Can People Change Their Personality?

Not a ton of time to write today, but I did want to briefly discuss something I’m reading about in my Psychology of Personality class. I’ve long believed that people generally don’t change who they are. They might tweak a thing or two here or there for a while, but they almost always return back to their norm. Not that I thought that was a hard and fast rule, but I thought that for people to actually change, it took a whole ton of work.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I read today an article that provided studies showing that actually, most people do change who they are over time. They become more assertive, more agreeable, more conscientious, more emotionally stable, and slightly less social. These aren’t exceptions to the rule. These are the rule. As people get more experience, they can and do improve their personality and character.

As I thought it over, a few things occurred to me. First, this might to naturally weigh itself toward people who live longer. In other words, in order to complete the study as a 70 year old, you have to actually live to be 70. It could be that people who are more disagreeable and emotionally unstable tend to die earlier. (Sorry to put it so bluntly.) So by the time people reach retirement age or more, there’s just a markedly different group of people who are around for us to observe.

But anecdotally, as I thought over some of the people I’ve known for a long period of time, I had to revise my assumption. Because when I look at them as a whole, they really do seem to change decade by decade. The changes are too slight to really notice year to year (usually), but over time? Sure. I think that really can make a difference.

Which gives me a whole lot more hope for humanity in general, compared to my earlier view. Yay for optimism!

But what do you think about this? Can and do people change who they are? Their basic personality? What’s your experience with it?

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