Researcher: Personality traits change over the course of our lives

Researcher: Personality traits change over the course of our lives

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Study notes dramatic changes in personality
When people get older, the body also ages, and the consequences of this can usually not be overlooked. Researchers have now found that not only does the body change massively, but the personality can undergo dramatic changes over the course of life.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that human personality changes dramatically over the course of a lifetime. So at 14, you were a completely different person than you will be at 77. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Psychology and Aging".

Study examines six characteristics of personality
The longest-running personality study found significant changes in personality that occur during aging. The study started in 1947 and recruited 1,208 young people from Scotland at the age of 14. At that time, the doctors interviewed the teachers of the participants in order to better assess their personality. The teachers were asked to fill out six different questionnaires. The experts should then assess these based on six characteristics. These dealt with the topics: self-confidence, persistence, stability of moods, conscientiousness, originality and desire for existence. The results were then summarized in an overall assessment.

More than sixty years later, the medical team again examined almost 640 subjects
More than six decades later, researchers from the University of Edinburgh have now managed to contact 635 of the original study participants. 174 subjects agreed to have their personalities examined again, the doctors say. With an average age of 76.7 years, the participants were asked once again to judge themselves on the personality characteristics mentioned above. Then a close friend or family member was also asked to rate the subjects on these traits, the authors add.

No correlation between 77 year olds and 14 year olds was found
When the patient was examined again, they were asked to complete seven personality scales and tests. The experts also re-evaluated their mental health. When the researchers compared the results of the 77-year-olds with those of the 14-year-old subjects, they found no remarkable correlation. The researchers explain that no positive correlations could be found that were strong enough to allow a significant importance between characteristic and youthful evaluations or the reliability. “We suspected that we would find statements about personality stability over a longer period of 63 years,” explain the scientists. But the lack of correlation did not support this hypothesis, the experts add.

The results were a surprise to the researchers
Even if the team ran the data through a more complex model that took into account the impact, they found only a fairly low correlation between conscientiousness and mood stability between the 14-year-old and 77-year-old subjects, the authors explain. There was also no correlation between the other characteristics. The results were a surprise for the doctors. Previous research had found personality stability in people from childhood to middle age and from middle to older age.

A longer interval in examinations weakens the connection
According to the researchers, there are some indications that many small changes in personality over the course of a lifetime can lead to studies that look at character traits only over a certain period of life not being able to recognize the larger picture. As a result of this gradual change, the personality may appear relatively stable over short intervals. This effect can be observed increasingly during adulthood, the experts add. However, the longer the interval between two personality assessments, the weaker the ascertainable connection. The current results suggest that increasing the interval to 63 years would likely result in a relationship that is almost non-existent.

Reservations when examining
However, there are also some violent reservations that need to be emphasized here. The sample size was very small and not very diverse. The original study did not allow participants to evaluate themselves. The results are based solely on the opinion of their teachers, the doctors explain. The researchers were only looking for links between personality outcomes, not the causes of why our personality traits could change over the course of life. Further research is needed to better understand this effect, the researchers concluded.

25 percent of the participants went through dramatic personality changes after the age of 70
The current findings support the results of a study from 2014 that examined more than 23,000 people in Germany. The experts found that the personality of older people can change at a similar pace to that of young adults. This study found that up to 25 percent of participants experienced a dramatic change in personality after the age of 70. Unlike in young adults, the personality change was not understandable in older people, the experts explain.

More research is needed
In order to explain the change in personality over the course of human life, we have to find out the origin of it, the scientists report. But the results could be the first sign that it is not just our cells that are subject to major changes in life, the authors say. Behavior and emotions are not set in stone, as many experts have assumed, but change drastically over the course of life. (as)

Author and source information

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