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Application of a 10 week coaching program designed to facilitate volitional personality change: Overall effects on personality and the impact of targeting

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The current study explored the outcomes of a 10 week coaching program designed to facilitate volitional personality change. It also explored the impact of targeting specific personality facets on change. This research builds upon the burgeoning literature challenging the view that personality is fixed. The results of the study indicated that the 10 week program resulted in significant increases in participant's conscientiousness and extraversion and significant decreases in neuroticism. These changes were maintained 3 months post-intervention for neuroticism and extraversion. Targeting of associated facets significantly interacted with time during the intervention period for emotionality and conscientiousness, but not for extraversion.
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International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
© The Authors
Published by Oxford Brookes University
80
Application of a 10 week coaching
program designed to facilitate volitional
personality change: Overall effects on
personality and the impact of targeting
Jonathan Allan1, Peter Leeson1, Filip De Fruyt2 and Sue Martin1
1University of Wollongong, 2University of Ghent. Contact email: jaa761@uowmail.edu.au
Abstract
The current study explored the outcomes of a 10 week coaching program designed to facilitate
volitional personality change. It also explored the impact of targeting specific personality facets on
change. This research builds upon the burgeoning literature challenging the view that personality is
fixed. The results of the study indicated that the 10 week program resulted in significant increases
in participant's conscientiousness and extraversion and significant decreases in neuroticism.
These changes were maintained 3 months post-intervention for neuroticism and extraversion.
Targeting of associated facets significantly interacted with time during the intervention period for
emotionality and conscientiousness, but not for extraversion.
Key Words: Personality, Personality Change, Coaching, Neuroticism, Conscientious
Introduction
There is an increasing body of literature to suggest that personality may be amenable to change
via interventions (e.g., Piedmont, & Ciarrocchi, 1999; Tang et al., 2009; Nelis et al., 2011).
Furthermore, the consequential outcomes literature is extensive and suggests that personality is
predictive of a number of important life outcomes (Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006). Researchers
have found that certain personality domains tend to be associated with positive outcomes, while
others are associated with negative outcomes (Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006). Taken together the
literature above suggests that personality characteristics may be changeable, and that if
characteristics associated with positive outcomes are increased and those associated with
negative outcomes are decreased, this may have a positive impact on an individual’s life. However,
while there has been extensive research on personality change, there has been limited research
on whether personality can be successfully targeted for change via intervention. The majority of
personality change research has looked at personality change over the lifespan (e.g., Roberts,
Walton & Viechtbauer, 2006) or explored incidental personality change in interventions targeting
other constructs (e.g., Tang et al., 2008). Consequently, the current paper will explore the effect of
a 10 week personality change coaching program on overall personality domains and how targeting
specific aspects of personality affects outcomes.
Before beginning a discussion on changing personality, it is necessary to define what is meant by
personality and what is meant by personality change. Personality consists of “relatively enduring
patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that reflect the tendency to respond in certain ways
under certain circumstances” (Roberts, 2009, p. 140).Consequently there are a number of
requirements that must be met for personality to be considered to have changed. The first is that
there are changes in thoughts and/or feelings and/or behaviours in response to certain situations.
The second is that there is sufficient temporal and situational breadth for these changes to be
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
© The Authors
Published by Oxford Brookes University
81
considered an “enduring pattern”. That is changes must occur in multiple situations where
individual differences would be expected to occur and these changes must become enduring over
time (Roberts, 2009; Allemand & Fluckiger, 2017).
The dominant framework for describing personality if the five factor model (McCrae, 2009). The
five-factor model posits that a person’s personality is best described along five major dimensions,
i.e., neuroticism (or emotionality), conscientiousness, extraversion, openness and agreeableness
(Costa & McCrae, 1992). People high in conscientiousness tend to be self-disciplined, organized
and deliberate. Agreeable individuals are more sympathetic and co-operative towards others.
Neuroticism is reflected in a tendency to experience higher levels of negative emotions such as
stress, anxiety, sadness and anger. Individuals higher in openness will tend to be more open to
new ideas and behaviours as well as demonstrating a preference for novelty and culture.
Extraverted people are generally more sociable, energetic and assertive (Costa & McCrae, 1992).
The current study explored data gathered via the NEO PI-R (Costa & McCrae, 1992). The NEO PI-
R is a widely used and well researched measure of the five factor model of personality. It
measures the five domains of personality as well as six more specific traits (facets) within each
domain. For example the domain of conscientiousness is further split into the six facets of
competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline and deliberation.
Arguments for and against personality change
Costa and McCrae (1994) posited that after the age of thirty there is little evidence that personality
can be changed. They support this stance based on their longitudinal studies which found little
meaningful change in personality past young adulthood (Costa, Herbst, McCrae, & Siegler, 2000).
This view is further supported by the strong rank order consistency of personality across the
lifespan (Fraley & Roberts, 2005; Roberts & DelVecchio, 2000). Roberts, Walton and Viechtbauer
(2006) challenged this assertion by pointing out a number of problems with using the above
findings to conclude that personality does not change after young adulthood. Firstly, Roberts et al.
(2006) argued that an absence of mean level change does not preclude large individual changes
within the sample (e.g. M of 2, 2, 2 = M of 0, 2, 4). Secondly, consistency in rank order also does
not preclude significant change provided the relative rankings do not change (e.g. 1, 2, 3 could
change to 2, 4, 6 and the rank order would remain the same). Furthermore Roberts et al. (2006)
meta-analysis contradicted Costa and McCrae’s (1994) assertion, finding significant mean level
changes in several personality traits after the age of 30. Specifically Roberts et al. (2006) found
significant mean level increases in conscientiousness, social dominance and emotional stability
(positive pole of neuroticism).
A second set of research findings that has been used to argue against the possibility of personality
change is the heritability literature (McCrae et al., 2000). This literature suggests that a substantial
portion of an individual’s personality is determined via genetic factors. A meta-analysis conducted
by Vukasovic and Bratko (2015) found an average effect size of .4 across 134 studies. This
suggests that 40% of the variance in individual’s personalities can be attributed to genetic factors.
However while these findings do suggest a substantial role for genetics in explaining individual
differences in personality, they also suggest that environment plays an even greater role (60%).
Consequently rather than disputing the possibility of personality change, we would argue that the
heritability literature provides evidence that there is a substantial role for environment in
personality.
Evidence for personality change via interventions
The literature reviewed above described studies which had looked at personality change/stability
over the lifespan. However a limitation of this research, in terms of its relevance to the current
study, is that it is focussed on change over long periods of time in individuals who had not
undergone a discrete intervention. Furthermore it is possible that the environmental influences
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
© The Authors
Published by Oxford Brookes University
82
found in the heritability literature are made up of early childhood experiences and thus do not
necessarily provide evidence for personality change interventions in adults. Consequently of more
relevance to the current research is the literature which has explored incidental changes in
personality, in adult populations, in response to interventions.
A number of studies have found incidental changes in personality during the treatment of clinical
disorders. A study conducted by Tang et al. (2009) found that participants treated with selective
serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) self-reported significant changes in neuroticism and
extraversion, while those treated with cognitive therapy showed significant changes in
extraversion. De Fruyt, Van Leeuwen, Bagby, Rolland, and Rouillon (2006) also found that six
months of therapeutic and pharmacological interventions produced small but significant differences
in extraversion, openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness. They also found that
participants self-reported as substantially more emotionally stable (positive pole of neuroticism).
Similarly, Piedmont (1999) indicated that a six week outpatient program for individuals with
substance abuse problems produced significant changes across all five dimensions of personality.
Furthermore, for three of these traits (conscientiousness, agreeableness and emotional stability)
personality changes remained significant 15 months after treatment had ceased. Consequently
there is evidence to suggest that personality may be changed through clinical interventions.
There have also been a small number of studies which have demonstrated incidental changes in
personality as the result of interventions in non-clinical populations. Krasner et al. (2009) found that
an intensive mindfulness education course produced significant increases in conscientiousness
and emotional stability. Nelis et al. (2011) examined the effect of 18 hours of emotional
competence training, and subsequent email follow ups, on several variables including personality.
Their results suggested that the training resulted in a significant reduction in neuroticism and
significant increases in agreeableness and extraversion. A 6 month follow up revealed a small
decline towards pre-intervention levels. However, neuroticism remained significantly lower, and
agreeableness and extraversion remained significantly higher, when compared to pre-intervention
scores. Similarly Jackson, Hill, Payne, Roberts and Stine-Morrow (2012) indicated that older
adults, when given inductive reasoning training, demonstrated significant increases in openness
over a 30 week period. Finally, Spence and Grant (2005) found that 10 life coaching sessions
significantly increased the personality factors of extraversion and openness over a 10 week period.
Excluding the current line of research, a literature review found a total of two studies (described in
one paper) that found empirically significant evidence for intentional personality change. The first
study by Hudson and Frayley (2015) found that people’s personality change goals predicted
changes in personality in the desired direction (i.e., the direction of their goal). The second study
found that training participants in how to create specific structured personality change goals (and
then having them set specific intentions each week) resulted in significant changes in personality in
the desired direction. It should be noted however that these changes were quite small (an average
.02 standard deviations per month). Interestingly those participants who set unstructured goals did
not change their personalities in the desired direction. Taken together, the research reviewed
above provides evidence that intentional personality change is possible and suggests that
structured goal setting may be an important technique in producing change.
The literature reviewed above indicates that personality may be amenable to change as the result
of interventions. However, this finding, in itself, is not enough to warrant the development of
specific personality change interventions. It is also important for the potential benefits of personality
change to be made clear.
Why is personality change important?
Personality has been found to influence almost every aspect of a person’s life. In their review, Ozer
and Benet-Martinez (2006) indicated that personality was predictive of a range of life outcomes
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
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Published by Oxford Brookes University
83
such as physical and mental health, work performance and relationship quality. Two domains that
appear to be particularly related to life outcomes are conscientiousness and neuroticism.
Neuroticism has been found to be a predictor of a number of negative life outcomes. In their meta-
analysis, Steel, Schmidt and Shultz (2008) found that neuroticism negatively predicted happiness,
subjective well-being, life satisfaction, quality of life and overall affect. Neuroticism has also been
associated with poor career/work outcomes, negatively predicting job satisfaction and performance
(Thoresen, Kaplan, Barsky, Warren, & de Chermont, 2003; Hurtz & Donovan, 2000). Neuroticism
appears to be particularly destructive in relationships, negatively predicting marriage satisfaction
and relationship quality and positively predicting abuse and conflict (Robins, Caspi & Moffitt, 2002;
Karney & Bradbury, 1995). The literature relating neuroticism to physical health outcomes is mixed,
however overall it suggests a negative relationship between neuroticism and physical health
(Chapman, Roberts & Duberstein, 2011). Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that negative
mental health outcomes are predicted by neuroticism (Malouff, Thorsteinsson, & Schutte, 2005).
Thus, considering the potentially damaging effect that neuroticism has on individuals lives,
interventions designed to reduce neuroticism may be beneficial.
There may also be an economic rationale for attempting to reduce neuroticism. Cuijpers et al.
(2010), using data gathered from 5,504 people through a Netherlands mental health survey, found
that the health care cost per million people for individuals in the top 25% of neuroticism was 1.39
billion. This figure is 2.5 times the cost incurred due to mental health disorders. Cuijpers et al.
(2010) also suggested that actual costs may be much higher as individuals higher in neuroticism
also tend to experience lower levels of employment. They proposed that future research should
focus on developing interventions to reduce neuroticism as the consequential outcome literature is
well established.
In contrast to neuroticism, conscientiousness has been found to be predictive of a number of
positive life outcomes. Conscientiousness appears to be the strongest of the personality domains
in predicting work related outcomes (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000; Barrick & Mount, 1991; Judge,
Higgins, Thoresen & Barrick, 1999; Thoresen et al., 2003). It has also been positively associated
with well-being and relationship satisfaction (Steel, Schmidt & Schultz, 2008; Malouff,
Thorsteinsson, Schutte, Bhullar & Rooke, 2010).
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of conscientiousness is its association with physical
and mental health. Conscientiousness has been found to be predictive of both health and longevity
(Hampson, Goldberg, Vogt & Dubanoski, 2007; Kern & Friedman, 2008; Chapman et al., 2011). It
has also been found to negatively predict the symptoms of clinical mental disorders (Malouff et al.,
2005). Conscientiousness is also related to many factors which are predictive of health. For
example, conscientiousness negatively predicts substance abuse and positively predicts
educational attainment and health behaviors (Bogg & Roberts, 2004; Hampson et al., 2007).
Consequently, it has been suggested that conscientiousness may be causally related to improved
health via increasing health promoting behaviors and decreasing health damaging behaviors
(Kern, Hampson, Goldberg & Friedman, 2014). The importance of conscientiousness from a public
health perspective has been generating increasing interest. A recent special issue of
Developmental Psychology (issue 50, volume 5) was dedicated entirely to this topic. A key theme
running throughout this issue was the need for, and importance of, developing theory driven
interventions to successfully increase conscientiousness (Reiss, Eccles, & Nielsen, 2014).
Coaching versus therapy and other ethical considerations
The broadness of personality brings up questions of whether an intervention targeting personality
should be considered therapy or coaching. One aspect which makes this distinction difficult is that
the boundaries between therapy and coaching can be considered “fuzzy” and that in many areas
therapy and coaching overlap (Jopling, 2007; Spinelli, 2010; Hart, Blatner & Leipsic, 2007).
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
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Published by Oxford Brookes University
84
Furthermore, certain personality traits will have closer theoretical ties to coaching while others will
have closer ties to therapy (e.g. the conscientiousness facet “self-discipline” versus the neuroticism
facet “anxiety”). Consequently it may depend on what personality facets are being targeted that
determines whether a personality change intervention looks more like therapy or coaching.
However there is one area of difference between coaching and therapy which the authors felt was
important enough to definitively call the current study a coaching intervention. That is that coaching
tends to focus relatively more on strengths whereas therapy tends to focus relatively more on
deficits or pathology (Hart et al., 2007). While many therapeutic approaches have attempted to
move away from the perspective that therapy is for addressing deficits or pathology (e.g. solution
focused therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy) there is never the less a general
assumption in society that you see a therapist to fix a problem or to address a mental health
disorder (Vogel, Wester & Larson, 2007). This problem/pathology focus becomes particularly
concerning when applied to the construct of personality. Approaching participants (who in the
current study were from the general population) from the perspective that they have a
problem/pathology within their personality has the potential to be damaging to that persons self-
image (particularly if no change occurs). In contrast, focusing on using the participant’s strengths to
make positive changes in their personality appears to carry a lower risk of potential harm.
Consequently the decision to label the current study a coaching intervention was based more so
on the perceived benefit of a coaching frame over a therapeutic frame as opposed to being based
on whether the specific techniques utilized were more related to coaching or therapy.
Another area of concern regarding potential harm to participants relates to the level of volitionality.
That is, to what extent participants desire to change their personality stems from intrinsic versus
extrinsic sources. The idea that someone may choose to change themselves does not appear
ethically problematic provided that decision comes from intrinsic sources. However the possibility
that a person may choose to change their personality because of extrinsic pressure exerted upon
them by a partner, organisation or professional is very concerning. Thus it is important that any
personality change interventions are executed in a way that maximises volitonality. This suggests
that personality change interventions may be inappropriate in an organisational context (even with
an opt in methodology as there still may be pressure to take part). Furthermore recruitment
methods should involve minimal social pressure (e.g. mediums where the person can choose to
opt out without saying “no” to someone). Examples of this would be flyers and newspaper
advertisements. Finally once the person is engaged in the program it is important that the changes
they choose to make are based on their own reflection on their personality and where it is causing
problems in their lives as opposed to being pressured to make certain decisions based on the
consequential outcome literature.
The current study
In response to the evidence that personality change appeared both possible and beneficial, Martin,
Oades and Caputi (2014a) developed a step-wise process of intentional personality change. A
detailed description of the development of this intervention can be found in Martin et al. (2014a).
This intervention incorporated elements of intentional change theory, and utilized motivational
interviewing, and eclectic therapeutic and coaching techniques, within a goal setting framework
(Boyatzis, 2006). Martin, Oades and Caputi (2014b) found that application of the step-wise process
of personality change over a 10 week coaching period resulted in significant change in targeted
personality facets. Furthermore, these changes remained significant at the three month follow up.
Allan, Leeson and Martin (2014) found that the most common facets targeted for change fell within
the domains of neuroticism and conscientiousness.
Martin et al. (2014b) allowed participants to choose specifically what facets they wished to target
for change. This makes sense from a coaching perspective as it allows participants to tailor their
goals to their own individual needs. It is also important from an ethical standpoint that participants
are in complete control of what aspects of their personality they choose to target for change. This
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
© The Authors
Published by Oxford Brookes University
85
design meant that participants tended to target different facets for change. Furthermore some
participants targeted as few as one facet while others targeted up to eight facets. Consequently to
allow for comparison between participants the construct of “average targeted facet score” was
created. This score was an average of the change that had occurred in the facets that had been
targeted by a participant.
The construct of average targeted facet score allowed Martin et al. (2014b) to determine whether
on average scores on targeted facets changed. However there is no specific information regarding
which personality facets or domains changed as a result of the intervention. While Allan et al.
(2014) did provide information on which facets were most commonly targeted this still does not
provide specific information on which aspects of personality were changed as a result of the
intervention. For example an average change of five points for someone who targeted anxiety and
self-discipline could be the result of a five point change in both facets or a 10 point change in one
facet and a zero point change in the other. Information on specifically what aspects of personality
were changed is important because it could provide tentative evidence to justify the development
of more specific and standardized interventions to explore the possible efficacy of targeting a
specific domain or facet for change.
Another limitation of Martin et al. (2014b) is that it did not provide evidence for whether changes in
targeted facets stemmed from targeting that facet or arose from general intervention effects. For
example, a decrease in a targeted facet such as anxiety may be the result of targeting this facet or
it could be that the overall effect of the intervention (regardless of whether anxiety is targeted or
not) tends to reduce anxiety. This is important as it provides some information regarding how
important the specific targeting of facets is to the change process.
It should be noted that a study exploring the impact of a targeting specific facets or domains for
change would ideally control these variables during the experiment. However, as mentioned
above, allowing the participants to control what they targeted was important from both an ethical
and motivational standpoint. Furthermore Martin et al. (2014b) study sought primarily to help
answer the general question of could participants intentionally change their personality? This is a
question that needs to be answered first before more specific questions such as can individuals
change “x” facet or “y” domain are answered. However, despite these limitations, the authors of the
current study argue that information regarding overall change at both the domain and facet level,
as well as the impact of targeting of specific facets on change in those facets, would present a
useful contribution to the personality change and coaching literature.
Consequently the current study hypothesized that the domains which had the highest number of
facets targeted by participants (neuroticism and conscientiousness) would significantly change as
a result of the intervention. Furthermore it was hypothesized that the targeting of facets would have
a significant effect on the results of the intervention.
Method
Participants and procedure
After completing informed consent forms, participants were randomly allocated to either the waitlist
group or the coaching group. Those participants in the coaching group were then allocated a
coach. This was followed by 10 weekly meetings with their coach in which they engaged in the
step-wise process of intentional personality change (described below). Participants in the coaching
group completed the NEO PI-R pre-intervention, at week five of the coaching program and post
intervention. A follow up NEO PI-R was also conducted at three months post intervention (week
22).
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
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Published by Oxford Brookes University
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Those participants in the waitlist group completed their time one NEO PI-R, and then after a 10
week waiting period completed an additional NEO PI-R. Following this, they underwent the 10
week coaching program delivered to the coaching group described above (they also underwent an
identical testing regiment to the coaching group).
Data collection
The current study used archival data collected during Martin, Oades and Caputi’s (2014b)
randomized wait list controlled trial of intentional personality change coaching.
Participants
The participants were 54 adults (8 males and 46 females) with ages ranging from 18 to 64 (M =
42.18, SD = 12.44). Participants were matched for gender and age and then randomly allocated
randomly to the waitlist (n = 27) or coaching (n = 27) group. Six participants from the waitlist group
withdrew, and were replaced by individuals who matched their age and gender. After completing
the waitlist period the waitlist group also underwent the coaching program. Three participants who
completed the waitlist period chose not to engage in the coaching program. One participant from
those who completed the coaching program did not complete the three month follow up.
Participants were recruited via an article in a local paper, word of mouth and an online post on a
university's website. Participants were required to be older than 18. Participants with AXIS II
disorders, psychosis, bipolar disorder or who had a current substance use disorder were excluded
from the study.
Coaches
Coaching was provided by registered and trainee psychologists. The trainee psychologists had a
minimum of five years education in psychology and a minimum of 60 face to face client contact
hours. They also underwent weekly one hour supervision sessions, where videoed coaching
sessions were reviewed. The psychologists were required to undergo a one day training workshop
and were provided with a training manual.
Measures
The NEO PI-R (Costa & McCrae, 1992) consists of 240 items on a five point Likert scale (0 =
strongly disagree, 4 = strongly agree). An example item is "I often crave excitement". The NEO PI-
R is designed to measure the five domains of personality, with 6 facets under each domain
providing more specific information. The NEO PI-R has high levels of internal consistency (ranging
from .86 to .95) and is well validated in the literature (Costa & McCrae, 1992; Piedmont, 1998).
Coaching program
The step-wise process of intentional personality change utilized 10 steps in facilitating personality
change. The first step involved assessing client’s current personality and helping them discover
their values. The second step focused on discovering the current self and exploring personality
functioning. Clients reflected on the positive and negative aspects of their lives and how their
current personality may be affecting these aspects. They also reflected on the extent to which they
were living in alignment with their values. Step three involved identifying the ideal self (a vision of
who they want to be) and exploring discrepancies between the ideal and current self (Boyatzis,
2006). This involved exploring their current personality profile and how this might differ from their
ideal personality profile. This allowed clients to determine a shortlist of personality facets for
targeting. Step four involved selecting from this shortlist a realistic number of facets to target for
change. The fifth step involved assessing the client’s attitude towards change. Specifically the
importance of change, confidence in ability to change, timeliness of change as well as intrinsic and
extrinsic motivation were assessed.
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2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
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Published by Oxford Brookes University
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The sixth step focused on the development and implementation of a coaching plan. The coach and
the client collaborated to determine, from a menu of eclectic therapeutic techniques provided for
each facet, which interventions they would use to achieve desired facet change. For example one
participant may have wished to increase the conscientiousness facet self-discipline and thus they
would have a choice of related techniques (e.g. goal setting, organizational skills, life style skills,
positive self-talk). A second participant may have chosen to change anxiety and thus would have
some techniques that overlapped with the first participant (e.g. goal setting, positive self-talk, life
style skills) but also some different techniques (e.g. cognitive therapy techniques, exposure based
techniques). Step seven occurred during week five of the program and involved re-assessing
client’s personality, evaluating progress and using this information to inform the final five weeks of
coaching. Step eight involved completing the remaining coaching sessions which consisted of
applying the facet and participant specific interventions chosen via the process described in step
six. Step nine occurred at the final coaching session and included re-assessing personality to
review the client’s progress towards desired change, and developing a plan to maintain gains.
Finally, in order to determine whether gains had been maintained, step 10 was a three month
follow up personality assessment.
Results
To determine whether changes occurred at the domain level, across the intervention period, five
one way repeated measures ANOVAS were conducted. Following this, change at the facet level
was also assessed. In order to limit the number of analyses, only facets that fell within domains
that had significantly changed over the intervention period were analyzed. Finally, a mixed design
ANOVA was performed to determine whether targeting of facets significantly influenced change.
Domain level change
A one way repeated measures ANOVA with a Greenhouse-Geisser correction determined that
mean neuroticism was significantly different between time points, F (2.04, 99.99) = 30.07, p < .001,
ηp = .38. Post Hoc tests using the Bonferroni correction indicated that there was a significant
decrease in neuroticism between weeks one (M = 88.14, SD = 29.52) and five (M = 79.70, SD =
27.06), p < .001. There was also a significant decrease in neuroticism between weeks five to ten
(M = 71.04, SD = 25.06), p < .001. This significant difference was maintained at week 22 (M =
71.06, SD= 24.68), p < .001.
A one way repeated measures ANOVA with a Greenhouse-Geisser correction determined that
mean conscientiousness was significantly different between time points, F (1.86, 91.00) = 4.69, p <
.01. ηp = .09. Post Hoc tests using a Bonferroni correction indicated that there was not a significant
increase in conscientiousness between weeks 1 (M = 122.33, SD = 20.43) and week five (M =
124.86, SD = 19.75) or between week 5 and week ten (M = 128.90, SD = 19.76). However there
was a significant difference between week 1 and ten, p = .03. This significant difference was not
maintained at week 22 (M = 127.54, SD = 19.02).
A one way repeated measures ANOVA with a Greenhouse-Geisser correction determined that
mean extraversion was significantly different between time points, F (2.26, 110.74) = 6.77, p <
.001, ηp = .12. Post Hoc tests using the Bonferroni correction indicated that there was not a
significant increase in extraversion between weeks 1 (M = 110.54, SD = 23.48) and 5 (M = 112.54,
SD = 23.85). There was a significant increase in extraversion between weeks 5 and ten (M =
116.48, SD = 23.34), p = .03. There was also a significant increase between weeks 1 and ten, p <
.01. This significant difference was maintained at week twenty two (M = 116.12, SD= 22.88), p =
.02.
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2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
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Published by Oxford Brookes University
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A one way repeated measures ANOVA with a Greenhouse-Geisser correction determined that
mean agreeableness was not significantly different between time points, F(2.54, 124.63) = 1.7, p =
.86. Similarly there was no significant difference between time points for mean openness, F(2.41,
118.08) = 2.20, p = .05.
Facet level change
A one way repeated measures ANOVA was performed for each of the facets of neuroticism. A
Greenhouse-Geisser correction was used for anxiety, vulnerability, depression, impulsiveness and
self-consciousness as Mauchly’s test indicated that sphericity had been violated for these
variables. The results of the analysis indicated that there was significant variation across time
points for all facets. A summary of these results is provided in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Summary of repeated measures ANOVA for neuroticism facets across the
intervention and post intervention periods.
Facet
F
p
Anxiety
19.15 (2.47, 121.07)
>.001
Angry/hostility
10.52 (3, 147)
>.001
Vulnerability
11.93(2.49, 121.93)
>.001
Depression
19.42 (2.17, 105.90)
>.001
Impulsiveness
11.20 (2.46, 120.41)
>.001
Self-consciousness
14.56 (2.25, 110.40)
>.001
Post hoc testing using the Bonferroni adjustment indicated that there was a significant decrease in
all neuroticism facets between week 1 and week ten (all p < .001). This difference was maintained
at week twenty two for all neuroticism facets (all p < .001). There was a significant decrease
between week 1 and week 5 for anger (p = .02), vulnerability (p = .05), depression (p < .01),
impulsiveness (p < .01) and self-consciousness (p < .03) but not for anxiety (p = .13). There was a
significant difference between week 5 and week ten for anxiety (p < .001), vulnerability (p < .01),
depression (p < .001) and self-consciousness (p < .01) but not for angry/hostility (p = .20) or
impulsiveness (p = .20). A summary of the means for each facet of neuroticism at each time point
is presented in table 2 below.
Table 2: A summary of the means for neuroticism at each time point during the intervention
and post intervention periods.
Facet
Week 1
Week 5
Week 10
Week 22
M
SD
M
SD
M
SD
M
SD
Anxiety
16.90
7.11
15.74
6.38
13.76
5.89
13.26
6.13
Angry/hostility
13.28
5.24
12.20
5.35
11.30
5.18
11.22
4.85
Vulnerability
11.98
5.56
11.00
5.34
9.60
4.73
9.60
4.69
Depression
14.34
7.19
12.14
6.65
10.02
5.65
10.44
5.81
Impulsiveness
16.68
6.03
14.86
5.44
14.12
5.18
14.22
5.46
Self-consciousness
14.96
5.89
13.76
6.13
12.24
5.15
12.12
5.07
A one way repeated measures ANOVA was performed for each of the facets of extraversion. A
Greenhouse-Geisser correction was used for warmth, gregariousness assertiveness and positive
emotions as Mauchly’s test indicated that sphericity had been violated for these variables. The
results of the analysis indicated that there was significant variation across time points for mean
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2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
© The Authors
Published by Oxford Brookes University
89
warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness and positive emotions. A summary of these results is
provided in table 3 below.
Table 3: Summary of repeated measures ANOVA for extraversion facets across the
intervention and post intervention periods.
Facet
F
p
ηp
Warmth
4.37(2.43, 119.29)
>.01
.08
Gregariousness
3.61 (2.54, 124.65)
>.01
.07
Assertiveness
4.51 (2.17, 106.12)
>.01
.08
Activity
.13 (3, 147)
.47
.00
Excitement
1.32 (3, 147)
.13
.02
Positive Emotions
7.22 (2.03, 99.44)
>.001
.13
Post hoc tests using the Bonferroni correction indicated that there was a significant increase in
positive emotions (p = .03), gregariousness (p = .04), warmth (p = .02) and assertiveness (p = .03)
between weeks 1 and ten. This significant difference was maintained at week twenty two for
positive emotions (p = .01), gregariousness (p = .05) and assertiveness (p = .04) but not for
warmth (p = .13). All other results were non-significant. A summary of the means for the facets of
extraversion at each time point is provided in table 4 below.
Table 4: A summary of the means for extraversion at each time point during the intervention
and post intervention periods.
Facet
Week 1
Week 5
Week 10
Week 22
M
SD
M
SD
M
SD
M
SD
Warmth
23.32
4.20
23.64
4.63
24.72
3.82
24.40
3.61
Gregariousness
16.96
6.01
17.78
6.19
18.14
6.07
18.18
5.91
Assertiveness
16.32
5.93
17.08
5.78
17.68
5.19
17.76
5.14
Activity
18.50
4.99
18.78
5.16
18.58
5.00
18.58
4.64
Excitement Seeking
14.86
4.87
14.36
5.02
15.20
4.78
14.74
5.02
Positive Emotions
20.58
6.33
20.90
6.32
22.16
6.14
22.46
6.04
A one way repeated measures ANOVA was performed for each of the facets of conscientiousness.
A Greenhouse-Geisser correction was used for competence, order, dutifulness, achievement
striving and self-discipline as Mauchly’s test indicated that sphericity had been violated for these
variables. The results of the analysis indicated that there was significant variation across time
points for mean competence, dutifulness, achievement striving and self-discipline. A summary of
these results is provided in table 5 below.
Post hoc testing using the Bonferroni adjustment indicated that there was a significant increase in
competence between week 1 and week 22 (p= .03). There was also a significant increase in self-
discipline between week 1 and 10 (p = .01). However this difference was not maintained at week
22. All other results were non-significant. A summary of the means for each conscientiousness
facet at each time point is provided in table 6 below.
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2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
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90
Table 5: Summary of repeated measures ANOVA for conscientiousness facets across the
intervention and post intervention periods.
Facet
F
p
ηp
Competence
3.09 (2.27, 12.02)
.02
.06
Order
.76 (2.38, 116.48)
.25
.02
Dutifulness
2.86 (2.46, 120.28)
.03
.06
Achievement Striving
2.54 (2.24, 109.79)
.04
.05
Self-Discipline
6.41 (1.72, 84.32)
>.01
.12
Deliberation
.67 (3, 147)
.29
.01
Table 6: A summary of the means for conscientiousness at each time point during the
intervention and post intervention periods
Facet
Week 1
Week 5
Week 10
Week 22
M
SD
M
SD
M
SD
M
SD
Competence
21.58
4.92
22.40
3.87
22.88
5.00
23.06
4.54
Order
20.12
4.68
19.76
3.70
20.44
3.70
20.14
3.51
Dutifulness
23.14
4.12
23.42
3.69
24.18
3.52
23.58
3.17
Achievement Striving
19.52
4.99
20.40
5.15
20.74
5.03
20.56
4.85
Self-Discipline
19.68
5.74
20.50
5.42
21.98
4.93
21.38
4.68
Deliberation
18.28
4.73
18.38
4.84
18.68
4.88
18.82
4.68
The impact of targeting
A mixed design ANOVA was used to determine whether there was a significant change in
personality across all facets and whether these changes were related to facets being targeted by
the participants. The facets of neuroticism was reverse scored as participants universally chose to
decrease neuroticism facets. The results of the analysis indicated that there was a significant main
effect for time, F(1, 1528) = 60.74, p < .001, ηp =.04. Participants average score on personality
facets increased from week one (M = 19.87, SD = 5.81) to week ten (M = 21.01, SD = 5.39). There
was a significant interaction effect between targeting and time indicating that facets that were
targeted by participants experienced larger changes than facets that were not targeted, F (1, 1528)
= 135.109, p < .001, ηp = .08.
Discussion
The finding that the current intervention resulted in significant decreases in neuroticism adds to the
literature which has indicated that neuroticism may be changeable via interventions (e.g. De Fruyt
et al., 2006; Piedmont et al., 1999; Nelis et al., 2011; Hudson & Frayley, 2015).This is encouraging
as higher neuroticism has been associated with a number of negative outcomes from both an
individual and societal standpoint (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000; Steel et al., 2008; Robins et al., 2002;
Karney & Bradbury, 1995; Malouff et al., 2005; Cuijpers et al., 2010). Furthermore Allan et al.
(2014) indicated that neuroticism was the personality domain that individuals were most likely to
choose to change. Consequently the current findings, in combination with the literature, provide
evidence that individuals are motivated and able to reduce neuroticism through application of the
step-wise process.
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The finding that conscientiousness increased as the result of the intervention is encouraging.
Conscientiousness facets were the second most commonly targeted traits during the intervention
and conscientiousness has been associated with improvements across multiple life domains (Hurtz
& Donovan, 2000; Steel et al., 2008; Karney & Bradbury, 1995; Hampson et al., 2007; Kern &
Friedman, 2008). Conscientiousness appears to be particularly important for health related
outcomes due to its influence on health behaviours (Kern, Hampson, Goldberg & Friedman, 2014).
Thus it had been suggested that it may be helpful from a public health perspective to develop
interventions to change conscientiousness (Reiss, Eccles, & Nielsen, 2014). However it had not
been established that conscientiousness could be changed through a targeted intervention. This
research provides a first step in this line of enquiry. Future research may be able to explore
whether changes in conscientiousness are reflected in changes in health behaviours and
subsequent changes in health status.
The current study also found significant increases in extraversion over the intervention period.
These changes were unexpected because extraversion was infrequently targeted by participants.
While surprising, the outcome is nevertheless an encouraging one. Extraversion has a number of
positive associations. It is positively predictive of well-being, job satisfaction, and relationship
satisfaction and negatively predictive of mental health symptoms (Thoresen et al., 2003; Steel et
al., 2008; Karney & Bradbury, 1995; Malouff et al., 2005).
One area where the current study extends upon the work of Hudson and Faryley (2015) is its effect
sizes. Hudson and Frayley (2015) indicated that the personality changes found in their studies
were relatively small (about .02 of a standard deviation per month). In contrast several of the effect
sizes for change in the current study were large (Cohen, 1988). One key difference between the
two studies is the relative difference in the intensiveness of the intervention (weekly one to one
coaching versus structured goal setting training). This presents an interesting area for future
research. That is what attributes of the intervention contribute to the size of personality change.
The changes achieved during the current intervention appear to be positive. That is the changes
are occurring in the direction whereby the consequential outcome research indicates positive
outcomes increase and negative outcomes decrease. However due to the associative nature of
this research the current study is not able to determine whether there were any changes in life
outcomes (for an extensive and critical discussion see Friedman and Kern, 2014). It may be useful
for future studies conducted in this area to measure associated outcomes, in order to determine
whether these changes in personality are related to positive changes in life outcomes. This would
aid in determining the beneficence of the current intervention as well as providing criterion validity
for the changes in personality domains that were found.
The current study also found that the targeting of specific facets was an important component in
creating personality change. This suggests that producing change in personality is similar to
producing change in other areas in that more specific goals tend to result in better outcomes (e.g.
Locke et al., 1981; Locke & Latham, 2006). It also suggests that future research should incorporate
specific targeting of facets into personality change interventions. Finally it provides some insight
into the overall results of the study. That is the three domains which had the most facets targeted
were neuroticism, conscientiousness and extraversion. These were the three domains that were
found to have changed significantly over the intervention period. The two least targeted domains
(agreeableness and openness) did not change. Consequently the lack of change in these domains
may not be reflective of them being more difficult or unable to change, rather it may be that they
did not change because participants did not want to change them.
These findings add to the expanding research that refutes the claim that past young adulthood
personality does not and cannot be significantly changed. It suggests that people who are
motivated are able to change their personality and that they can do this in a relatively short period
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2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000470
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92
of time provided they are given the right resources. Furthermore it suggests that, at least for
extraversion and neuroticism, these changes can be maintained after several months.
There are however a number of legitimate limitations to the current study which may need to be
addressed in future research in order for the research supporting intentional personality change to
be considered substantive. Perhaps the largest limitation is that only self-report measures were
used. Consequently results may be subject to confounding effects such as common source and
social desirability bias (De Fruyt & Van Leeuwen, 2014). This is a particular concern, considering
that the intervention required the development of a close relationship between the coach and
client. This limitation could be addressed in future research by using multiple informants for
baseline and follow-up personality descriptions, who are unaware of the coaching objectives and
targeted traits.
Another limitation is that the follow up data was taken only 3 months after the intervention had
finished. The current study design is unable to determine whether these changes will be
maintained throughout the lifespan.
In summary, the current study indicated that neuroticism significantly decreased and
conscientiousness and extraversion significantly increased as the result of the application of a 10
week targeted personality change intervention. These changes were considered to be positive as
increases in extraversion and conscientiousness and decreases in neuroticism are associated with
increases in positive and decreases in negative life outcomes. An important component to this
change appeared to be the specific targeting of facets. A number of limitations were discussed.
However, this study should be considered as preliminary research into a new and important area.
Personality has been found to have a wide reaching impact across people’s lives. Consequently,
the possibility of being able to change ones personality for the better is an exciting and important
development in the coaching and personality literature.
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Author information
Jonathan Allan is a registered psychologist and coach. His research interests include coaching,
personality change and suicide prevention.
Peter Leeson is a lecturer in psychology. His primary research interests are in personality, social
and developmental psychology.
Filip De Fruyt is a Professor in the department of developmental, personality and social
psychology. His research interests are in the field of personality and organizational psychology.
Sue Martin is a registered psychologist and coach. Her primary research interest is in the field of
personality change.
... Most adults want to change aspects of their Big Five personality traits to a certain degree (Hudson & Roberts, 2014;Miller et al., 2019;Quintus et al., 2017;Robinson et al., 2015). 1 Such aims emphasise the active role that individuals play in the development of their personality. While previous studies have shown that deliberately engaging in systematic interventions can foster Big Five trait changes (Allan et al., 2018;Hudson & Fraley, 2015;Magidson et al., 2014;Martin et al., 2014), it remains an open question whether naturally occurring change goals also lead to personality change (Hudson & Fraley, 2016a;Robinson et al., 2015). Additionally, previous research has failed to investigate relevant moderators of change goals, that is, how goal importance and feasibility moderate the association of change goals and actual trait changes. ...
... In line with this reasoning, previous studies have fostered the implementation of change goals with interventions (Allan et al., 2018;Hudson et al., 2018;Hudson & Fraley, 2015), while the current study examined naturally occurring volitional personality change. Hence, we did not provide any instructions on how to implement change goals in one's daily life. ...
... Furthermore, previous intervention studies have often focused on few specific traits people chose to change, such as 'become more open-minded'. The focus on one or two traits may have facilitated successful trait change because of concentrating efforts and resources on single domains (Allan et al., 2018;Hudson et al., 2018;Hudson & Fraley, 2015;Stieger et al., 2020). In previous studies as well as the current one, change goals were moderately correlated, that is, people who want to become more sociable often also wanted to become more emotionally stable and conscientious (Hudson & Roberts, 2014). ...
Article
Most adults want to change aspects of their personality. However, previous studies have provided mixed evidence on whether such change goals can be successfully implemented, perhaps partly due to neglecting the goals’ importance and feasibility as well as the experience of trait-relevant situations and states. This study examined associations between change goals and changes in self-reported Big Five traits assessed four times across two years in an age-heterogeneous sample of 382 adults (255 younger adults, M age = 21.6 years; 127 older adults, M age = 67.8 years). We assessed trait-relevant momentary situations and states in multiple waves of daily diaries over the first year ( M = 43.9 days). Perceived importance and feasibility of change goals were analysed as potentially moderating factors. Contrary to our hypotheses, the results demonstrated that neither change goals nor goal importance or feasibility were consistently associated with trait change, likely due to inconsistent associations with momentary situations and behaviours. The results suggest that wanting to change one’s traits does not necessarily lead to changes without engaging in trait-relevant situations and behaviours. These findings provide novel insights into the boundary conditions of volitional personality development.
... So far, only a few studies have focused on intervention approaches that combine multiple components to evoke personality trait change. One study examined the effects of a 10-wk coaching program designed to target personality traits (42,43). Participation in the face-to-face coaching resulted in significant increases in conscientiousness and extraversion and decreases in neuroticism, and changes in neuroticism and extraversion were even maintained 3 mo after the intervention. ...
... We also explored whether self-and observer-reported trait changes are maintained until follow-up assessment 3 mo after the end of the intervention or whether they revert over time. Based on preliminary work (42,44), we expected that personality trait changes in the desired direction can be maintained after the end of the intervention. ...
Preprint
Personality traits predict important life outcomes such as success in love and work life, wellbeing, health, and longevity. Given these positive relations to important outcomes, economists, policy-makers, and scientists have proposed intervening to change personality traits to promote positive life outcomes. However, non-clinical interventions to change personality traits are lacking so far in large-scale naturalistic populations. This study (N = 1,523) examined the effects of a 3- month digital personality change intervention using a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and the smartphone application PEACH (PErsonality coACH). Participants who received the intervention showed greater self-reported changes compared to participants in the waitlist control group who had to wait one month before receiving the intervention. Self-reported changes aligned with intended goals for change and were significant for those desiring to increase on a trait (d = 0.52) and for those desiring to decrease on a trait (d = -0.58). Observers such as friends, family members or intimate partners also detected significant personality changes in the desired direction for those desiring to increase on a trait (d = 0.35). Observer-reported changes for those desiring to decrease on a trait were not significant (d = -0.22). Moreover, self- and observer reported changes persisted until three months after the end of the intervention. This work provides the strongest evidence to date that normal personality traits can be changed through intervention in non-clinical samples.
... For the most part, these clinical interventions have been quite successful (see a meta-analysis: Roberts, Luo, et al., 2017). Moreover, extant literature demonstrates that voluntary attempts to change traits, including extraversion, can also be rather efficient (Allan et al., 2018;Stieger et al., 2021). Thus, in a recent nonclinical intervention study (Stieger et al., 2021), participants who wanted to increase their extraversion, succeeded in that after a three-month smartphone application intervention. ...
... In the present study, the manipulations precluded any immediate behavioral acts from participants compared with other intervention studies (e.g., Allan et al., 2018;Stieger et al., 2021). Instead, participants were either exposed to or invented a message on extraversion. ...
Article
Objective. Changeability of personality over short-term intervals has increasingly become a focus of research. However, the role played by argumentation interventions in short-term variations has scarcely been examined. Methods. In two experiments (Ns = 363 and 320), we investigated how processing positive and negative argumentation regarding extraversion (Study 1: watching a lecture; Study 2: elaborating self-invented arguments) affects self-reports on this trait and attitude towards it. The experiments included three waves of measurements with argument manipulation (in favour of or against extraversion) immediately prior to Time 2 (Study 2 also included a control group). Results. Mean-level changes in extraversion across time moments, measured with the longitudinal confirmatory factor analysis, were consistently negligible. Conversely, there were some indications that argumentation about extraversion could have immediate short-term effects on attitudes towards this trait. The random-intercept cross-lagged model showed that rank-order consistency stemmed from a trait-like intercept, which was particularly large for trait extraversion compared to the attitude. The autoregressive and cross-lagged effects of residual within-person variation were consistently small and mostly non-significant. Conclusion. Our findings suggest that extraversion and the attitude towards it maintained their temporal continuity within three months, even under a single exposure to arguments pro and contra this trait.
... So far, only a few studies have focused on intervention approaches that combine multiple components to evoke personality trait change. One study examined the effects of a 10-wk coaching program designed to target personality traits (42,43). Participation in the face-to-face coaching resulted in significant increases in conscientiousness and extraversion and decreases in neuroticism, and changes in neuroticism and extraversion were even maintained 3 mo after the intervention. ...
... We also explored whether self-and observer-reported trait changes are maintained until follow-up assessment 3 mo after the end of the intervention or whether they revert over time. Based on preliminary work (42,44), we expected that personality trait changes in the desired direction can be maintained after the end of the intervention. ...
Article
Significance Personality traits have consequences and are malleable throughout the lifespan. However, it is unclear if and how personality traits can be changed in desired directions. A 3-mo digital personality change intervention was deployed, and a large-scale randomized controlled trial ( n = 1,523) was conducted to examine the effects of intended personality change in a nonclinical sample. The intervention group showed greater changes than the control group, and changes aligned with intended goals for change. Observers also perceived personality changes, but reported changes were less pronounced. Moreover, self- and observer-reported changes persisted until 3 mo after the end of the intervention. These findings provide the strongest evidence to date that normal personality traits can be changed through intervention in nonclinical samples.
... While the current study does not offer causal data to confirm this theory, it does provide new information about the various relationships between personality facets and psychopathological dimensions. It would be worthwhile to further explore these relationships in future studies, as this would improve the current understanding of psychopathology, and could lead to more effective treatment methods targeted at personality characteristics, rather than just symptoms of psychopathology (for more on personalitytargeted interventions, see e.g., Martin et al., 2014;Allan et al., 2018;Allemand & Fluckiger, 2017). ...
Article
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Research has indicated that a dimensional conceptualisation of psychopathology may be more accurate than the current categorical approach. Two symptom dimensions, Internalising and Externalising, have emerged, and have been linked to major trait domains of personality (the Big Five). However, previous studies have tended to focus on broader personality domains, neglecting to examine associations between sub-domains (facets). The current study addressed this gap by examining associations between facets of the Big Five and Internalising and Externalising. A sample of 290 adults (Mage = 37.0, SD = 14.0; 74% female) responded to a survey which included the IPIP-NEO and ASEBA Adult Self Report. Hierarchical multiple regressions identified personality facets that may represent vulnerability factors for Internalising and Externalising. For Internalising, multiple facet-level associations were found within Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness, and in the latter two cases both positive and negative associations were identified. For Externalising, most facet-level associations were found within Neuroticism and Extraversion (and to a lesser extent, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness), and were in the expected direction. In both cases, the inclusion of facets provided novel and useful information about the relationship between personality and psychopathology, which may be used to improve current methods for assessing and treating mental dysfunction.
... In most studies, to evaluate change in those outcomes, measurements are taken in two moments: before and after the coaching intervention. Some exceptions are found in longitudinal studies, where additional measurements are taken over time, but still after the coaching programme has ended (Allan et al., 2018;Jones et al., 2019;McGonagle et al., 2020). This way of measuring outcomes reflects the coachee's perception at the exact moment of data collection (i.e. ...
Article
Coaching literature assumes that people undergo personal change through coaching. We contend that different types of change may occur with coaching and investigate whether this is the case in reflection (a key competence in coaching). Results from our sample of 61 coachees indicate that three types of change (alpha, beta, gamma) are observed across participants. Alpha change refers to a substantive change in reflection (i.e. an increase or decrease), beta to a recalibration of one's assessment of reflection and gamma to a re‐conceptualization of reflection. We further examine implicit person theory (IPT) as a predictor and perceived coaching utility as a correlate of the three types of change. We observe a higher probability that incremental IPT will associate with alpha change versus other types of change, and that beta and gamma changes correlate positively and negatively, respectively, with perceived utility for work. No significant correlations are observed between types of change and perceived utility for personal development. Our study represents an exploratory contribution to a better understanding of the within‐person changes in reflection following coaching intervention, and has implications for both theory and practice, which we discuss along with indications for future directions.
... To date, psychologists have observed a number of pathways by which personality changes, including normative development 18 , biological maturation 19 , genetic factors 20 , major life events 21,22 , new social and vocational roles 23,24 , commitment to new identities 25,26 , psychotherapy 27,28 , and self-motivation 29,30 . Although some evidence suggests that psychedelic compounds may offer an additional pathway, prospective studies in naturalistic and laboratory settings have yielded mixed evidence. ...
Article
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The present study examines the association between the ceremonial use of ayahuasca—a decoction combining the Banistereopsis caapi vine and N,N-Dimethyltryptamine-containing plants—and changes in personality traits as conceived by the Five-Factor model (FFM). We also examine the degree to which demographic characteristics, baseline personality, and acute post-ayahuasca experiences affect personality change. Participants recruited from three ayahuasca healing and spiritual centers in South and Central America (N = 256) completed self-report measures of personality at three timepoints (Baseline, Post, 3-month Follow-up). Informant-report measures of the FFM were also obtained (N = 110). Linear mixed models were used to examine changes in personality and the moderation of those changes by covariates. The most pronounced change was a reduction in Neuroticism dzself-reportT1–T2 = − 1.00; dzself-reportT1–T3 = − .85; dzinformant-reportT1–T3 = − .62), reflected in self- and informant-report data. Moderation of personality change by baseline personality, acute experiences, and purgative experiences was also observed.
... To date, psychologists have observed a number of pathways by which personality changes, including normative development 20 , biological maturation 21 , genetic factors 22 , major life events 23,24 , new social and vocational roles 25,26 , commitment to new identities 27,28 , psychotherapy 29,30 , and self-motivation 31,32 . Although some evidence suggests that psychedelic compounds may offer an additional pathway, prospective studies in naturalistic and laboratory settings have yielded mixed evidence. ...
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Full-text available
The present study examines the association between the ceremonial use of ayahuasca – a decoction combining the Banistereopsis caapi vine and N,N Dimethyltryptamine-containing plants – and changes in personality traits as conceived by the Five-Factor model (FFM); as well as the degree to which demographic characteristics, baseline personality, and acute post-ayahuasca experiences affect personality change. Method: Participants recruited from three ayahuasca healing and spiritual centers in South and Central America (N=256) completed self-report measures of personality at three timepoints (Baseline, Post, 3-Month Follow-up). Informant-report measures of the FFM were also obtained (N=110). Results: Linear mixed models were used to examine changes in personality and the moderation of those changes by covariates. The most pronounced change was a reduction in Neuroticism d self-reportT1-T2 =1.00; d self-reportT1-T3 =.85; d informant-reportT1-T3 =.62), reflected in self- and informant-report data. Moderation of personality change by baseline personality, acute experiences, and purgative experiences was also observed.
Article
A highly relevant but provocative research question is whether and how one can intentionally change personality traits through psychological interventions, given that traits are relatively stable by definition. Recently, research has begun to investigate personality change through intervention in nonclinical populations. One attractive and innovative interventional avenue may lie in using digital applications to guide and support people in their desire to change their personality and trigger change processes. This article provides a rationale for nonclinical personality-change interventions and discusses motivations to change, the potential of using digital applications for intervention efforts, key studies that illustrate this emerging field of research, and future directions.
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Objectives: Recent literature suggests that personality may be more amenable to change than was previously thought, and that participant selected intentional personality change may be beneficial. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of a 10-week structured intentional personality change coaching programme on participant selected personality facets. Design: Participants were assigned to the personality coaching group or a waitlist control group using a waitlist control, matched, randomised procedure (personality coaching group, N=27; waitlist control group, N=27). Method: A structured coaching programme, designed to identify and modify a limited number of personality facets, chosen by the client, was employed. Results: Participation in the personality change coaching programme was associated with significant positive change in participant selected facets, with gains maintained three months later. Neither age of participant nor number of facets targeted significantly affected change outcomes. Conclusions: These findings suggest that a structured personality change coaching programme may facilitate beneficial personality change in motivated individuals. Keywords: Intentional personality change coaching.
Article
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Recent findings suggest that personality is amenable to change via interventions and that such change may be beneficial. However, there is a gap in the literature concerning what aspects of their personality individuals in non-clinical populations wish to change, and if the personality of individuals who choose to change their personality differs from the normal population. Clarification of these questions may help inform the development of personality change resources and interventions. The current study explored the personality profiles (as measured by the NEO PI-R) of 54 volunteers for an intentional personality change coaching study, and describes the personality facets they chose to target for change. The results of this study indicated that participants had significantly higher openness and emotionality. Targeted personality facets primarily fell within the domains of emotionality (48.17 per cent) and conscientiousness (28.04 per cent). Anxiety (N=28), self-discipline (N=19), angry/hostility (N=17), depression (N=11) and self-consciousness (N=11) were the most commonly targeted facets. These results inform the literature regarding which individuals may be motivated to change their personalities and for what purpose. There may also be wider implications regarding how the personality of volunteers for intervention research may differ from the general population.
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A summary is provided what the fields of personality and developmental psychology had to offer each other the past decade, reflected in the eleven contributions enclosed in this special issue. Strengths and opportunities to further advance the field are identified, including the extension of general trait with maladaptive trait models, the use of alternative methods to assess personality, and the adoption of configural approaches to describe traits in individuals, beyond more traditional person-centered approaches.
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In this special section, 9 studies and 6 commentaries make a unique contribution to the study of personality. They focus on the five-factor model and, in particular, one of those 5: conscientiousness. This trait has had astonishing success in the actuarial prediction of adaptive outcomes in adulthood and aging, but we have little understanding of the mechanisms that account for this actuarial success. The current studies and comments marshal current knowledge of conscientiousness to advance a mechanistic understanding of these predictions and to exploit that understanding toward interventions to enhance robust adult development and healthy aging. In this introductory article, we underscore the strategy we used to invite presentations and commentary. First, we sought a clearer definition of conscientiousness and a review of its assessment. Second, we sought a review of how the components of this complex trait develop in childhood and are assembled across development. Third, we sought an understanding of how mechanisms linking conscientiousness and health might be transformed across the life span. Fourth, we scrutinized naturally occurring factors that moderate the links between conscientiousness and health for clues to successful interventions. Finally, we sought ways to pull these analyses together to outline the framework for a program of interventions that, collectively, might be applicable at specific points across the life span. Six commentaries place this project in sharp relief. They remind us that the causal status of the associations between conscientiousness and health, reported throughout our 9 studies, are uncertain at best. Second, they remind us that the concept of conscientiousness is still too spare: It fails to embody the social skills required for conscientious behavior, the moral judgment of self or other implicit in its assessment, or the neurobiological mechanisms that might account for differences among individuals. Third, they raise a potent counterfactual: What, in a practical sense, does conceptualization or assessment of conscientiousness contribute-if anything-to the design of interventions to enhance conscientious behavior? (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
There is a recent debate in the field of personality development whether and how personality traits can be modified or changed over short periods of time. Whereas traditional positions highlight the relative stability of personality traits in adulthood, recent research investigates intentional personality trait change, that is, desires and attempts to change personality traits. The main goal of the present article is to connect recent activities and intervention efforts in personality psychology with psychotherapy process-outcome research. More specifically, we argue that 4 empirically derived common change factors in psychotherapy research might provide some useful heuristic principles for personality change interventions in normal population that do not particularly suffer from personality disorders. We discuss the implications of the use of these principles to change personality traits and suggest some ideas for future research and practice.
Article
The aim of this meta-analysis was to systematize available findings in the field of personality heritability and test for possible moderator effects of study design, type of personality model, and gender on heritability estimates. Study eligibility criteria were: personality model, behavior genetic study design, self-reported data, essential statistical indicators, and independent samples. A total of 134 primary studies with 190 potentially independent effect sizes were identified. After exclusion of studies that did not meet inclusion criteria and/or met 1 of the exclusion criteria, the final sample included 62 independent effect sizes, representing more than 100,000 participants of both genders and all ages. Data analyses were performed using the random-effects model, software program R package metafor. The average effect size was .40, indicating that 40% of individual differences in personality were due to genetic, while 60% are due to environmental influences. After correction for possible publication bias the conclusion was unaltered. Additional analyses showed that personality model and gender were not significant moderators of personality heritability estimate, while study design was a significant moderator with twin studies showing higher estimates, .47, compared to family and adoption studies, .22. Personality model also was not a significant moderator of heritability estimates for neuroticism or extraversion, 2 personality traits contained in most personality trait theories and/or models. This study is the first to empirically test and confirm moderator effect of study design on heritability estimates in the field of personality. Limitations of the study, as well as suggestion for future studies, are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
Previous research has found that most people want to change their personality traits. But can people actually change their personalities just because they want to? To answer this question, we conducted 2, 16-week intensive longitudinal randomized experiments. Across both studies, people who expressed goals to increase with respect to any Big Five personality trait at Time 1 tended to experience actual increases in their self-reports of that trait-as well as trait-relevant daily behavior-over the subsequent 16 weeks. Furthermore, we tested 2 randomized interventions designed to help participants attain desired trait changes. Although 1 of the interventions was inefficacious, a second intervention that trained participants to generate implementation intentions catalyzed their ability to attain trait changes. We also tested several theoretical processes through which volitional changes might occur. These studies suggest that people may be able to change their self-reported personality traits through volitional means, and represent a first step toward understanding the processes that enable people to do so. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
How do counselors reach out to individuals who are reluctant to seek counseling services? To answer this question, the authors examined the research on the psychological help‐seeking barriers from counseling, clinical and social psychology, as well as social work and psychiatry. Specific avoidance factors that have been identified in the mental health literature; important variations in the setting, problem type, demographics, and cultural characteristics that can influence the degree to which avoidance factors affect professional help‐seeking decisions; and suggestions for overcoming these avoidance factors are discussed.