Personality Processes Laboratory

Research Overview

logo for personality processes

Our personalities shape our lives in profound ways. Personality helps explain why different people seek out different environments and experiences, and respond in different ways to the same situations and events. Our traits are also readily perceived by others, and influence how they behave towards us—thereby moulding our social world. The Personality Processes Laboratory seeks to expand our knowledge of the structure of personality, along with its underlying causes and downstream consequences for various aspects of our lives.

One major strand of this work has sought to identify how personality is linked with wellbeing and human happiness: Which traits are most important for which aspects of wellbeing? What are the mechanisms through which our personality shapes the experienced quality of our lives? And how may efforts to boost well-being impact positively or negatively on people as a function of their personalities? Another major research focus concerns the links that personality traits have with prosociality and morality: What characteristics distinguish morally exceptional individuals from the average person? Who is more likely to give money to charity, or to help someone in need? How does our personality influence the principles we apply to distinguish right from wrong? A third program of research concerns the testing and refinement of theories in personality neuroscience. What are the underlying processes the give rise to individual differences in personality? Can we explain the emergence of personality at the psychological/behavioural level in terms of neural activity and neural systems? Publications arising from our research in these areas can be found below.

Personality Processes Lab


Associate Professor Luke Smillie (Director)
Professor Sam Gosling

Current graduate students:
Timothy Bainbridge
Hayley Jach
Erin Lawn
Reb Rebele
Haisu Sun
Nicholas Tan

Past graduate students:
Dr Kun Zhao
Dr Kate Barford
Dr Paul Liknaitzky


Professor Alan Pickering (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Dr Andrew Cooper (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Professor Jan Wacker (University of Hamburg)
Professor Colin DeYoung (University of Minnesota)
Professor William Revelle (Northwestern University)
Dr Joshua Wilt (Case Western Reserve)
Associate Professor Tamlin Connor (University of Otago)
Professor Neil McNaughton (University of Otago)
Dr Ben Richardson (Deakin University)
Dr Jeromy Anglim (Deakin University)
Associate Professor Peggy Kern (University of Melbourne)

Research Outcomes

Associate Professor Luke Smillie's Psychology Today Blog:
The Patterns of Persons (

Scientific American:

The Conversation:

Research Publications

Jacques-Hamilton, R., Sun, J. & Smillie, L. D. (in press). Costs and Benefits of Acting Extraverted: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Jach, H. K. & Smillie, L. D. (2019). To Fear or Fly to the Unknown: Tolerance for Ambiguity and Big Five Personality Traits. Journal of Research in Personality, 79, 67-78.

Bainbridge, T. Quinlan, J., Mar., R. & Smillie, L. D. (2019). Openness/Intellect and Susceptibility to Pseudo-Profound Bullshit: A Replication and Extension. European Journal of Personality, 33, 72-88.

Smillie, L. D. Zhao, K., Lawn, E. C. R., Perry, R. & Laham, S. M. (2019).  Prosociality and Morality through the Lens of Personality Psychology. Australian Journal of Psychology, 71, 50-58.

Barford, K. A., Fayn, K., Silvia, P. & Smillie, L. D. (2018). Individual differences in conflicting stimulus evaluations: Openness/Intellect predicts mixed-valenced appraisals of visual art. Journal of Research in Personality, 73, 46-55.

Zhao, K., Ferguson, E., & Smillie, L. D. (2017). Politeness and Compassion Differentially Predict Adherence to Fairness Norms and Interventions to Norm Violations. Scientific Reports, 7, 3415.

Sun, J., Stevenson, K., Kabbani, R., Richardson, B. & Smillie, L. D. (2017). The Pleasure of Making a Difference: Perceived Social Contribution Explains the Relation Between Extraverted Behavior and Positive Affect. Emotion, 17, 794-810.

Smillie, L. D., Varsavsky, V., Avery, R. E., & Perry, R. (2016). Intellect (Distinct from Openness) Predicts Cognitive Engagement: Evidence from a Resource Allocation Perspective. European Journal of Personality, 30, 215–226.

Pickering, A. D., Smillie, L. D., DeYoung, C. G. (2016). Neurotic individuals are not creative thinkers. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 1–2.

Smillie, L. D., Wilt, J., Kabbani, R., Garratt, C. L. & Revelle, W. (2015). Quality of Social Experience Explains the Relation Between Extraversion and Positive Affect. Emotion, 15, 339-349.

Zhao, K. & Smillie, L. D. (2015). The Role of Interpersonal Traits in Social Decision Making: Exploring Sources of Behavioral Heterogeneity in Economic Games. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19, 277-302.

Research Projects

This Research Group doesn't currently have any projects

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Cognitive Psychology and Behavioural Neuroscience, Social and Personality Psychology

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Laboratory Director Dr Luke D Smillie

Department / Centre

Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences

Unit / Centre

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