My research is on work related stress and burnout amongst healthcare professionals and the role that personality play in either reducing or increasing levels of stress and burnout. I'm using the big five personality factors to research how each of these factors affect the relationship between stress and burnout.

  • How does personality affect levels of stress in individuals?
  • Can a person's personality be a mediating or moderating factor?
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to CogSci! We expect some degree of initial research prior to phrasing a question so that people answering it have an easier time answering exactly which part you don't get/want to know more about. Try looking into the subject shortly yourself and please update your question reflecting your research, along with any open questions you might have. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    May 21, 2013 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Angie. Stack Exchange doesn't follow the traditional 'forum' model. Each 'post' is a question with answers. I edited this question with the information you've given in the wrongly posted new one. If you want to comment, use the comment function here or talk to us in chat. If you want to update your question based on feedback you've gotten from us, you can do so by clicking edit. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    May 21, 2013 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ HI Steven thank u for editing my question. I joined the chat but I guess I was too late. So I'll b back tomorrow. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Angie
    May 21, 2013 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ just deleted the other one $\endgroup$ May 22, 2013 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ There's a trait called "grit" that is described here: ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit.html . I'm not sure if this is a physiological or a personality trait though. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    May 24, 2013 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


Personality is generally theorised to be a stable individual difference variable. Research has shown it to be highly stable over time. Thus, from a theoretical perspective it typically has a primacy in causal models.

Stress can be an ambiguous construct. It can refer to the objective existence of stressful stimuli or the way that individuals perceive those stresses.

From a theoretical perspective, personality is related to both the objective experience of stressors and the subjective perception of stressors. In particular, neuroticism refers to dispositions to experience negative emotions. Personality influences the world. For example, people put themselves into situations that may elicit more stressful experiences. Likewise, personality can influence the experience of stress through various mental models, interpretive schemas, rumination tendencies, and so on.

While one can imagine in the extreme that stress can alter personality (e.g., PTSD), in general personality makes more sense as a factor that has a causal influence on both the objective experience and perception of stressful experiences. In this sense, it personality does not mediate the effect of stress on burnout. This theoretically based conclusion is important. Statistical tests of mediation will provide rubbish information if you just plug in three intercorrelated variables like stress, personality, and burnout.

From a theoretical perspective personality should causally influence the objective presence of stress, the subjective perception of stress, and whether someone experiences burnout. It also makes sense that certain personality traits such as neuroticism would causally increase the relationship between objective stressors and subjective stress and ultimately more extreme forms of subjective stress such as burnout. However, in order to really test this idea, you need to get very good measures of objective stressors. Subjective measures of stress are likely to be influenced directly by personality which is likely to reduce the potential moderator relationship. Alternatively, you might just find that main effects are enough; i.e., that personality and objective stressors mutually contribute to burnout, but that there is no interaction effect (as would be implied by the moderator hypothesis).

There are thousands of empirical articles looking at correlates of personality, stress, strain, burnout and so on. I have read a lot of them many years ago. This answer focuses more on the theoretical underpinnings of any relationship.

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    $\begingroup$ hello Jeromy, Thank you very much for replying. I have read many journals on this as well and your answer about personality being a moderator makes sense. However, what if I add in another variable for example "ways of coping" into this study (i.e- work-related stress and burnout amongst healthcare professionals, The moderating role of personality)? would ways of coping be a moderator or mediator? (this is a bit unclear to me given that an individual's personality is more likely to influence his/her coping style. $\endgroup$
    – Angie
    May 22, 2013 at 5:10
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Angie, if "ways of coping" would be a moderator or a mediator depends on the way analyze it. You could either hypothesize that it moderates the relationship between stress and burnout (different ways of coping relate to different levels of burnout) or that it mediates the relationship (the coping strategy would then be the reason for burnout to occur or not). $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2013 at 8:28

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