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Dimensions of cultural orientation towards change show differential links with indices of societal development

Press release: "Translating dispositional resistance to change to the culture level: Developing a cultural framework of change orientations"

In a recent study, Prof. Shaul Oreg and Dr. Noga Sverdlik investigated how societies approach the notion of change versus stability. They examined this issue by aggregating to the country-level the tendencies of 6,487 individuals, from 27 countries, to resist and avoid change. Their results show that at the country level, resistance to change comprises three dimensions, each of which reflect a different way of maintaining societal stability. These dimensions differed in their relationships with indices of societal development. This is noteworthy, because the study results show that maintaining stability may not necessarily be in conflict with societal progress. The results of the study are published in the July/August issue of the European Journal of Personality.

In their research, Oreg and Sverdlik found that a country’s orientation toward change consists of cultural rigidity (the degree to which a society conforms to existing norms and ideas), affective reactance (the degree to which a society is apprehensive about social change), and cultural routine seeking (the degree to which a society promotes routines that are valued by its members). Next, the researchers found that scores on these dimensions are related to several indices of economic, technological, social, and environmental change (such as Gross Domestic Product, mobile cellular subscriptions, LGB rights legislation, and use of atomic and alternative energy), and that two of the dimensions (cultural rigidity and cultural routine seeking) can even be used to predict changes in these indices over time. For example, higher cultural rigidity predicted a descent in several indices of technological and economic development between 1990 and 2012.

Of particular interest is that cultural rigidity and affective reactance were found to be negatively associated with change indices – that is, they were related to less societal development – whereas cultural routine seeking was in fact associated with more societal development. The study contributes to the understanding of societies’ orientation toward change, and demonstrates how personality concepts can be used as a starting point for learning about societal dimensions. This study also underscores the importance of distinguishing among dimensions of cultures’ orientation toward change and their links to societal progress. These findings suggest that an orientation toward stability may not necessarily be in opposition to societal development, but that it depends on the exact dimension of cultural orientation toward change.

Correspondence about this research may be addressed to the lead author, Prof. Shaul Oreg, School of Business Administration, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel. Prof. Oreg can be contacted via email at The article can be accessed here.

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