484: Childhood Changes

What about yourself are you glad has changed from when you were a kid?

Full episode script

In the whole question of how we, as human beings, shift and change throughout our lives, there’s a whole host of research. William James, the so-called father of modern American psychology, believed that by the age of 30 our personalities were pretty much set — and most research seems to agree to some extent. As one study in 2006 highlighted:

McCrae and Costa in 1990 argued that “personality change is the exception rather than the rule after age 30; somewhere in the decade between 20 and 30, individuals attain a configuration of traits that will characterize them for years to come”

Where it gets really interesting is the variety of data available when talking about personality plasticity — how much we can and do change as we transition from kids to adolescents to young adults to older adults. There’s some data that also suggests that we do actually change the older we get.

One study published in 2003 and written about by the American Psychological Association, found that, quote:

One of the major theories of personality asserts that personality traits are largely set by genetics, and, by consequence, changes in personality traits should slow as other functions of maturation slow,” says lead researcher and psychologist Sanjay Srivastava, PhD. “We set out to test that.” What he and his team found contradicted long-held assumptions about when personalities are set. Conscientious-ness, a trait marked by organization and discipline, and linked to success at work and in relationships, was found to increase through the age ranges studied, with the most change occurring in a person’s 20s. Agreeableness, a trait associated with being warm, generous and helpful, bucked the theory that personalities don’t change after 30. On the contrary, people in the study showed the most change in agreeableness during their 30s and continued to improve through their 60s.

There was also a very interesting study in 2017, compared personality rankings from 1950 and 2017. They found that in the intervening years, personality traits had changed so much as to be nearly unrecognizable.

With data on both sides of the question and a number of intriguing theories, I’m more interested to hear what you’re happy has changed in your own life.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.