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Personality and Individual Differences
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The biasing effect of personality on self-estimates of cognitive abilities in males and females
Lydia Soh, Kate E. Jacobs ⇑
Faculty of Education, Monash University, Wellington Rd., Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia
a r t i c l e
i n f o
a b s t r a c t
In addition to exploring the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated measures of Crystallized Knowledge (Gc) and Visual Processing (Gv), this study investigated whether personality signiﬁcantly moderated these relationships, thereby inﬂuencing the accuracy of the self-estimates. Adult participants (N = 165) completed the Big Five Inventory and self-estimated their levels of Gc and Gv. They were subsequently administered the Multidimensional Aptitude Battery II, a group test of cognitive ability. Signiﬁcant and positive relationships between psychometric Gc and Gv and their respective self-estimates were found. Additionally, investigation of the moderating effects of personality for each gender separately using standard multiple regressions found that females high in Extraversion and males low in Conscientiousness were more prone to overestimating their Gv ability, while males high in Openness provided more accurate estimates of their Gv than those low in Openness. Elucidating the personality traits that distort self-perceptions of intellectual functioning has signiﬁcant implications for the identiﬁcation of individuals at risk of harboring inaccurate expectations, leading to the potential for interventions aimed at ameliorating associated deleterious consequences. Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Article history: Received 10 December 2012 Received in revised form 6 February 2013 Accepted 19 February 2013 Available online 14 March 2013 Keywords: Self-estimates cognitive abilities Personality Cattell–Horn–Carroll
1. Introduction To successfully negotiate everyday life people require an adequate measure of insight into their own abilities and limitations (Dunning, Johnson, Ehrlinger, & Kruger, 2003). However, selfperceptions of cognitive ability are largely found to be inaccurate, generally in the direction of positive bias (Kruger & Dunning, 1999; Paulhus, Lysy, & Yik, 1998). Inaccurate self-perceptions can interfere with the likelihood of achieving valuable life goals in educational and occupational domains, ultimately resulting in reduced levels of psychological well-being (Beyer, 1990, 1998; Freund & Kasten, 2012). Consequently there has been a growing interest in this ﬁeld of research. Since psychometric measures of cognitive ability only explain around 10% of variance in corresponding self-estimates (Freund & Kasten, 2012; Furnham, 2001; Mabe & West, 1982), research has focused on identifying the non-cognitive factors that inﬂuence these self-perceptions. While the direct effects of personality on self-estimates of cognitive abilities has been extensively researched (e.g., Ackerman & Wolman, 2007; Chamorro-Premuzic, Moutaﬁ, & Furnham, 2005; Furnham & Buchanan, 2005; Furnham & Dissou, 2007), the extent to which personality inﬂuences the accuracy of self-estimates has been largely overlooked. Therefore this
study investigated whether personality traits systematically bias self-perceptions of intellectual functioning by testing it as a moderator of the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated cognitive abilities.
1.1. The relationship between psychometric and self-estimates of cognitive abilities Self-estimates of cognitive ability embody individual differences in levels of awareness regarding how well an individual can perform on intellectually challenging tasks (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2006). The accuracy with which people estimate their cognitive ability level is assessed by comparing self-estimates to psychometrically derived test scores of the same cognitive abilities. Narrative and meta-analytic reviews of this research have consistently found correlations around r = .30 (Freund & Kasten, 2012; Furnham, 2001; Mabe & West, 1982; Paulhus et al., 1998), suggesting that people possess only limited self-insight. However, variations in methodology between extant studies have been metaanalytically determined to moderate the strength of the effect sizes obtained. For example, self-estimates of cognitive abilities obtained using measures that require comparison to others have been found to produce signiﬁcantly greater validity coefﬁcients than those that do not (Freund & Kasten, 2012; Mabe & West, 1982). Though not tested as a moderator of the self-estimate and psychometric cognitive ability relationship, another methodological
⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +61 3 9902 4884; fax: +61 3 9905 5127.
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (L. Soh), Kate.Jacobs@monash.edu (K.E. Jacobs). 0191-8869/$ - see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2013.02.013
However. Furnham. Participants Participants were 165 Australian adults (predominantly university students). With regards to highest level of education completed. 2005. Therefore further research investigating the moderating effect of all ﬁve personality traits on the accuracy of self-estimates of cognitive abilities for males and females separately is needed. Kidwai.4% reporting English as their ﬁrst language. 2001) is greater than that often accounted for by psychometric measures (around 10%. Further.1% no response. 23.02.6% Bachelor’s degree. While no personality traits were found to moderate the accuracy of Gc self-estimates.. Freund & Kasten. 2004. only three of the Big Five factors were investigated as moderators and despite the consistent ﬁnding of gender differences in self-estimates of cognitive abilities (Syzmanowicz & Furnham. 1. Gc and Gv were chosen for investigation as they are considered theoretically analogous to Gardner’s (1993) Verbal and Spatial intelligences. and high in Extraversion and Openness. 1.1. 2012).2. the authors tested whether Neuroticism. 42. & Keogh. Additionally. standard score of 100 with a 1. thereby allowing hypotheses to be based on previous research. 2011). Using 189 participants recruited from a university setting. & Vernon. 2009. 24. Out of the 10 broad cognitive abilities currently encapsulated by the CHC model. participants high in Extraversion were identiﬁed as more prone to overestimating their Gf and Gv abilities. gender and self-esteem).g. Flanagan.142 L. The relationship between personality and self-estimates of cognitive ability While a number of non-cognitive variables have been investigated as predictors of self-estimates of cognitive abilities (e. & Thomas. Therefore. Method 2.2. Jacobs.6% did not complete high school. and Fluid reasoning (Gf). participants low in Agreeableness were found to be inclined to overestimating their Gf ability. H6: Conscientiousness does not moderate the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gc and Gv (for both males and females). SD = 9. while the self-estimates of introverts were largely accurate. 2004. Furnham. 1989). Further. H2: Neuroticism and Agreeableness do not moderate the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gc and Gv (for both males and females). Schneider & McGrew. when the Big Five are used simultaneously to predict self-estimates of cognitive abilities. or the tendency for extraverts to possess self-perceptions that are positively biased (Davies. French. . (2012) constitutes a signiﬁcant advancement in the self-estimates of cognitive abilities research ﬁeld which has paid limited attention to the extent to which non-cognitive factors systematically bias self-perceptions of ability. The current study In addition to investigating the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated cognitive abilities.2. Zeidner. Furnham & Thomas. its validity has been seriously questioned due to a lack of empirical evidence (Waterhouse. 0. and Roodenburg (2012) proposed that personality may in fact moderate the relationship between selfestimate and psychometric measures. Results have been largely consistent with those low in Neuroticism and Agreeableness. Visual processing (Gv). 1998). 2008) meaning that previous research assessing the accuracy of self-estimates of cognitive abilities using Gardner’s (1993) model employed criterion tests not developed explicitly as operationalizations of the constructs contained within the MI model. 2. 2002).1. 1993). 1998). 2005.. Soh. the conclusion of previous research that individuals are largely incapable of providing accurate self-estimates of their intellectual ability may have been erroneously reached due to the use of an intelligence model that lacks validity and adequate measures. 2007. providing the highest self-estimates (Furnham & Buchanan. consequently enabling self-perceptions to more closely reﬂect reality. In contrast to MI theory. and Neuroticism was not established as a signiﬁcant moderator. Additionally. & Chamorro-Premuzic. Based on the research reviewed above it was hypothesized that: H1: Psychometric Gc and Gv positively predicts self-estimates of Gc and Gv. Recently. The greater time introverts spend in selfreﬂection (Matthews.E.3. respectively (Carroll. 2012). Besevegis. 6. replication of this study is required to assess the validity of the results. with Gardner’s (1993) multiple intelligences (MI) theory a commonly employed model (e. & Mouroussaki. This implies that self-perceptions of ability are more dependent on personality than ‘‘actual’’ level of cognitive functioning. Furnham & Dissou. Szer.7% vocational/ technical training certiﬁcate. this study examined whether personality inﬂuenced the accuracy of these self-perceptions. Furnham & Thomas. The ﬁndings of Jacobs et al. 2001). 2005. Moutaﬁ.7% ‘‘other. Materials 2. It was proposed that by suppressing the propensity to be stubborn. individuals high in Agreeableness are more receptive to criticism and feedback (Haville. Agreeableness. H3: Extraversion moderates the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gv (for both males and females) with those high in Extraversion overestimating their abilities. Visser. H4: Extraversion does not moderate the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gc (for both males and females). 2.. 2006). 2001). Self-estimates of cognitive abilities Self-estimates of cognitive abilities were obtained using a slight adaptation of the measure employed by Jacobs et al.9% postgraduate degree. Ashton. & Roberts. and Extraversion impacted the accuracy of self-estimates of Crystallized knowledge (Gc).. H5: Openness moderates the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gc and Gv (for both males and females) with those low in Openness overestimating their abilities. Furnham et al. the Cattell–Horn–Carroll (CHC) model provides researchers with cognitive ability constructs that are extensively validated and operationalized (Alfonso. 2004. & Radwin. Furnham. thereby inﬂuencing the accuracy of these self-perceptions. aged 18–59 years (M = 26. 87 female and 78 male. Gardner & Hatch. While MI theory has been widely applied in the educational realm (Barrington. 2008).’’ and 0. K. An image of a normal distribution of IQ scores with corresponding percentile ranks and descriptive labels (e.07) with 79. the amount of variance explained (up to 17%. 2001. Furnham et al. respectively... Future research assessing the accuracy of self-estimates of cognitive abilities would therefore beneﬁt from the application of this theoretical model. Jacobs / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 141–146 variation between studies is the theoretical model of intelligence used. the theory lacks standardized and psychometrically valid measures (Visser et al.4% completed high school. while self-estimates provided by agreeable people were largely accurate. analyses were run using the genders combined. (2012) which was developed to be similar to that used extensively in previous research by Furnham and colleagues (Furnham. were suggested as possible reasons for this ﬁnding.g.g. personality (most often operationalized using the Five Factor Model) has received a considerable degree of attention.
p = . Soto & John. indicating a restriction of range. K. Neuroticism. Thus the current sample was found to possess on-average higher levels of intelligence than the general population.71 14. 2. The survey contained the BFI and additional self-report measures not relevant to this study. In contrast.40** . t = 3.29** Note: Gc = Crystallized knowledge. student researchers working on the project also invited family and friends to participate in order to obtain a more representative sample. 7.2. Multidimensional Aptitude Battery II (MAB-II. 1997).12 – À. Self-estimated Gc Self-estimated Gv Psychometric Gc Psychometric Gv Extraversion Openness Neuroticism Agreeableness Conscientiousness – . self-estimated Gv scores increased as psychometric Gv increased.60** À. t = 3. 2005) was used to select MAB-II subtests that provide a measure of Gc (Information.13 . Cronbach alpha values for the BFI subscales. 8. Inspection of Mahalanobis distance (p < .74 0.21 13.16.94. ** p < . 2.L.2. the signiﬁcance test of psychometric Gv for each slope indicated that the slope for the high Conscientiousness regression line was signiﬁcant (b = .89 have been reported (Jackson. 2003) The MAB-II is a group administered multiple-choice paper-andpencil test of intellectual ability developed based on the WAIS-R..18 3.3.65 and . In contrast. Gv = Visual processing.001) indicated no multivariate outliers.30. p = . Results of post hoc probing are presented subsequently.90 (M = ..03 – À. 3). and correlations for all variables are presented in Table 1.01 (2-tailed). The direction of the slope indicated that when Openness was high.17* À.15 À. 2003).37** À. 4. and selfestimated Gv had moderate signiﬁcant positive correlations with psychometric Gv and Openness.12 2 – . Jacobs / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 141–146 143 percentile rank of 50 was labeled ‘‘average’’) was presented to participants along with deﬁnitions of Gc and Gv.63. Using effect size guidelines established by Cohen (1988). 1999).66. 5. p < . 2). Means for both psychometric Gc and Gv were above the general population average of 100.16. Comprehension. also presented in Table 1. self-estimates of Gv were consistent across high and low levels of psychometric Gv. For the moderating effect of Extraversion on the Gv relationship in females (refer to Fig. Reliabilities for these subtests range from . A written description of the normal distribution and its relation to standard IQ scores was provided to participants along with instructions to estimate the score they believed they would receive on a test of Gc and Gv in comparison to others of the same age. Procedure Though recruitment occurred predominantly on a university campus. The direction of the slope indicated that those with low levels of Extraversion had self-estimated Gv scores that were signiﬁcantly higher at higher levels of psychometric Gv than they were at low levels of psychometric Gv.26** .29** À.001). 2011).63.21** À. Literature classifying the WAIS-R subtests according to CHC theory (i. It contains 10 subtests with individual items being adapted so as to be suitable for use with an Australian sample (e.11 .71. and Vocabulary) and Gv (Picture Completion.22** – À. p < .70 0.76 . Big Five Inventory (BFI.61 a – – – – .08 0. and personality 1 1.07 3. t = 3.15 3 4 5 6 7 8 M 109.13 – .75 to .68 3.62 0.14 À. 2.E.15 À.11 . For the moderating effect of Openness on the Gv relationship in males (refer to Fig. Similarities. Conscientiousness. The moderating effect of personality on the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gc and Gv was investigated using standard multiple regressions and applying recommendations provided by Aiken and West (1991).45 SD 13. * .87 . when Openness was low. psychometric cognitive abilities.25). self-estimates of Gv remained stable regardless of whether psychometric Gv was high or low. Analyses were run for males and females separately using the less strict alpha level of .10). Table 1 Descriptive statistics and correlations for self-estimates of cognitive abilities.70 to . standard deviations.80 – .g. the signiﬁcance test of psychometric Gv for each slope indicated that the slope for the high Openness regression line was signiﬁcant (b = .31** À. Soh.2. while the slope for the high Extraversion regression line was not (b = ..08 À.96. the signiﬁcance test of psychometric Gv for each slope indicated that the slope for the low Extraversion regression line was signiﬁcant (b = . 1).13 112.e.06 – . t = 1.001). 2011). 3. Alpha reliabilities for the subscales range from .25** . Means.10 when determining the signiﬁcance of the interaction terms due to the difﬁculty associated with statistically detecting signiﬁcant moderator effects (Holmbeck. when Extraversion was high.17* À.34** À. 9. Jackson. While no personality trait signiﬁcantly moderated the Gc relationship. were all satisfactorily high (Pallant. 3.05 (2-tailed). Spatial.07 .75 110.51** . Subsequently participants attended a group testing session (lasting two hours) where they ﬁrst self-estimated their Gc and Gv abilities followed by administration of the MAB-II.16* .3. Agreeableness. Alfonso et al.57 0.11 À. 2009) This 44-item self-report inventory measures Extraversion.10 À. 2.82 .83) and have strong convergent validity (mean r = .11 À.09 À. while convergent validity coefﬁcients with corresponding WAIS-R subtests between .82 . For the moderating effect of Conscientiousness on the Gv relationship in males (refer to Fig. arithmetic items were converted from imperial to metric measurement).44** . with corresponding standard deviations being less than 15. All remaining personality variables did not signiﬁcantly correlate with self-estimates of Gc or Gv.47 107. the Gv relationship was signiﬁcantly moderated by Openness and Conscientiousness in males and Extraversion in females. respectively.23.07 . Results Three univariate outliers were identiﬁed (two on Conscientiousness and one on Agreeableness) however all were retained as inspection of the 5% trimmed mean indicated a negligible impact on the data (Pallant.01 12.68. Results are presented in Tables 2 and 3 for males and females. self-estimated Gc had moderate signiﬁcant positive correlations with both psychometric Gc and Openness. while the slope for low Openness regression line was not (b = .27** . and Openness to Experience.88 3. Participants were initially sent a link to an online survey to be completed at a time and place of their convenience. p < . a = Cronbach’s alpha.81) with Costa and McCrae’s (1992) NEO Five Factor Inventory (John & Srivastava.57 2. t = 1. Picture Arrangement and Object Assembly). 6. with responses made on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
Paulhus et al.74** p .84 . Freund & Kasten.19 .10 . p < .14 .16) (+) 1SD Psychometric Gv Fig.17 . p < .02 * R2 .13 À.27 .99 b À.00 9.65. Regression lines for the relationship between psychometric and selfestimated Gv.06 .17 .001.12 Adj..05. ** p < . ⁄p < .13 .61* 5.09 .04 . 1998).41** 5.08 F 6.22 .20 * ** Note: Beta weights reported are from the interaction terms between the centered personality traits and centered psychometric cognitive abilities in males. Furnham.08 .60* p .19 . 2001.16 .25 .19** 4.55 .69** 6. This may be attributed to application of the robust CHC model when deﬁning cognitive abilities and selecting criterion tests.25 .19 .32 . as moderated by Openness.13 F 4.10 .00* 4. Regression lines for the relationship between psychometric and selfestimated Gv.21 .16 Adj. 2.23 . when Conscientiousness was low.20** 3. The moderating effect of Openness on the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gv in males indicated that males high in Openness provided more accurate self-estimates of Gv than .88* 4.. Table 3 Interaction terms from standard multiple regressions of personality as moderators of the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gc and Gv for females (N = 87) Moderators Gc b Extraversion Openness Neuroticism Agreeableness Conscientiousness . 4.E. Discussion While ﬁnding signiﬁcant and positive relationships between psychometric and respective self-estimates of Gc and Gv was consistent with previous research.21 .14 . as moderated by Extraversion.01. Jacobs / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 141–146 Table 2 Interaction terms from standard multiple regressions of personality as moderators of the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gc and Gv for males (N = 78) Moderators Gc b Extraversion Openness Neuroticism Agreeableness Conscientiousness À.13 F 6.50** 5.78 .02 À. or is due to the higher levels of conﬁdence possessed by extraverts (Davies et al.30.25 . 2012. p < .14 . R .001).55 9.54 . t = 1.08 À.18 . in males.51 .21 .40** ** Gv p .14 .08** 4. in females.61** 8.16 .001.10 .01.44 and .07 À.03 . The moderating effect of Extraversion on the relationship between psychometric and self-estimated Gv in females indicated that females low in Extraversion provided more accurate self-estimates than those high in Extraversion who demonstrated a propensity for overestimation.79 .17 À. Whether this ﬁnding resulted from the likely higher levels of self-awareness possessed by introverts due to spending greater time in self-reﬂection (Matthews et al.10).31 b .13 R 2 Gv Adj.87 Note: Beta weights reported are from the interaction terms between the centered personality traits and centered psychometric cognitive abilities in females. However.26** ** p . respectively) was greater than that often observed in previous research (around r = .63 . Soh.12 .92 . p < . p = . (2012) study likely resulted from the disproportionately greater number of females compared to males.01.63*) Self-Estimated Gv 105 100 95 90 85 (-)1SD (+) 1SD Low Extraversion (b = .15 .08 .24.30 . 1998). The direction of the slope indicated that for those with high levels of Conscientiousness.12 À.00 R2 .03 À.27* R2 .16 .17 . 1982.20* . self-estimates of Gv were consistent across high and low levels of psychometric Gv.04 À. K. 1.11 .12 .66* 6.13** 5.23) High Openness (b = .13 À. 2002). * 115 125 Self-Estimated Gv 110 120 115 110 105 100 95 90 (-)1SD Psychometric Gv Low Openness (b = ..17 2 F 8. that this result held only for females indicates that the moderating effect of Extraversion observed in the Jacobs et al.144 L.63*) High Extraversion (b = . R2 .20 .07 .71 .22 À. In contrast. while the slope for the low Conscientiousness regression line was not (b = . thus leading to reduced measurement error. R2 .22 . ⁄p < .20** 3.16 Adj. Mabe & West. self-estimated Gv scores were higher at higher levels of psychometric Gv compared to low levels of psychometric Gv. the size of the relationships found in this study (r = . Fig.40 for Gc and Gv.28 .62** 8.23 . R2 . is currently uncertain.24 .
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