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Personalities Can Change Even When People Are Unmotivated To Change, Say Psychologists

Originally Posted: December 8, 2021

A new paper appearing in the Journal of Research in Personality bolsters the argument that personality is more changeable than previously thought — even suggesting that personality can be changed when people aren’t necessarily committed to change.

“A growing body of research suggests that personality traits can be changed through intervention,” say the authors of the research, led by Nathan Hudson of Southern Methodist University. “Theorists have speculated that successful interventions may require (1) that participants autonomously choose which traits they change and (2) that they be deeply invested in the change process.”

To test these propositions, the researchers conducted two separate studies, each lasting four months.

In the first study, 175 college students were randomly assigned to change the personality traits of either conscientiousness or emotional stability. They were then given their choice of tasks to improve that personality trait. For instance, those who were selected to work on being more conscientious were given challenges like “organize and clean your desks” or “make a list of tasks you would like to complete.”

The second study included more than 400 college students at several universities. In this study, half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive challenges targeting a characteristic that they didn’t choose.

In both studies, students’ personality traits were measured before and after using the 44-item “Big 5” personality test.

The researchers found that conscientiousness, or the ability to be responsible, hard-working and organized, could be improved even if participants were not motivated to change. Completing a series of tasks over a regular period was found to change habits and therefore improve conscientiousness. READ MORE