Does Personality Change Over Time?

Are you different now than when you were 16? Many of these changes are certainly due to learning new lessons, encountering unexpected experiences, and (hopefully) maturing infinitely along the way. But how much has your personality changed?

For a long time, there’s been debate around the idea of personality changing. Research done in the past had been fairly inconclusive, so many people formed their own ideas from personal experience. Much of these ideas and arguments stem from the Nature vs. Nurture debate. If you believe that nature and genetics have a greater influence on personality, then you’re more likely to believe that personality doesn’t change much over time. However, if you believe most of our personality develops from our nurture, or personal experiences, then you may be more inclined to support the idea that personality can change drastically as you age. 

Quick Tip: Read more about the Nature vs. Nurture debate on our blog.

Modern research into personality is deep and complex. There are multiple fields that study the genetics, neuroscience, and psychology behind our character. New research seems to show that certain traits are likely to change over time.

One study, done at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the Big Five trait Conscientiousness--which tends to be linked to successful careers and relationships--generally increased throughout a person’s life, mostly changing throughout their 20’s. Additionally, the trait Agreeableness increased significantly over time, with the most improvement throughout a person’s 30’s. 

Quick Tip: Want to learn more about Big Five and other personality models? Check out our new Ultimate Guide to Personality Types!

Other recent studies indicate that personality tends to move towards higher positivity and lower emotional volatility in adulthood. One well-known study done over a period of 50 years, cleverly titled 16 Going on 66, found that, overall, traits like emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness tended to move positively. Much of this is a natural maturation due to life experiences that has a significant impact on how we view ourselves and the world around us.

No matter what camp of the Nature vs. Nurture debate you find yourself in, there are strong reasons for optimism as we grow, because we know that we are not only capable of change, but we are likely to transform into a more agreeable, stable, and conscientious version of ourselves.

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