From left to right in , we show three possible configurations of a response surface that represents surfaces that are pertinent to the current study. With well-being plotted on the Z axis, the surface (b) corresponds to the Goldilocks hypothesis. In this surface, Moderate Growers report the highest level of well-being.
For conscientiousness, curvature was found along the X = -Y axis for all three types of well-being. The displacement was significant for PA and absence of NA. For PWB, zero fell within the bounds of the confidence interval, but a post hoc analysis revealed that the displacement test would have passed had the CI upper bound been set at 94.65% (z = 1.612), instead of 97.5%. Given this negligible difference, we interpret the displacement as a Goldilocks effect. In the conscientiousness–NA surface, the line of optimality intersected the line of stability at the upper end of the trait scale. Thus, for people at the upper end of the scale, stability may have been beneficial or a ceiling effect may have occurred. In the conscientiousness–PA and conscientiousness–PWB surfaces, the parallelism coefficient had a confidence interval straddling one. Therefore, it is plausible that the two lines were parallel, and that moderate growth was optimal along the entire spectrum of initial values. However, the interval was wide, indicating uncertainty.
First, optical SETI should allow us to discover evidence of what we may now call a galactic transcension zone, an inner ring of each galactic habitable zone that contains far older planets that have long ago transcended and collapsed themselves to near black hole or black hole densities.
The detection of Goldilocks effects (and other curvilinear effects) hinges on the use of polynomial coefficients rather than linear coefficients. Prior studies of trait change solely used linear coefficients, and Goldilocks effects and other curvilinear effects were thus undetectable. As others have noted , the Goldilocks effect is a common feature in the positive psychology literature, and inattention to such effects may be limiting to progress when well-being is the outcome of interest. (We caution that polynomial coefficient analysis is necessary but insufficient for the detection of optimal levels. Post hoc analyses, such as those conducted here, must be used to detect optimal levels after significant polynomial coefficients have been found.)
The goal of this study was to reconcile two theoretical perspectives on positive trait change: one extolling its benefits, the other its costs. We hypothesized that moderate positive trait change was the “just right” amount that would predict the highest level of well-being. When the benefits of positive trait from one process (i.e., self enhancement) and drawbacks from another process (i.e., violation of self verification) accrue at different rates, there is an inflection point where the overall outcome ceases to be beneficial. Response surface analyses revealed that moderate increases in sociality, agency, and conscientiousness were optimal, as hypothesized. Thus, the evidence supports the Goldilocks hypothesis for these three traits.
For three traits—sociality, agency, and conscientiousness—the piecewise results support the argument that positive change confers benefits up to an inflection point. For moderate changers—those below the Goldilocks point—the slopes were positive and statistically significant in all nine analyses, indicating that incremental increases in positive trait strength (up to this point) predicted incremental increases in well-being. But for large changers, the slopes in eight out of nine cases did not differ from zero. In five of the nine analyses, the slopes in the moderate range and large range were significantly different from each other, but the non-significance in the other four cases is less pertinent than the fact that the slopes in the large range did not significantly differ from zero. Although the slopes in the large range were negative in some cases, they did not reach statistical significance (except in one case), which detracts from the argument that excessive change may reduce well-being. However, the effect size may have been weak, and insufficient statistical power may have been an issue. The interval (between a person with a 0.999 SD change score and a 1 SD change score) was negative in eight out of nine cases, which supports the argument that excessive change may reduce well-being, but in a majority of cases the interval was not significantly different from zero.
A familiar history of physical complexity begins with universally distributed early matter, leading next to large scale structure and superclusters, then to the first galaxies, then to metal-rich replicating stars within special galaxies, then to stellar habitable zones, then to prokaryotic life existing on and around single planets in those zones (miles deep in our crust, miles in the air, and evolved in situ or as planetary ejecta on meteorites in near space), then to eukaryotic life inhabiting a far more restricted domain of the special planets surface, then to human civilizations living in yet more localized domains, then to humans (each with 100 trillion unique synaptic connections) in industrial cities emerging as the leading edge in those civilizations, and perhaps soon, to intelligent, self-aware technology, which will have even more unique connectivity, and inhabit, at least initially, a vastly more local subset of Earths city space.
The mean stability–optimality displacement across all Goldilocks cases was 0.62, and the average standard deviation for each trait was approximately 0.60. Thus, in cases where a “just right” amount of positive change was found, the right amount for a person whose initial value was at the midpoint was approximately one standard deviation, albeit measured in a diagonal—not lateral—fashion on the response surface.
We investigate the merits of both perspectives, reconciling them in a way that reflects the Goldilocks hypothesis. That is, when it comes to subjective well-being (SWB), a small amount of positive trait change isn’t enough, and a large amount of positive trait change is too much, but a moderate amount of change is conducive to promoting well-being. We investigate the Goldilocks hypothesis of positive trait change using non-linear modeling of the impact of trait change, because the Goldilocks hypothesis predicts a non-monotonic relationship of positive trait change with subjective well-being (SWB). Over time, SWB should increase linearly with positive trait change until it reaches an apex after which continued change results in decreasing SWB.
This paper attempts to reconcile two perspectives on the impact of positive trait change. The first perspective views positive trait change as salubrious because it reflects the process of self-enhancement, whereas the second perspective views positive change as costly because it disrupts the self-verification process. We propose that benefits and costs accrue at discrete rates, such that moderate positive trait change is more beneficial than too little and too much positive change. This constitutes a Goldilocks hypothesis. Using the MIDUS longitudinal dataset (N = 1,725) we test this hypothesis on four traits, namely, social extraversion, agentic extraversion (agency), conscientiousness, and neuroticism. The Goldilocks hypothesis was supported for social extraversion, agentic extraversion (agency), and conscientiousness. Reduction in neuroticism seemed uniformly predictive of higher well-being. Thus, not all amounts of positive trait change are beneficial. While we find no evidence for a limit to the benefits of reduced neuroticism, there is a “just right” amount of positive change in extraversion and conscientiousness that results in the highest level of well-being. Our findings suggest that non-monotonic models may be more valid in investigations of personality change and well-being.
We might call this a forthcoming "missing planets problem," an absence or a much lower frequency of life-signature exoplanets observed in the inner rings of the habitable zone.