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Volitional personality change

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Abstract

An emerging body of research has begun to examine volitional personality change—people’s desires and attempts to change their own personality traits. Studies have found that the vast majority of people want to change aspects of their personalities—usually in order to attain an external goal (e.g., wanting to increase in extraversion in order to achieve more satisfying social relationships). Moreover, several studies have found that people may actually be able to moderately and slowly change their personality traits in desired ways—at least over a short period of time. As the literature on volitional personality change is in its infancy, much future research is needed to understand which strategies for volitional change are most efficacious, and whether volitional trait changes can be maintained over extended periods of time.

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... Over extended periods of time (perhaps as short as 6 weeks; , these new, conscientious patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are thought to become learned, automatized, and habitual (i.e. people start behaving more conscientiously in a relatively automatic fashion); accommodated into individuals' identities (i.e. they start to see themselves as more conscientious); and perhaps even etched into their biology through changes to the nervous system or epigenome (Allemand & Flückiger, 2017;Burke, 2006;Hennecke et al., 2014;Hudson & Fraley, 2017;Magidson, Roberts, Collado-Rodriguez, & Lejuez, 2014;Roberts, 2018;Roberts & Jackson, 2008). Stated more simply, many modern theories of personality development suggest that any changes to patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that are maintained for a sufficiently long time can eventually coalesce into enduring trait change, through a variety of psychological and biological mechanisms (Allemand & Flückiger, 2017;Hennecke et al., 2014;Magidson et al., 2014;Roberts, Hill, & Davis, 2017). ...
... lovingkindness and warmth) are critical to facilitating trait change (Lodi-Smith & Roberts, 2007;Roberts & Wood, 2006). Other models of development more generally emphasize that people's motives and desires to adopt new behavioural patterns are key (Baumeister, 1994;Hennecke et al., 2014;Hudson & Fraley, 2017;Kiecolt, 1994). Namely, motives influence behaviour (e.g. ...
... Thus, Study 2 provides information on potential contextual moderators of the links between mindsets and trait change (e.g. beliefs might only predict trait change for people who want to change)-and it also provides data with respect to theoretical claims that self-change efforts might be easiest for people who believe that such self-change is possible (Allemand & Flückiger, 2017;Hennecke et al., 2014;Hudson & Fraley, 2017). ...
Article
Theorists have suggested that beliefs about whether personality can change might operate in a self‐fulfilling fashion, leading to growth in personality traits across time. In the present two studies, we collected intensive longitudinal data from a total of 1339 emerging adults (n s = 254 and 1085) and examined the extent to which both global beliefs that personality can change (e.g. ‘You can change even your most basic qualities’) and granular beliefs that the individual Big Five personality domains can change (e.g. ‘You can change how extraverted and enthusiastic you generally are’) predicted trait change across approximately 4 months. Results indicated that traits did change across time, yet beliefs that personality can change were almost completely unrelated to actual change in personality traits. Our findings suggest that personality development during emerging adulthood does not depend to any meaningful degree on whether or not individuals believe that their traits can change. © 2020 European Association of Personality Psychology
... How, though, is it possible that people might be able to change their own traits? In terms of mechanisms, modern personality theories suggest that trait growth occurs whenever state-level thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are altered for a sufficient period of time (Allemand, 2008;Hennecke, Bleidorn, Denissen, & Wood, 2014;Hudson & Fraley, 2017;Jackson, Hill, Payne, Roberts, & Stine-Morrow, 2012;Magidson, Roberts, Collado-Rodriguez, & Lejuez, 2014). As one example of this principle in action, people tend to become more conscientious when they commit to their careers (Hudson & Roberts, 2016). ...
... This may occur because new patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours become relatively automatic and habitual and eventually even incorporated into individuals' identities (i.e. how they see themselves) and biology (e.g. via changes to the epigenome or nervous system) (Burke, 2006;Hennecke et al., 2014;Hudson & Fraley, 2017;Kandler & Zapko-Willmes, 2017;Magidson et al., 2014;Roberts, 2018). ...
... Do people want to change their attachment styles?. Theoretically, people generally formulate desires to change their personality traits for at least two reasons (Baumeister, 1994;Hennecke et al., 2014;Hudson & Fraley, 2017;Hudson & Roberts, 2014;Kiecolt, 1994). First, people may wish to increase in socially desirable traits that they lack for the intrinsic value of possessing the trait per se. ...
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People value relationships and want to relate to both friends and romantic partners in a secure and comfortable fashion. But can individuals move towards realizing this goal of their own volition? To address this question, across three studies with a combined total of more than 4000 participants, we developed and validated a new measure of people's desires to change their attachment anxiety and avoidance. In Study 1, we created the new, 16‐item Change Goals—Experiences in Close Relationships measure. In Study 2, we replicated the Change Goals—Experiences in Close Relationships' factor structure and demonstrated that it correlates in theoretically expected ways with criterion variables (e.g. people who were high in undesirable traits such as anxiety or avoidance generally wanted to change those traits; change goals were linked to dissatisfaction with relevant life domains). Finally, in Study 3, we conducted a 16‐wave, weekly longitudinal study. Results indicated that goals to change attachment anxiety and avoidance predicted corresponding growth across time (e.g. people who wanted to become less anxious tended to experience declines in attachment anxiety across time). Thus, our research provides a new measure for studying changes in attachment and suggests people may be able to increase in attachment security per their own volition. © 2019 European Association of Personality Psychology
... The current research literature suggests that personalities can and do change through processes and events that include self-development efforts (Hudson & Fraley, 2017), experiences within organizations, and processes outside of the workplace (as summarized in the left part of Figure 1). As people's personalities change, there are likely to be changes in organizationally relevant outcomes, including how they construct themselves in terms of career choices, job roles, competencies, and other outcomes that we consider under the broad rubric of work-related identity. ...
... Thus, the view of the Big Five as a stable input into many organizational processes (Cobb-Clark & Schurer, 2012: 11) is challenged by the extent to which personality changes (in part driven by volitional change - Hudson & Fraley, 2017). In organizations, the pressure for people to adapt themselves to changing roles and requirements is often intense (e.g., Raghuram, Wiesenfeld, & Garud, 2003). ...
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This article focuses on an emergent debate in organizational behavior concerning personality stability and change. We introduce foundational psychological research concerning whether individual personality, in terms of traits, needs, and personal constructs, is fixed or changeable. Based on this background, we review recent research evidence on the antecedents and outcomes associated with personality change. We build on this review of personality change to introduce new directions for personality research in organizational behavior. Specifically, we discuss how a view of personality as changeable contributes to key topics for organizational behavior research and how this new approach can help broaden and deepen the scope of personality theory and measurement. The study of personality change offers a range of new ideas and research opportunities for the study of organizational behavior.
... Given the accumulating evidence that personality traits can change because of developmental factors, life events, and psychological interventions, it is natural to explore whether people can also change their personality traits by setting personal goals to do so. Volitional personality change is defined as people's desires and attempts to change their own personality traits (Hudson and Fraley 2017;Hudson et al. 2020). A methodology for studying volitional personality change was introduced by adapting the Big 5 Inventory (BFI; John and Srivastava 1999), a widely used scale for assessing the Big 5 traits, to ask young adults the extent to which they wanted to increase, stay the same, or decrease on each of the 44 BFI trait term items (Hudson and Roberts 2014). ...
... It is unclear whether the personality change paradigm developed by Hudson and Fraley (2017) is capturing true goal intentions to change one's personality. By prompting participants with the 44 BFI trait-term items and asking if participants desire to change on each of these traits, there would seem to be a risk that participants are reporting momentary (perhaps reactive) desires, rather than true goal intentions, or even simply responding in socially desirable ways (John and Srivastava 1999). ...
Article
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The frequency, effectiveness, and impact of personality change goal (PCG) pursuit was explored using a longitudinal goal-setting paradigm within two multi-wave prospective studies employing both a university student (study 1; n=1468) and community adult (study 2; n=248) sample. Self-determination theory (SDT) was incorporated to explore the extent to which PCGs reflect autonomous processes. Six major findings were revealed in study 1: 1) 20% of participants generated a PCG; 2) higher neuroticism and lower extraversion and conscientiousness was associated with pursuing a PCG; 3) participants reported more progress on their PCGs than on other goals; 4) PCGs were more autonomous relative to other personal goals; 5) Autonomous motivation for goal pursuit was more strongly associated with PCG progress, relative to other goals; and 6) PCG progress resulted in improved psychological well-being over time. Study 2 successfully replicated the motivational findings of study 1 within a community adult sample, and found evidence supporting the validity of the proposed longitudinal goal-setting paradigm. The present studies contribute to current PCG literature by using an alternate goal-assessment method that distinguishes desires to change from meaningful goal intentions and integrated SDT to enhance our understanding of volitional personality change.
... Second, researchers have tested interventions and found that modifying one's behavior predicts corresponding trait changes (e.g., behaving in an extraverted fashion predicts gains in extraversion across time; Hudson, Briley, Chopik, & Derringer, 2019;Hudson & Fraley, 2015;Jacques-Hamilton, Sun, & Smillie, 2019;Roberts et al., 2017). These findings are important because they suggest people may be able to take an active role in changing their traits through behavioral modifications (see Allemand & Flückiger, 2017;Hudson, 2019;Hudson & Fraley, 2017;Magidson, Roberts, Collado-Rodriguez, & Lejuez, 2014;Roberts & Jackson, 2008). This may have important implications for understanding personality development more broadly. ...
... This may have important implications for understanding personality development more broadly. For example, individuals' desires and attempts to change their own personality traits may contribute to the observed maturational trends in the big five (e.g., the fact that most people want to become more conscientious may partially explain normative increases in the trait across the life span; Hennecke, Bleidorn, Denissen, & Wood, 2014;Hudson & Fraley, 2017). ...
Article
Research suggests that change goals (desires to change personality traits) predict subsequent trait growth. In this article, we (re)analyzed all data our labs have collected as of May 2019 that included measures of change goals and repeated measures of personality traits (12 studies; total n = 2,238). Results indicated that change goals robustly predicted growth in all five traits. Effect sizes were largest for extraversion and emotional stability (people with high change goals were predicted to experience ∼0.16 SDs greater growth across 16 weeks than their peers with average goals) and smallest for agreeableness and openness (people with high change goals were predicted to experience ∼0.05 SDs greater growth across 16 weeks than their peers with average goals). Thus, our analyses reinforce that people change in ways that align with their desires across time.
... Thus, it remains unclear whether older adults—whose personalities may be less plastic (e.g., Roberts, Wood, & Caspi, 2008)—would also experience similar levels of success in attaining their change goals. Future research should therefore examine whether change goals predict corresponding trait changes for adults of varying ages (Hudson & Fraley, 2017). Another implication of our study is that the traits individuals wish to change may vary as a function of their current developmental tasks (Hennecke et al., 2014; Hudson & Roberts, 2014; Hutteman et al., 2014). ...
Article
Research suggests most people want to change their personality traits. Existing studies have, however, almost exclusively examined college-aged samples. Thus, it remains unclear whether older adults also wish to change their personalities. In the present study, the authors sampled 6,800 adults, aged 18 to 70, and examined the associations between age and change goals. Results indicated change goals were slightly less prevalent among older adults. Moreover, older adults expressed desires for slightly smaller increases in each trait. Nevertheless, these effects were small, and a minimum of 78% of people of any age wanted to increase in each big five dimension. These findings have implications for understanding people’s attempts to change their traits—and personality development more broadly—across adulthood.
... Intended personality change refers to active and self-regulated efforts to change personality in the desired direction that is guided by intentions and goals for change (Allemand & Flückiger, 2017;Hudson & Fraley, 2017). Personality change in a desired direction includes being aware of a gap between the actual and desired personality, setting goals to change personality, and actively seeking opportunities to close this gap. ...
Article
Research indicates that it might be possible to change personality traits through intervention, but this clinical research has primarily focused on changing neuroticism. To date, there are no established, proven techniques for changing other domains of personality, such as conscientiousness and openness. This research examined the effects of a two‐week smartphone‐based intervention to either change one facet of conscientiousness (i.e. self‐discipline) or one facet of openness to experience (i.e. openness to action). Two intervention studies (total N = 255) with two active intervention groups for mutual comparisons were conducted. Results of self‐reports and observer reports showed that people who wanted to become more self‐disciplined were less self‐disciplined at pretest. Similarly, people who wanted to become more open to action were less open to action at pretest. The results showed that people who chose the self‐discipline intervention showed greater increases in self‐discipline, and people who chose the openness to action intervention showed greater increases in openness to action compared with the other group. Changes were maintained until follow‐up two and six weeks after the end of the intervention. Future work is needed to examine whether these personality changes are enduring or reflect temporary accentuation as a result of participation in the intervention. © 2020 European Association of Personality Psychology
... That is, although people cannot change their genetic makeup by choice, other personal and environmental sources are subject to individual control. For example, research on volitional personality change shows that people who want to change specific aspects of their personality can develop in the direction of their desired trait levels (Hudson & Fraley, 2017). Accordingly, individuals' personalities are themselves a source of stability and change as individuals select themselves into environments (e.g., through choice of a profession and workplace) and alter their behavioral styles to better fit into those environments (e.g., through becoming more reliable and organized in the workplace). ...
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There is now compelling evidence that people’s typical patterns of thinking, feeling, striving, and behaving are both consistent and malleable. Therefore, researchers have begun to examine the distinct sources of personality stability and change. In this article, we discuss traditional classifications of sources, review key findings, and highlight limitations and open questions in research on personality stability and change. We conclude by describing an integrative model and by outlining important directions for future research.
... That is, although people cannot change their genetic makeup by choice, other personal and environmental sources are subject to individual control. For example, research on volitional personality change shows that people who want to change specific aspects of their personality can develop in the direction of their desired trait levels (Hudson & Fraley, 2017). Accordingly, individuals' personalities are themselves a source of stability and change as individuals select themselves into environments (e.g., through choice of a profession and workplace) and alter their behavioral styles to better fit into those environments (e.g., through becoming more reliable and organized in the workplace). ...
Article
Full-text available
There is now compelling evidence that people’s typical patterns of thinking, feeling, striving, and behaving are both consistent and malleable. Therefore, researchers have begun to examine the distinct sources of personality stability and change. In this article, we discuss traditional classifications of sources, review key findings, and highlight limitations and open questions in research on personality stability and change. We conclude by describing an integrative model and by outlining important directions for future research.
... Typically, a student with a tendency to extraversion may be externally focused and interested in its social environment and could be characterized as outgoing, talkative, assertive, and energetic. As for a student with a tendency to introversion, he/she may be considered as being internally focused, somewhat calm, reserved, and displaying a more reflective nature [12]. Studies suggest that these tendencies are quite stable throughout time [13], and some evidence indicates that they could influence the level of motivation (their expectancies and values) that students may exhibit in different situations or contexts [14,15], but this relationship remains unclear. ...
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Students’ mental health has been an increased concern since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, academic outcomes have received very little attention. In this study, changes in students’ achievement motivation are investigated using an expectancy-value framework. Participants (n=90) were high school students (grades 9 and 10) who reported on their expectancy and value perceptions in regard to learning before and during the pandemic (i.e., January and November 2020). Changes over time and as a function of extraversion/introversion were analyzed using repeated measures MANOVAs. Most perceptions were found to be stable with the exception of interest in learning, which increased as a function of extraversion. Results are discussed in light of relevant pre-pandemic evidence.
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A growing body of research suggests that personality traits can be changed through intervention. 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. The present studies tested these propositions by examining whether interventions to change conscientiousness and emotional stability can be successful when (1) participants are randomly assigned traits to change or (2) they are naïve with respect to the intervention’s target trait. Results indicated that participants could be randomly assigned to change conscientiousness—even if they were unaware that the intervention was targeting conscientiousness. In contrast, interventions targeting emotional stability were effective only if participants both (1) autonomously chose to work on emotional stability and (2) received an effective intervention. These findings have practical implications for designing interventions—and they suggest that different traits may develop via different processes.
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Novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) disease (COVID-19) was a major public health emergency and psychosocial shock event that affects most humans on Earth. The virus emerged around Wuhan in China and spread around the globe over 2020-22 and in these years >16 million humans died and >70% of humanity had been subjected to social restrictions and societal lockdown. Coronavirus exploited societies marked by social interaction, urbanization, public transport, and liberalism, and elicited the strongest global economic perturbation in a century (-3% world GDP). This study describes the emotional, cognitive, physical, social, and societal responses over 2020-2022; a snapshot of time marked by loneliness, polarization, demonstrations, riots, violence, long-Covid, virus mutations, vaccines, and breakthrough infections, up to conspiracy theories, and individual, sociocultural, and geopolitical changes. 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It is therefore key that humans take stock of the lessons learned and aim for prudence and collaboration to successfully navigate the next two centuries and flourish.
Chapter
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