You are not the person you were yesterday, and there is a personality study that would back that up. As we age, it appears not only do our physical traits change but also our personalities as well which makes us close to a completely different person.
Sixty-Year Personality Study
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh conducted what must be the longest running personality study that took over six decades. According to the research, people – as they change from youth to old age – change so much that we might be unrecognizable physically- and personality-wise when compared to our 14 and 77-year-old self.
Around 1,208 students from Scotland at the age of 14 were asked by their teachers to answer a personality test questionnaire in 1947. The tests were made for six different traits: conscientiousness, desire to excel, mood stability, originality, perseverance, and self-confidence.
The results of the tests were analyzed by the researchers and summarized into one rating for an underlying trait referred to as “denoted dependability.” This tantamount to conscientiousness which refers to one’s trait of being careful, vigilant and organized especially when it comes to completing tasks.
After 63 years, 174 students from the original group agreed to take the test again out of the 635 contacted. They answered the questionnaires again and were also asked to rate themselves based on the six personality traits. A close friend or family nominated by the participant were asked to rate them too.
With all the participants’ average age of 76.7, the results, published in Psychology and Ageing, showed no notable correlation to the participants who took the tests at the age of 14. The researchers were quite baffled as the result was different from what they expected. Instead of proving “personality stability” for six decades, they got “no positive correlations” with the same person in the two age groups.
Some Lapses to Fix
Of course, this contradicts other studies where people show consistency in their personality during childhood to middle age and middle age to old age. According to the team, it might be because the period is smaller, where people make little and less noticeable changes, as compared to assessing one’s personality from childhood to old age.
However, there are also holes found in the study. For one, the study group is so small and not very diverse.
Additionally, other participants were not asked to rate themselves on the first tests. Instead, teachers rated them and it is not so accurate especially when the teacher might not know them in a very personal way. Moreover, self-reporting is, at times, not considered very reliable when there are factors and biases that may compel one’s answers.
More refinement and a bigger diversity are needed for the personality study to get to know more about the changes people actually undergo in their lifetime. But ultimately, we might be on the first steps to knowing more just how flexible we humans are when adapting to changes.