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Is Personality Fixed? Personality Changes as Much as “Variable” Economic Factors and More Strongly Predicts Changes to Life Satisfaction

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Personality is the strongest and most consistent cross-sectional predictor of high subjective well-being. Less predictive economic factors, such as higher income or improved job status, are often the focus of applied subjective well-being research due to a perception that they can change whereas personality cannot. As such there has been limited investigation into personality change and how such changes might bring about higher well-being. In a longitudinal analysis of 8625 individuals we examine Big Five personality measures at two time points to determine whether an individual’s personality changes and also the extent to which such changes in personality can predict changes in life satisfaction. We find that personality changes at least as much as economic factors and relates much more strongly to changes in life satisfaction. Our results therefore suggest that personality can change and that such change is important and meaningful. Our findings may help inform policy debate over how best to help individuals and nations improve their well-being.
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... By extension, changes in personality over time can predict changes in SW-B. For example, individuals who become less conscientious while unemployed adapt faster to unemployment (Boyce et al. 2013(Boyce et al. , 2017a. Recent research exploring the link between hope and optimism has found strong impacts on emotional wellbeing, SW-B, and long-run life outcomes, like sustained effort to exit poverty (Bailey et al. 2007, Hutz et al. 2014, Graham 2017. ...
Chapter
The study of subjective wellbeing has grown substantially in recent decades and is now seeking to influence public policy. The complexities of this new application have revealed weaknesses in the foundations of the field. Its operationalist epistemology was appropriate given its historical context, but undermines its ability to explain the mechanisms by which policy can improve subjective wellbeing. Likewise, the field’s deliberate avoidance of the evaluative element of “wellbeing”—what is “good for” somebody—leaves it poorly equipped to engage with the ethical and political complexities of policymaking. The present volume provides the theoretical depth that the field of subjective wellbeing is lacking by integrating psychological, philosophical, economic, and political perspectives on wellbeing. The end result is a rich and ethically sensitive theory of subjective wellbeing that can underpin scholarly research, inform therapy and self-help, and guide wellbeing public policy
... By extension, changes in personality over time can predict changes in SW-B. For example, individuals who become less conscientious while unemployed adapt faster to unemployment (Boyce et al. 2013(Boyce et al. , 2017a. Recent research exploring the link between hope and optimism has found strong impacts on emotional wellbeing, SW-B, and long-run life outcomes, like sustained effort to exit poverty (Bailey et al. 2007, Hutz et al. 2014, Graham 2017. ...
Chapter
How do you measure a construct as complex as subjective wellbeing? The first part of this chapter reviews the many tools available for measuring each dimension of the construct, as well as the well-being profile—a new measure that holds some promise for capturing subjective wellbeing holistically in only fifteen questions. The second part of the chapter then explains why even fifteen questions is likely too long for many applications in policy and social science. Life satisfaction scales hold a great deal of promise as a unidimensional and sufficiently cardinal measure of subjective wellbeing for these applications. However, there are several concerns about these scales, notably inconsistent scale use across respondents or within respondents over time, that need to be investigated more thoroughly. The chapter provides a conceptual analysis of these concerns and uses them to differentiate adaptation, scale-norming, and reference point shifts.
... By extension, changes in personality over time can predict changes in SW-B. For example, individuals who become less conscientious while unemployed adapt faster to unemployment (Boyce et al. 2013(Boyce et al. , 2017a. Recent research exploring the link between hope and optimism has found strong impacts on emotional wellbeing, SW-B, and long-run life outcomes, like sustained effort to exit poverty (Bailey et al. 2007, Hutz et al. 2014, Graham 2017. ...
Chapter
Eudaimonic accounts of wellbeing have a rich and storied history in philosophy and psychology. This chapter opens with an explanation of the similarities and differences between these theories. The rest of the chapter focuses on psychological perspectives, especially that of self-determination theory. This body of psychological literature provides an enormous amount of insight into the nature of subjective wellbeing, especially how to get it. The chapter reviews the most important of these approaches, namely the ones focusing on basic psychological needs, the motivation spectrum, the notion of self-concordant goals, and the evolutionary underpinnings of our psychological makeup.
... By extension, changes in personality over time can predict changes in SW-B. For example, individuals who become less conscientious while unemployed adapt faster to unemployment (Boyce et al. 2013(Boyce et al. , 2017a. Recent research exploring the link between hope and optimism has found strong impacts on emotional wellbeing, SW-B, and long-run life outcomes, like sustained effort to exit poverty (Bailey et al. 2007, Hutz et al. 2014, Graham 2017. ...
Chapter
The purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, to review philosophical arguments against wellbeing theories of the sort I have outlined. This should hopefully sensitize subjective wellbeing scholars to the ethical nuances of applying subjective wellbeing outside the context of academic research. Ethical critiques of subjective wellbeing are especially potent when it is government rather than friends or therapists trying to promote it. This is the second purpose of the chapter: to argue that government should be very cautious about promoting subjective wellbeing directly. They should instead focus on welfare—the options available to citizens. The final part of the chapter discusses ways to begin applying subjective wellbeing in public policy without crossing ethical risky red lines.
... By extension, changes in personality over time can predict changes in SW-B. For example, individuals who become less conscientious while unemployed adapt faster to unemployment (Boyce et al. 2013(Boyce et al. , 2017a. Recent research exploring the link between hope and optimism has found strong impacts on emotional wellbeing, SW-B, and long-run life outcomes, like sustained effort to exit poverty (Bailey et al. 2007, Hutz et al. 2014, Graham 2017. ...
Chapter
While subjective well-being scholarship has its merits, it is not without its weaknesses, and these are the subject of this chapter. While the definition and approach of the field were appropriate in its historical context, they are inappropriate and indeed problematic for applications in public policy. In particular, this chapter demonstrates that the field is naive about the normative implications of “wellbeing” theories and that its measurement instruments lack precision. Both of these faults find their origins in the field’s atheoretic inclinations and operationalist epistemology. It is time to replace this with a more realist epistemology. That requires a thorough theory of subjective wellbeing that engages extensively with normativity, which this book provides.
... By extension, changes in personality over time can predict changes in SW-B. For example, individuals who become less conscientious while unemployed adapt faster to unemployment (Boyce et al. 2013(Boyce et al. , 2017a. Recent research exploring the link between hope and optimism has found strong impacts on emotional wellbeing, SW-B, and long-run life outcomes, like sustained effort to exit poverty (Bailey et al. 2007, Hutz et al. 2014, Graham 2017. ...
Book
The study of “subjective wellbeing” has seen explosive growth in recent decades, opening important new discourses in personality and social psychology, happiness economics, and moral philosophy. Now it is moving into the policy domain. In this it has arguably overstepped its limits. The shallow theoretical base of subjective wellbeing research, the limitations of its measurement instruments, and its ethical naivety make policymaking on the basis of its findings a risky venture. The present volume is an attempt to shore up these weaknesses and set subjective wellbeing scholarship on a course for several more decades of growth and maturation. It presents a theory of subjective wellbeing in two parts. The first is the subjective wellbeing production function—a model of wellbeing as outcome. The second is the coalescence of being—a model of the self-actualization process by which wellbeing is achieved. This two-part model integrates ideas from subjective wellbeing studies with complementary ideas in analytical and continental philosophy, clinical, moral, and developmental psychology, and welfare economics. Importantly, this theory is ethically sensitive, bridging the gap between the philosophical and psychological perspectives on wellbeing in a way that illuminates the complexities facing the application of subjective wellbeing in public policy. The book also provides a thorough review of various ways in which subjective wellbeing can be studied empirically, and the hard trade-offs we face between long surveys that capture the richness of the concept and the parsimony required by social surveys and policy analysis.
... By extension, changes in personality over time can predict changes in SW-B. For example, individuals who become less conscientious while unemployed adapt faster to unemployment (Boyce et al. 2013(Boyce et al. , 2017a. Recent research exploring the link between hope and optimism has found strong impacts on emotional wellbeing, SW-B, and long-run life outcomes, like sustained effort to exit poverty (Bailey et al. 2007, Hutz et al. 2014, Graham 2017. ...
Chapter
The study of subjective wellbeing is dominated by two traditions: the psychological and philosophical. If the psychological is deficient, it makes sense to look for solutions in the philosophical. As such, this chapter begins with a thorough but not exhaustive review of the principal philosophical theories of wellbeing: mental state, objective list, preference satisfaction, eudaimonic, and subjectivist. As philosophers are predominantly concerned with the evaluative character of wellbeing, a key benefit of this exercise is that it sensitizes us to the complex value judgments that must be made when defining wellbeing. However, the philosophical tradition has its own problems. In particular, its tendency to delineate and classify has led it to overlook complementarities and overlaps between supposedly competing theories. And its disinterest in “applied” questions has left the practical issue of how you get wellbeing largely investigated, despite the insights it provides regarding what wellbeing is.
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