You can change your life
William James, Freud, Erickson and Adler all believed personality to be stable throughout life and consistent across situations. Who we are as children is likely to be who we will be as adolescence and remain up until old age.
But what if this was not the case?
Most recently scientists at the University of Edinburgh, in the United Kingdom, found that personality traits can and often do gradually change across the lifespan. This suggests that who we are as children is not who we are as adolescents and even further from who we will be in old age.
The study began in 1950 where 6 personality traits were measured on 1200, 14-year-old students, self-confidence, conscientiousness, perseverance, desire to excel, originality and stability of mood.
“While these studies are far from closing the debate on the plasticity of personality, it does highlight that personality does change, that it happens over time and usually for the better. The causes of long term personality change are yet to be uncovered.”
Sixty-three years later, in 2012, 174 of the original participants agreed to being re-tested. The results of the initial personality test showed almost no overlap and only weak correlations between a few of the traits. The overall picture that was painted clearly highlighted that we can, more importantly, we do change as we grow older.
More recent studies have been taking a closer look at the specific changes. In general, some researchers have found that as people grow older they tend to show more self-confidence, warmth, self-control and emotional stability. Whereas, individual differences tend to be attributed to specific life experiences.
While these studies are far from closing the debate on the plasticity of personality, it does highlight that personality does change, that it happens over time and usually for the better. The causes of long term personality change are yet to be uncovered.
Considering also that our cells are replaced roughly every seven years, it starts to appear that as the decades go by, you really aren’t the person you used to be.
Author: Jashmeen Desai
Harris, M. A., Brett, C. E., Johnson, W., & Deary, I. J. (2016). Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years. Psychology and Aging, 31(8), 862–874. http://doi.org/10.1037/pag0000133
Roberts, B. W., & Mroczek, D. (2008). Personality Trait Change in Adulthood. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(1), 31–35. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00543.x