Happy Neurotics

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Personality differences can help explain why some people have a heightened risk to develop psychopathology whereas others are generally healthy and happy. Two major pathways that link the Big Five personality factors to psychopathology are differences in emotion dynamics and social relationships. In this symposium we zoom into these personality processes using associated differences in emotional dynamics and social interactions across four innovative intensive longitudinal studies. Subsequently, we integrate and deepen our understanding of these emotional and social processes with an integrative review of theories that link personality and psychopathology,
and a test of these processes in one large cohort study. In the first study we examine how different types of adverse childhood social experiences (CTQ-SF), the key things caretakers have (c)omitted (i.e., emotional/physical/sexual abuse/neglect), predict differences in the intensity, variability, instability, inertia, and diversity of adult emotions, and the role of personality differences therein (290 adults aged 19-73; 90 measurements pp., using SEM). The second study examined how differences in adult personalities manifest in interpersonal coordination and synchronization of bodies movement and arousal) and minds (emotions/closeness) during and after dyadic social interactions (56 dyads using semi-structured 15-min conversations in the lab). In this second study we focus on the role of the social traits agreeableness and extraversion. Third, we zoom into the differences between low and high neuroticism scores in terms of daily activities and emotions over 30-days (82% women, Mage= 41.4 (SD=13.5), 90 measurements pp.), and explore the role of the other Big Five personality traits and temporal dynamics in self-esteem, worrying, loneliness, physical activity, being outside, and making a difference to others therein (multilevel vector-autoregressive models). High neuroticism is the strongest psychological predictor of psychopathology, and a focus on happy and flourishing neurotic adults may inform us on protective emotional and social factors. We close the symposium with a theoretical integration of our results within key models that describe personality-psychopathology transactions using four conceptual layers: Symptoms, Outcomes, Adversity, and
Personality (the SOAP-box), differentiating between time-specific within-person vs. stable between-person variance. The ten major models of personality-psychopathology transactions and some theoretical, methodological, and empirical ramifications of using the SOAP-box are tested on 15.062 participants of the Dutch Longitudinal Internet Studies of the Social Sciences (LISS, Mage= 43 (SD=17.6), 54% women). These models showed how personality-psychopathology transactions differ between traits and could fit multiple competing theoretical models, and the best applicable model
depends on the specific combination of SOAP elements. This symposium illustrates both an innovative methodological toolbox to map personality-psychopathology relationships and the crucial role of emotion dynamics and social relationships therein. Moreover, these studies may inspire theories on the ontogenesis and functioning of emotion and personality differences, the central role of social relationships in their effects, and theories on the prevention of adverse developmental sequalae of stress, to help identify and understand well-adjusted and (dys-)functional emotional development. We hope the audience shall be inspired to focus on the five major personality factors and their link to diverse operationalization of emotion dynamics, social interactions, stress, and psychopathology.
Event title International Convention of Psychological Science
Event typeConference
LocationBrussels, BelgiumShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Neuroticism
  • Happiness
  • Quality of Life
  • Emotion dynamics
  • Daily activities
  • Self-esteem
  • Loneliness
  • Worrying