Using the PRISM to Compare the Explanatory Value of General and Role-Contextualized Trait Ratings


  • Dustin Wood, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I would like to thank Claudia Brumbaugh, Chris Fraley, Peter Harms, Brent Roberts, and Richard Slatcher for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

concerning this article should be addressed to Dustin Wood, Department of Psychology, 603 E. Daniel St., Champaign, IL 61820. E-mail:


ABSTRACT In an earlier work (Wood & Roberts, 2006), the Personality and Role Identity Structural Model (PRISM) was proposed as a model for organizing the relations between diverse self-perceptions, with a person's general identity (“how I am in general”) organized above diverse role identities (e.g., “how I am as an employee”), which in turn is organized above role-specific behaviors and experiences (e.g., typical interactions with coworkers). In the present article, I argue that despite the fact that role trait measures are often much more related to role behaviors than general trait measures in cross-sectional analyses, general trait measures better capture the dispositional causes of a person's role behavior. In support of this, a brief study is presented illustrating how general traits may be better predictors than role-contextualized trait ratings of the evolution of an individual's experiences or behaviors within a given context. Finally, I contend that the basic framework of the PRISM, where a person's behaviors and identities within multiple contexts are assessed simultaneously and longitudinally alongside general personality ratings, is necessary to make strong statements concerning the nature of the relationships between personality traits and role experiences.