For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Job Conditions and Personality: A Longitudinal Assessment of Their Reciprocal Effects"

by Kohn, Melvin L; Schooler, Carmi (1982)


In earlier work, we assessed a longitudinal causal model of the reciprocal effects of the substative complexity of work and intellectual flexibility. In this paper, we greatly expand the causal model to consider sumultaneously several structural imperatives of the job and three major dimensions of personality-ideational flexibility, a self directed orientation to self and society, and a sense of distress. The analysis demonstrates that the structural imperatives of the job affect personality. Self-directed work leads to ideational flexibility and to a self-directed orientation to self and society; oppressive working conditions lead to distress. These findings strongly support a learning generalization model. Personality, in turn, has important consequences for an individual's place in the job structure and in the system of social stratification. In particular, both ideational flexibility and a self-directed orientation lead, over time, to more responsible jobs that allow greater latitude for occupational self-direction.

Key Passage

... this analysis does take us considerably beyond our original approach (Kohn and Schooler 1969; Kohn 1969), which allowed us only to assume that class-associated conditions of life affect the psychological functioning of individuals. We now have strong evidence that job conditions actually do affect personality, and also that personality affects job conditions. Moreover, these reciprocal pro- cesses are embedded in an intricate and complex web in which job conditions also affect each other and some aspects of personality affect others. (p.1281)


Intellectual Flexibility, Reciprocity, Personality, Identity, Self, Distress, Psychology, Work Complexity


Kohn-Schooler, Psychological Centrality of Work

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