unemployment, and more agreeable people recover well-being faster after the onset of disability). Second, defining "the person" through core characteristics that everyone share, evidence from evolutionary biology and cognitive science showing that people have an inherent sensitivity to rank position. This core rank sensitivity is then used to explain phenomena across business and marketing, medicine, education, and clinical, health, and personality psychologies. The converging evidence shows (a) how people make judgments in each of these fields, (b) why apparent relative judgements effects such as anchoring occur, (c) why income is related to health and well-being, (d) how this research can be used in interventions to promote healthy behaviour. Taken together, the talk illustrates why it is important to incorporate a focus on how individual differences and core human characteristics interact with environment in both research and practice.