Category: Comorbidity - Anxiety and Other

PS15- #B61 - Existential Factors: Linking Personality to Negative Emotionality

Sunday, Nov 19
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Risk / Vulnerability Factors | Anxiety | Change Process / Mechanisms

Theories of personality account for individual differences in susceptibility to negative emotionality and existential theories explain distressed affect; however, personality and existential factors are rarely examined together in predicting distress. This study examined the direct effects of two personality traits, sensation seeking and impulsivity, as distal antecedents of negative emotionality. We also examined the direct effects of two existential factors, meaning in life and intolerance of uncertainty, as proximal antecedents. Further, we hypothesized that presence of meaning, search for meaning, and intolerance of uncertainty would mediate the predictive abilities of impulsivity and sensation seeking on negative emotionality.


Participants included 633 undergraduate students (76.6% female) recruited from the psychology research pool at Colorado State University. Participants were between the ages of 17 and 45 (M= 19.35, SD= 2.07). Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) using Mplus 7.4 tested the proposed model. The SEM had good model fit (RMSEA estimate = .06, 90% CI = [.045, .075], p = .13;  CFI = .968; SRMR =.02)).


Overall, results indicate that individuals who are sensation seekers (i.e., risk-seeking or experience-seeking) are more likely to experience negative emotionality if they score highly on intolerance of uncertainty. For people who are sensation-seekers, who act impulsively without planning, or who act impulsively due to positive emotion, it may be advantageous to bolster tolerance of uncertainty in order to reduce the risk of experiencing negative emotionality. ACT or CBT might be therapeutically indicated in promoting psychological flexibility and challenging rigid thinking patterns, respectively. In addition, results indicate that experience-seekers and those who act impulsively due to positive emotion may be at increased risk for negative emotionality via a reduced sense that life is meaningful. Thus, it is important to consider that bolstering one’s sense that life is meaningful may serve as a protective factor in the link between personality factors and negative emotionality.


This study is the first of its kind to explore relations among personality facets, existential variables, and negative emotionality. These findings may indicate proximal targets for intervention, including increasing tolerance of uncertainty and fostering meaning in life. Future directions include incorporating behavioral outcomes, such as substance use or risky sexual behavior, to extend the tested model. 

Jessica L. Morse

Colorado State University

Maeve B. O'Donnell

Graduate Student
Colorado State University

Kirsten L. Graham

Colorado State University

Ryan L. Rahm-Knigge

Graduate Student
Colorado State University

Mark A. A. Prince

Assistant Professor
Colorado State University, Colorado

Bradley T. Conner

Associate Professor
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado