The persistence of the modern self: A personality trait analysis

Steven C Hertler, Pace University


Research on identity and self formation indicates a surge of relatively recent investigations into personal persistence, sometimes referred to as diachronicity. Diachronicity is a sense of feeling like the same self or same person when looking into the past; whereas the term diachronic disunity is characteristic of a profound sense of alienation from one's past, to the point where preceding thought and behavior patterns are inconceivable. The preponderance of personal persistence research investigates either the disunified self or the persistent self with much of the remaining literature limited to philosophical debate. The proponents of a diachronic and persistent self construction agree with classical psychological theory, championing personal persistence as the proper and healthy form of self-construal. Alternate views hold the persistence of self to be an illusion, a product of poor research methods or a relic of past eras not to be applied to the selves of modernity. After reviewing the literature and examining the incidence rates of diachronic disunity, the present project attempted to explain variation based on non-pathological personality variation, with three of the Five Factor Model domains being used: Neuroticism, Extraversion and Openness to Experience. All of the abovementioned variables were hypothesized to be negatively associated with diachronicity. In other words, as Neuroticism, Extraversion and Openness to Experience increase, one's level of diachronicity was thought to decrease, leading to a greater chance of developing a sense of diachronic disunity. In addition, a measure of future orientation, the Time Reference Inventory, was used to assess participants' levels of future orientation. Greater degrees of future oriented thought were predicted to rise in tandem with diachronicity. The results revealed limited support for the above hypotheses with future orientation and Neuroticism evidencing the predicted relationship. Openness to Experience was not related to diachronicity and Extraversion was positively, rather than negatively, associated with diachronicity indicating that higher levels of Extraversion are associated with personal persistence. Exploratory hypotheses revealed a positive relationship between Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. Taken collectively, these findings imply a relationship between diachronicity and a personality profile that could be construed as adaptive and readily equated with psychological wellbeing within a modern Western society. Those whose subjectivity was characterized by diachronicity or persistence, were more likely to be low in Neuroticism while possessing high levels of Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and future oriented thought. Alternatively, diachronically disunified participants could be thought of as experiencing more internal distress while finding it difficult to maintain investment in the external world, a pleasant nature, a sense of duty and an extended future perspective.

Subject Area

Personality psychology

Recommended Citation

Hertler, Steven C, "The persistence of the modern self: A personality trait analysis" (2008). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3309581.



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