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Do Personality Traits Affect Productivity? Evidence from the Lab


  • Maria Cubel

    (University of Barcelona and IEB)

  • Ana Nuevo-Chiquero

    () (University of Sheffield)

  • Santiago Sanchez-Pages

    () (Edinburgh School of Economics and University of Barcelona)

  • Marian Vidal-Fernandez

    (University of New South Wales and IZA)


While survey data supports a strong relationship between personality and labor market outcomes, the exact mechanisms behind this association remain unexplored. In this paper, we take advantage of a controlled laboratory set-up to test whether this relationship operates through productivity, and isolate this mechanism from other channels such as bargaining ability or self-selection into jobs. Using a gender neutral real-effort task, we analyse the impact of the Big Five personality traits on performance. We find that more neurotic subjects perform worse, and that more conscientious individuals perform better. These findings are in line with previous survey studies and suggest that at least part of the effect of personality on labor market outcomes operates through productivity. In addition, we find evidence that gender and university major affect the impact of the Big Five personality traits on performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Maria Cubel & Ana Nuevo-Chiquero & Santiago Sanchez-Pages & Marian Vidal-Fernandez, 2014. "Do Personality Traits Affect Productivity? Evidence from the Lab," Working Papers 2014012, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:shf:wpaper:2014012

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. How your personality relates to your productivity – and salary
      by Ana Nuevo-Chiquero, InstEAD Research Fellow at University of Sheffield in The Conversation on 2015-04-22 17:55:23


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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:series:v:8:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s13209-017-0162-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Larbi Alaoui & Christian Fons-Rosen, 2016. "Know when to fold 'em: The grit factor," Economics Working Papers 1521, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 2016.
    3. Mareckova, Jana & Pohlmeier, Winfried, 2017. "Noncognitive Skills and Labor Market Outcomes: A Machine Learning Approach," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168195, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Christopher Flinn & Petra Todd & Weilong Zhang, 2017. "Personality Traits, Intra-household Allocation and the Gender Wage Gap," Working Papers 2017-029, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    5. Marcello Sartarelli, 2016. "Handedness, Ability, Earnings and Risk. Evidence from the Lab," Working Papers. Serie AD 2016-04, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
    6. Ana Hidalgo-Cabrillana & Zoë Kuehn & Cristina Lopez-Mayan, 2017. "Development accounting using PIAAC data," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 373-399, November.

    More about this item


    Big-Five; personality traits; experiment; labour productivity; performance;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics

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