Personality involves both trait and state components, personal goals serving a crucial regulatory function for the expression of personality states. The present study investigates the dynamic interplay between conscientiousness-related goals, conscientious personality states, and trait conscientiousness.
A sample of 244 community participants responded to a baseline survey (T1), a 5-times-a-day Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) for 15 days, and a post-EMA survey (T2).
Pre-registered multilevel analyses indicated significant contemporaneous positive and negative associations between momentary conscientious and unconscientious goals and state conscientiousness, respectively. Cross-lagged associations also emerged, with goals predicting future states of conscientiousness. A latent growth model was fitted on a subsample of participants (N = 159). Results indicated that change in trait conscientiousness from T1 to T2 was explained by growth in conscientiousness-related goals during the EMA phase, with a mediating effect of growth in state conscientiousness.
Overall, the results corroborate the importance of goals for modeling contemporaneous and cross-lagged personality dynamics, both in short and longer timeframes.