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Description: Are you the same person today as you were yesterday? Lest week? Last year? 10 years ago? What do you think you will be like in 20 years? 40 years? In a less subjective framing, how stable do you think personality is over time and over life? Do some people change while other do not? If there IS change what causes it? Personal reflection? Social change? And how might we address these questions, particularly if we are interested in genuinely life-span answers to these questions? How should personality be measured, for example?  The title of the article link below gives away what it sees as the most dramatic finding of the research study it references but, think about the questions noted above and then give it a read and, as you do, keep track of any additional questions that occur to you.

Source: You’re a completely different person at 14 and at 77, the longest running personality study ever has found. Olivia Goldhill, Quartz.

Date: retrieved November 19, 2019

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Article Link:

Ok, what other questions occurred to you? Were you comfortable with how personality was assessed in the described study? Did you wish you could see the original article to see how the researchers characterized their data and their process? (if so, the link is in the Reference section below). In anything to do with personality, it is important to keep in mind that, at best, personality scale scores correlate with actual behaviors at around the .5 to .6 level (i.e., 25 to 36% accuracy) so perhaps we need to carefully calibrate what we might expect to find in the way of stabilities. And what about cohort (socio-historical) variation? The contexts through which individuals do their lifespan developing vary from generation to generation. All are important things to consider before we decide if it is an interesting or important thing to notice that personality may NOT be stable over one’s entire life.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might we expect personality to be stable over time?
  2. Why might personality NOT be very stable over time?
  3. What are some of our assumptions about the nature of personality that might draw us more toward question1 or question 2 and should we change, challenge or abandon those assumptions?

References (Read Further):

Harris, M. A., Brett, C. E., Johnson, W., & Deary, I. J. (2016). Personality stability from age 14 to age 77 years. Psychology and aging, 31(8), 862.

Hampson, S. E., & Goldberg, L. R. (2006). A first large cohort study of personality trait stability over the 40 years between elementary school and midlife. Journal of personality and social psychology, 91(4), 763.

Terracciano, A., McCrae, R. R., & Costa Jr, P. T. (2010). Intra-individual change in personality stability and age. Journal of research in personality, 44(1), 31-37.

Ardelt, M. (2000). Still stable after all these years? Personality stability theory revisited. Social Psychology Quarterly, 392-405.

Terracciano, A., Costa Jr, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (2006). Personality plasticity after age 30. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(8), 999-1009.

Finn, S. E. (1986). Stability of personality self-ratings over 30 years: Evidence for an age/cohort interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(4), 813.