Adaptability to changing task contexts: Effects of general cognitive ability, conscientiousness, and openness to experience

Jeffrey A. Le Pine, Jason A. Colquitt, Amir Erez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

356 Scopus citations


We examined the extent to which cognitive ability, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience predict decision-making performance prior to and after unforeseen changes in the task context. Seventy-three undergraduates made decisions on a series of 75 problems during a 3-hour computerized simulation. Unbeknownst to participants, the rules used in determining correct decisions changed after problems 25 and 50. Effects of the individual differences on decision-making performance became significantly stronger after the changes. Only cognitive ability explained variance in prechange performance. Individuals with higher cognitive ability made better decisions. After the change, the cognitive ability effect increased and the effects of Conscientiousness and Openness became statistically significant. As expected, those with high Openness made better decisions. Unexpectedly, those with low Conscientiousness made better decisions. Subsequent analyses revealed that this surprising effect for Conscientiousness was due to the traits reflecting dependability (i.e., order, dutifulness, deliberation) rather than volition (i.e., competence, achievement striving, self-discipline).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-593
Number of pages31
JournalPersonnel Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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