Linear and Nonlinear Associations Between General Intelligence and Personality in Project TALENT

Jason T. Major*, Wendy Johnson, Ian J. Deary

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Research on the relations of personality traits to intelligence has primarily been concerned with linear associations. Yet, there are no a priori reasons why linear relations should be expected over nonlinear ones, which represent a much larger set of all possible associations. Using 2 techniques, quadratic and generalized additive models, we tested for linear and nonlinear associations of general intelligence (g) with 10 personality scales from Project TALENT (PT), a nationally representative sample of approximately 400,000 American high school students from 1960, divided into 4 grade samples (Flanagan et al., 1962). We departed from previous studies, including one with PT (Reeve, Meyer, & Bonaccio, 2006), by modeling latent quadratic effects directly, controlling the influence of the common factor in the personality scales, and assuming a direction of effect from g to personality. On the basis of the literature, we made 17 directional hypotheses for the linear and quadratic associations. Of these, 53% were supported in all 4 male grades and 58% in all 4 female grades. Quadratic associations explained substantive variance above and beyond linear effects (mean R 2 between 1.8% and 3.6%) for Sociability, Maturity, Vigor, and Leadership in males and Sociability, Maturity, and Tidiness in females; linear associations were predominant for other traits. We discuss how suited current theories of the personality-intelligence interface are to explain these associations, and how research on intellectually gifted samples may provide a unique way of understanding them. We conclude that nonlinear models can provide incremental detail regarding personality and intelligence associations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-654
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • intelligence-personality associations
  • intelligence
  • personality
  • Project TALENT
  • quadratic associations
  • BIG 5
  • IQ


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