Problem Solving includes a range of discrete skills related to how individuals solve social problems. These skills are associated with specific facets of Conscientiousness. Much of the developmental and intervention work on social problem solving29 has emphasized an array of interconnected social information-processing skills30 individuals use when solving social problems (e.g., joining a group, resolving conflicts). These include attention to relevant cues, interpretation of cues and emotional reactions, goal setting and planning, access to behavioral responses from memory, evaluation of responses, decision making, behavioral enactment, and reflection (Crick & Dodge, 1994). Through socialization, direct instruction, and cultural influences, individuals develop relatively stable patterns of processing social (and non-social) information.
Resilience has been defined as the ability to “bounce back” from adversity and thrive in the context of risk. Resilience refers to a pattern over time that is characterized by good eventual adaptation despite risk, stressors, or adversity. It also is defined by the ability to appropriately and realistically connect future goals and opportunities to one’s own abilities, and to adapt as needed to situational constraints. Resilient individuals cope well with stressors and do not get derailed by stressful events but persist and remain optimistic. Although there are individual differences in stress tolerance, resilience generally is a learned process that is facilitated through positive and supportive interactions with the environment. Conscientiousness and low Neuroticism are two of the Big Five traits that align with resilience, along with Grit, but it is the expression of these traits under difficult circumstances that is the defining feature of resilience.
Achievement Motivation includes an orientation towards success, mastery, and sense of purpose. It has been associated with the capacity and drive to pursue difficult tasks, to work toward desired goals, and a high degree of independence. Individuals who are high in achievement motivation will demonstrate both a desire to learn and a focus on mastery as well as (or even more than) performance goals. They view learning skills and intelligence as an effortful, incremental process that can be improved rather than an inherited trait that is relatively stable over time. In terms of personality traits, it is most closely aligned with Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience as well as the construct of Grit.
Control (self-control) includes a range of self-regulatory skills that are evident when individuals are able to modulate and restrain their impulses or immediate reactions to stimuli. Control skills such as the ability to effectively focus attention, delay gratification, and inhibit impulsive responding are crucial for early academic achievement and have been linked to later adjustment, educational, and occupational success. They also are important for problem solving, as they allow individuals to “stop and think” before acting and respond in a controlled rather than automatic fashion. Control is related to the concept of delay discounting in that low levels of impulse control are linked to higher levels of discounting future rewards. Self-control is an important skill complement to Conscientiousness.
Teamwork refers broadly to a set of skills involved in getting along with others, understanding their feelings and points of view, communicating effectively, being helpful and agreeable, and not engaging in aggressive or bullying behaviors. In the social-emotional domain it has been defined more regularly as “relationship skills” that enable individuals to get along with and work effectively with others, including people from diverse cultures. Teamwork is highest among individuals who score high on personality traits of Extraversion and Agreeableness.
Initiative can be conceptualized as the “active ingredient” that motivates individuals to operate as positive and successful actors in their own lives and in systems. Initiative hinges on personal agency31 and an internal locus of control, a belief that outcomes depend on one’s own actions rather than fate, chance, or others. It is linked to enterprise, taking charge, follow-through, determination, and leadership. It also facilitates effective engagement within organizational contexts. Although initiative and achievement motivation are related, they are distinct skills. Initiative relates to any type of “take charge” action such as picking up litter on the street, whereas achievement motivation is linked to a desire to succeed and is associated with setting long-term academic and career goals and following this pursuit in spite of obstacles that may occur along the way. Initiative correlates with mastery orientation to achievement and relates to the personality traits of Openness to Experience and Conscientiousness.
Confidence includes beliefs and feelings about one’s abilities generally and in specific contexts. These beliefs have been referred to as self-efficacy or efficacy beliefs. Confidence also includes a realistic self-concept and positive feelings towards the self, often labeled self-esteem or self- confidence. In adolescence, it is an important component of identity development based on a positive sense of self and one’s direction and future in the world. Self-relevant constructs have been linked to low levels of Neuroticism.
Ethics are skills that are characterized by strength of character, social responsibility, and principled behavior. There is considerable debate as to whether there are universal ethical values or whether ethics are relativistic or dependent on cultural norms. Still, in terms of labor market outcomes, it is possible to identify specific and more universally-accepted and relevant skills linked to honesty, following rules, following through on actions, fairness, and acting in a responsible manner. Clearly, society and employers require trustworthy citizens who follow cultural rules and norms. For example, GED-earning adults contribute less to the economy than high-school graduates, a pattern that is not attributable to differences in academic competence. Instead, GED earners may be less proficient in adhering to ethical, context-suitable behavior, because they missed opportunities to acquire these skills from school social interactions (Heckman & Rubinstein, 2001). Skills related to ethics such as following rules are associated with the personality trait of Conscientiousness.