“The longest personality study of all time, published in Psychology and Aging and recently highlighted by the British Psychological Society, suggests that over the course of a lifetime, just as your physical appearance changes and your cells are constantly replaced, your personality is also transformed beyond recognition.”
Wha-? How is that even possible? Doesn’t everybody feel a bit like taller, fatter, wealthier versions of our 13-year-old selves? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean our perceptions are accurate.
The study begins with data from a 1950 survey of 1,208 14-year-olds in Scotland. Teachers were asked to use six questionnaires to rate the teenagers on six personality traits: self-confidence, perseverance, stability of moods, conscientiousness, originality, and desire to learn. Together, the results from these questionnaires were amalgamated into a rating for one trait, which was defined as “dependability.” More than six decades later, researchers tracked down 635 of the participants, and 174 agreed to repeat testing.”
This may give solace to women who want evidence that their men are going to change for them, but unless you’re willing to wait 63 years for an uncertain outcome, it shouldn’t.
This time, aged 77 years old, the participants rated themselves on the six personality traits, and also nominated a close friend or relative to do the same. Overall, there was not much overlap from the questionnaires taken 63 years earlier. “Correlations suggested no significant stability of any of the 6 characteristics or their underlying factor, dependability, over the 63-year interval,” wrote the researchers. “We hypothesized that we would find evidence of personality stability over an even longer period of 63 years, but our correlations did not support this hypothesis,” they later added.
This may give solace to women who want evidence that their men are going to change for them, but unless you’re willing to wait 63 years for an uncertain outcome, it shouldn’t. What this really does is provide evidence that people do grow slowly over time. I’m a lot more confident and resilient than I was at age 13. I’m less likely to take things personally, try to impress others, or hold onto broken relationships. I’m more likely to be aware of my flaws, own them, and apologize for them.
How have you changed for the better since you were a teenager? Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.