Neil Christiansen

  • Position: I/O Faculty, IOPA Advisor, I/O Program Director​
  • Department: Psychology
  • Campus Address: Sloan Hall 223, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
  • Email:
  • Vitae: Curriculum Vitae


Neil Christiansen received his B.S.E. from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. After a brief experience teaching in the public schools, he completed an M.A. in Social Psychology from Southern Illinois University, followed by a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology from Northern Illinois University. Prior to coming to CMU in 1997, he chaired the I/O program at Florida Tech and worked as a consultant in test development and personnel selection.

Current Research:

Effects of Personality on Work Strain: The role of job-person fit

The role of personality in determining job-person fit (P-J) was examined in the context of how the misfit can result in stress-based responses and strains. Drawing on Trait Activation Theory, the model posits that personality affects the work activities employees seek out on the job and how comfortable they are performing required activities. When workers have trait elevations that result in better fit (based on the congruence with the tasks performed), they will experience more positive work outcomes. To examine this, managers (N=334) completed a personality inventory, rated the frequency of task performance and their discomfort when performing those activities,  and evaluated their perceptions of person-job fit, emotional exhaustion, and anxiety. Results indicated that managers who were low on Five-Factor Model traits avoided tasks where higher elevations were related to success and that they experienced more discomfort when performing them. The results also confirmed that these factors were related to evaluations of whether managers perceived that the fit the job and more emotional exhaustion and anxiety.

International Comparison of Group Differences in General Mental Ability for Immigrants versus Non-Immigrants

Globalization has led to increased migration and labor mobility over the past several decades and immigrants generally seek jobs in their new countries. Tests of general mental ability (GMA) are common in personnel selection systems throughout the world. Unfortunately, GMA test scores often display differences between majority groups and ethnic subgroups that may represent a barrier to employment for immigrants. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in GMA based on immigrant status in 29 countries (or jurisdictions of countries) throughout the world using an existing database that employs high-quality measurement and sampling methodologies with large sample sizes. The primary findings were that across countries, non-immigrants (n = 139,464) scored approximately half of a standard deviation (d = .53) higher than first-generation immigrants (n = 22,162) but only one-tenth of one standard deviation (d = .12) higher than second-generation immigrants (n = 6,428). Considerable variability in effect sizes was found across countries as Nordic European and Germanic European countries evidenced the highest non-immigrant/first-generation immigrant mean differences and Anglo countries the smallest. Countries with the lowest income inequality tended to evidence the highest differences in GMA between non-immigrants and first-generation immigrants. Implications for GMA testing as a potential barrier to immigrant employment success and the field's current understanding of group differences in GMA test scores are discussed.

Departures from Linearity as Evidence of Applicant Distortion on Personality Tests

Three studies examined how faking impacts the normally linear construct relationships of personality tests by partitioning samples and measuring the effects on validity across different ranges of test scores. Study 1 constructed samples (n = 300) in a simulation using data from a laboratory faking study and systematically varied the proportion of distorted responses. Increase of faking in the samples predicted departures from linearity, with decreased convergent validity and increased saturation with social desirability at the top of the samples. Study 2 investigated validity decay across score ranges of applicants to a state police academy (n = 442). Personality test scores from the top of the distribution poorly predicted subsequent performance but strongly predicted social desirability scores. This pattern was not found for the partitioned scores of a cognitive test. Study 3 directly compared personality test scores and performance ratings of applicants (n = 97) to those of incumbents (n = 318) in a customer service job. Departures from linearity was observed in the applicant but not in the incumbent sample. Effects of applicant distortion on the validity of personality tests are especially concerning when validity decay increases toward the top of the distribution of test scores.

Comparing Applicants and Incumbents: Effects of response distortion on mean scores and validity of personality measures

The present study examined the negative effect of likely applicant distortion on mean scores and validity of personality measures. The personality test scores and performance ratings of applicants were directly compared to those of incumbents with the same occupation in four different samples. The results showed that applicant mean scores were higher and validity coefficients were lower than for incumbents.


Recent Publications:

Tett, R.P., Hundley, N & Christiansen, N.D. (in press). Meta-analysis and the Myth of Generalizability. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice.

Prewett, M., Brown., M., Christiansen, N.D., & Goswami, A. (2017). Effects of team personality composition on member performance: A multilevel perspective. Group & Organization Management, 72, 1-33.

Speer, A.B., Robie, C., & Christiansen, N.D. (2016). Effects of item type and estimation method on the accuracy of estimated personality trait scores: Polytomous item response theory models versus summated scoring. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 41-45.

Speer, A., Christiansen, N.D., & Honts, C. (2015). Assessment of personality through behavioral observations in work simulations. Personnel Assessment and Decisions, 1, 43-56.

Christiansen, N.D., Sliter, M.T., & Frost, C.T. (2014). What employees dislike about their jobs: Relationship between personality-based fit and work satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 71, 25-29.  

Burns, G., Christiansen, N.D., Morris, M.B., Periard, D.A. & Coaster, J. (2014). Effects of Applicant Personality on Resume Evaluation. Journal of Business and Psychology, 30, 21-38.  

Speer, A., Christiansen, N.D., Goffin, R.D., & Goff, M. (2014). Situational Bandwidth and the Criterion-related Validity of Assessment Center Ratings: Is cross-exercise convergence always desirable? Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 1-14.

Christiansen, N.D., Robie, C., Quirk, S.W., & Oswald, F. (2014). Light Already Defines the Darkness: Understanding normal and maladaptive personality in the workplace. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 25, 143-148.

Speer, A., Christiansen, N.D., Melchers, K.G., König, C. J., Kleinmann, M. (2014). Establishing the Cross-Situational Convergence of the Ability to Identify Criteria: Consistency and prediction across similar and dissimilar assessment center exercises. Human Performance, 27, 44-60