Michael Chmielewski, Austin Baldwin, Holly Bowen


Transient error is a type of measurement error caused by fluctuations in psychological states and assessed using short-term test-retest (dependability) studies. Although transient error can hinder the advancement of psychological research, the states contributing transient error have not been identified. The present study examined the extent to which eleven states associated with cognitive processes involved in the completion of self-report measures (positive affect, negative affect, attentiveness, fatigue, pain, stress, hunger, sleepiness, health, substance intoxication, and recovery from effects of substances) influence the dependability of related trait measures containing different amounts of transient error (BFI and PANAS-X). 305 MTurkers completed self-report measures assessing their current states, the BFI, and PANAS-X twice over a 1-week retest. Differences in state were relatively small in the present sample, indicating participants were in similar states while completing the trait measures at each assessment occasion. Next, the hypothesized states generally did not demonstrate an extensive impact on the trait scales. Differences in state rarely moderated the dependability of the trait measures and rarely demonstrated a differential effect across the BFI and PANAS-X, despite containing significantly different amounts of transient error. Moreover, deviations in the hypothesized states infrequently predicted scores on the trait measures within individuals over time. Overall, the findings indicate the hypothesized states infrequently contributed transient error in the present sample; however, they many in other samples that experience great differences in state across the assessment occasions. Future research should continue to identify the sources of transient error and their impact on the measurement of trait-like constructs.

Keywords: Transient error, dependability, personality

Degree Date

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name





Michael Chmielewski

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License