Can your Personality Change as you Age?

Posted on January 10, 2018

A major new contribution to the topic has been made available online at the PsyArXiv repository. The researchers from Northwestern University, have compared and combined data from 14 previously published longitudinal studies, together involving nearly 50,000 participants from the US, Europe and Scandinavia.

Eileen Graham and her colleagues started by looking for existing long-term studies into health and ageing that had captured data on at least one of the Big Five personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism) on at least three separate occasions among the same sample of people. Although these long-term term studies measured personality, previous investigators hadn’t necessarily looked at this aspect of their data.

Combining data from all the studies showed that four of the five main personality traits showed statistically significant change, on average, through life, thus contradicting William James’ famous assertion that personality is set like plaster after age 30. The exception was trait Agreeableness.

Putting Agreeableness aside, the overall pattern was for the other traits to decline across the lifespan by about 1-2 per cent per decade, such that participants became, on average, more emotionally stable (save for an uptick in Neuroticism at the very end of life), but generally less outgoing, less open-minded, and less orderly and self-disciplined. This is somewhat consistent with the previously described Dolce Vita (literally “sweet life”) effect, which describes how we change in late life in response to having fewer responsibilities.

It’s important to remember these findings relate to sample averages, based on how personality trait levels were seen to change when data from all participants was combined. Consistent with past research, results from 12 of the 14 analysed studies revealed a good deal of individual variation in these patterns. As Graham and her colleagues put it, “not everyone changes at the same rate, or in the same direction”.

Click on the link below to read the full article

Category(s):Aging & Geriatric Issues, Personality problems

Source material from British Psychological Society

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