The St. Louis Personality & Aging Network (SPAN) Study
The primary study being conducted in the SPAN lab is the St. Louis Personality & Aging Network (SPAN) study. This study was launched in 2007 and is being conducted by a multidisciplinary team of investigators who have substantial experience in personality, aging, and epidemiological studies. It is a prospective, longitudinal study of the stability and impact of personality in later life. The study examines connections among personality traits, health, biology, and social adjustment in a sample of participants approaching the challenges of later life. A primary goal of the SPAN study is to identify the extent to which personality and personality problems influence the ability to adapt successfully to important life transitions.
The participants in the SPAN study include a representative sample of over 1,600 adults living in the St. Louis area. Baseline assessments included a semi-structured interview, and various personality and psychosocial questionnaires. For each participant, one informant (most often a spouse or other family member) completes the personality questionnaires to describe the participant’s personality. Follow-up assessments of personality and personality problems, social functioning and marital adjustment, as well as physical and mental health, are conducted at regular intervals. Data from this project will help us understand the impact of personality and biology on health and social adjustment over the lifespan.
Another primary goal of the SPAN study is to determine how informant-reported assessments of personality can inform us about the health and well-being of our participants. Most knowledge of personality is based on evidence obtained from self-report measures. Unfortunately, there is only a modest correlation between the ways in which people describe themselves and the ways in which they are perceived by others. The SPAN study serves to explore the discrepancies between self-report and informant measures in the assessment of personality and personality disorders. We are studying ways in which people see themselves, ways in which they are seen by other people, and their beliefs about what other people think of them. In this way, the SPAN study lies directly at the intersection between basic science and clinical research. Our research depends heavily on methods and concepts developed by investigators studying interpersonal perception.