Bridging Personality and Cognition: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges in the Age of Digital Transformation

Personality and cognition are core domains of individual functioning in humans. Personality refers to individual differences in a range of different styles of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are important in interactions among individuals, social and physical environments. Cognition refers to mental abilities that are needed to meet the challenges of job and family demands, of education and social expectations, and to manage the demands of daily life. Both domains are related to important life outcomes. For example, personality predicts health, substance use/abuse, and mortality (e.g., Mroczek & Spiro, 2007). Similarly, cognition is related to declines in activities of daily living, Alzheimer’s disease, and also to mortality (e.g., Aichele, Rabbitt, & Ghisletta, 2015). Moreover, research showed that both domains develop and demonstrate plasticity across the entire lifespan (Allemand, Aschwanden, Martin, & Grünenfelder, 2017; Hofer & Alwin, 2008; Mella, Fagot, Lecerf, & de Ribaupierre, 2015). Despite their importance for various life outcomes and development, surprisingly few studies have examined the associations between personality and cognition (Briley & Tucker-Drob, 2017), and most of the existing studies found rather weak links between personality and cognition (e.g., Aschwanden, Kliegel, & Allemand, 2018). The existing work on personality and cognition is subject to several challenges that need to be addressed to bridge the two domains. Among these are differences in research traditions utilizing different conceptualizations (typical behaviors vs. maximal performance), measurement strategies (self-reports vs. cognitive tests), and analytical procedures.

Digitization and digitalization are two extremely precious means to fill the gaps between personality and cognition research. First, there is promising capacity to ameliorate the assessment of both domains due to digitization (i.e., transferring knowledge from written sources, such as from self-reports, to digital means, like portable electronic devices through ambulatory assessment). The digitization creates new opportunities for the assessment and study of personality and cognition in daily life. The advent of new technologies (e.g., mobile technology, wearable sensors) calls for the development and evaluation of a new generation of innovative conceptual frameworks and new research paradigms. Second, the digitalization of personality and cognition digitized information has the potential to significantly advance and bridge research in these fields. Digitalization will link digitized assessments of both domains and co-analyze them to understand the co-dependencies between the individual processes involved in both domains.

With this proposal, we would like to apply for joint seed funding to develop and establish a collaborative research direction to bridge two domains of individual functioning in the digital era. The digital issues (i.e., digitization and digitalization) are a great opportunity to investigate our research subjects in an ecologically valid manner, to obtain advanced results, and to enrich our teaching. Specifically, the goals are (a) to teach and co-teach classes/seminaries that include aspects about personality and cognition, digitization, and digitalization, (b) to collaborate on joint analyses of existing data sets, and (c) to prepare a joint proposal to apply for third-party funding to investigate the digitization and digitalization of cognition and personality in depth. Three workshops are planned to reach the goals of the project (see project timeline).


Prof. Dr. Mathias Allemand, University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Paolo Ghisletta, University of Geneva
Dr. Damaris Aschwanden, University of Zurich
Dr. Thierry Lecerf, University of Geneva