Personality psychology seeks to be explanatory rather than merely descriptive, and the purpose of this review is to examine the viability of a cognitive processing approach to personality traits. In support of this goal, a multistage cognitive processing model is introduced. The review then seeks to link extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness to distinct processing operations. It is suggested that extraversion and neuroticism are systematically related to affective memory structures favoring positive and negative affect, respectively. On the other hand, it is suggested that agreeableness appears to be less closely linked to accessibility processes and more closely linked to affect and emotion control following activated hostile thoughts. Finally, recent data support developmental suggestions that individual differences in executive function appear to play an important role in moderating the neuroticism-distress relationship. In total, the review documents recent developments in understanding the processing basis of extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness.