ADAPTABILITY TO CHANGING TASK CONTEXTS: EFFECTS OF GENERAL COGNITIVE ABILITY, CONSCIENTIOUSNESS, AND OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE

Authors


  • An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 1999 Academy of Management Meetings in Chicago, IL. We thank Christine Jackson, Amy Pepper, and Chris Purdy for their help in collecting and entering data. We also thank John Hollenbeck and Dan Ilgen for their helpful comments. This research was supported, in part, by Grant No. N00014-93-1-1385 from the Office of Naval Research. Although the support for this work is gratefully acknowledged, the ideas expressed herein are those of the authors and not necessarily endorsed by the funding agency.

  • Paul Sackett was the acting editor for this manuscript.

and requests for reprints should be addressed to Jeffrey A. LePine, Department of Management, Warrington College of Business Administration, University of Florida, PO Box 117165, Gainesville, FL 32611-7165; lepineja@notes.cba.ufl.edu.

Abstract

We examined the extent to which cognitive ability, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience predict decision-making performance prior to and after unforeseen changes in the task context. Seventy-three undergraduates made decisions on a series of 75 problems during a 3-hour computerized simulation. Unbeknownst to participants, the rules used in determining correct decisions changed after problems 25 and 50. Effects of the individual differences on decision-making performance became significantly stronger after the changes. Only cognitive ability explained variance in prechange performance. Individuals with higher cognitive ability made better decisions. After the change, the cognitive ability effect increased and the effects of Conscientiousness and Openness became statistically significant. As expected, those with high Openness made better decisions. Unexpectedly, those with low Conscientiousness made better decisions. Subsequent analyses revealed that this surprising effect for Conscientiousness was due to the traits reflecting dependability (i.e., order, dutiful-ness, deliberation) rather than volition (i.e., competence, achievement striving, self-discipline).

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