Accurate emotion perception is an indicator of current psychosocial functioning. Past studies have reported variable relationships between impaired emotion identification, maladaptive personality traits, and psychopathology. We examined associations between discrimination performance and trait negative emotionality, positive emotionality, constraint, and absorption using the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire. New military soldiers (n = 548) viewed perceptually similar face pairs and picked the face with greater emotional intensity. Emotional intensity differences were small (10%, 20%, 30%, or 40%). Among the most ambiguous conditions (10%, 20%, 30%), absorption predicted higher accuracy. Negative emotionality predicted lower accuracy irrespective of percent difficulty. Furthermore, absorption predicted longer engagement during the 10% condition. Constraint predicted longer engagement regardless of the difficulty condition. Trait absorption accuracy effects were specific for sad, angry, and fearful faces, while negative emotionality accuracy effects were specific for sad faces. The findings highlight absorption as an underappreciated domain for explaining motivational engagement with faces and negative emotionality as a transdiagnostic predictor of impaired emotion perception.