Monday, February 22, 2010

So you think you know yourself? Just wait for some time to change that

Upon looking up articles from, I stumbled across two very similar studies that focused on the theory that, as we age our personalities continue to evolve through time. Rather than thinking that a person's character is something that develops at an early age and stops there, the psychologists of these studies wants us to look at and examine a person's traits, tendencies, beliefs and whatever else is deemed under the topic of "personality". Observations might change your previous thoughts on the matter. Psychologist on the project, Sanjay Srivastava says, "One of the major theories of personality asserts that personality traits are largely set by genetics, and, by consequence, changes in personality traits should slow as other functions of maturation slow. We set out to test that." His research yielded strange results, some of which break stereotypical age and gender boundaries. Men are suspected of developing a more agreeable attitude after their 60s, and women apparently begin to understand and become more conscientious as they hit their 20s and 30s. But didn't we already inherently know this? Nobody stops growing from their experiences in life, so why wouldn't that effect such things as one's personality. It all makes a lot of sense. I guess having the scientific proof to determine this idea as correct, is a comforting thing to know. I've always tended to think this way. But I wouldn't necessarily characterize personality the way the researchers do. I think of it as something more abstract; beyond the human capability to fully understand. Which is why I imagine it would be very difficult to study and test this subject matter. I'd agree with it for the most part.

I attached the link to the first article in the title, so i'll put the second here:

1 comment:

Swe said...

For me, these articles are full of surprises. I have always thought of personality as something that is formed after someone is born, as a reaction to environmental factors and/or shaped by instinct, values, and disposition. So it came as complete surprise that our genes "set our personalities" to begin with. I had always attributed the fact that I share a few personality traits or habits with my parents, but more with my grandparents because of the way I was raised, not because of genetics.

The second article, in particular reached some curious conclusions such as "'Agreeableness was found to have a contrary relationship with general knowledge suggesting that a disagreeable nature may go hand in hand with better vocabulary and knowledge retention in older age," said Baker. It's funny to think that being mean would enable people to be more intelligent, but I guess that (complete disregard to feign or admit ignorance or humbleness in order to remain inconspicuous )ties into the article someone wrote about know-it-alls. It also squashed one of my presumptions that people who are organized and "on top of things" are smarter bysuggesting that "Conscientiousness does not necessarily make one 'smarter' but could enable older individuals to perform better on tests,'" said Baker. As for the changes in personality as a person ages such as people becoming more conscientious after hitting their twenties, or men becoming more agreeable in old age, the results seem plausible (and I do agree) but I feel as though it opens up more uncharted territory: what can interfere, speed up, or impede this change in personality? Do certain events in our life impact our personalities directly or is it the accumulation of countless experiences? Personally, though I haven't yet turned 20, I think I have seen a drastic change in my personality and even the things I thought "I'm just not good at" over the past few years, maybe just from moving from my family or living in a different state and having to be more self-sufficient. It's amazing that something that starts biologically can change so much because of our environment. But is personality the only thing that can change this way? If such an innate trait can be molded even after birth, maybe other things we label as "genetic" can be changed as well.