A very elderly person carrying an infant in Rio de Janeiro (1981). United Nations photo used under the Creative Commons.

Annotated Links

Antidepressants Can Change Personalities Taking an antidepressant can lead to significant personality changes, likely for the better, a new study finds. The study looked at the effects of taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are widely used to treat depression today, and found that those who took these antidepressants experienced more positive emotions, were more outgoing and more emotionally stable in the long-term. "Our findings lead us to propose a new model of antidepressant mechanism," said Tony Z. Tang of Northwestern University in Chicago. "Our data suggests that modern antidepressants work partly by correcting key personality risk factors of depression" according to this summary in Live Science'', December 7, 2009.

Can People's Personalities Change? Instead of personality being set in stone at 30, now evidence is emerging that there is some change. In fact people don't give exactly the same answers to personality questionnaires at different times in their lives. according to research by Boyce et al. published in Social Indicators Research and summarized here in PsyBlog, February 25, 2013.

Childhood Personality Traits Predict Adult Behavior: We Remain Recognizably the Same Person, Study Suggests Using data from a 1960s study of approximately 2,400 ethnically diverse elementary schoolchildren in Hawaii, researchers compared teacher personality ratings of the students with videotaped interviews of 144 of those individuals 40 years later […] Personality traits observed in childhood are a strong predictor of adult behavior according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, the Oregon Research Institute and University of Oregon and summarized in this article from Science Daily, August 5, 2010.

College Social Life Can Predict Well-being at Midlife It's well known that being socially connected promotes a person's overall and psychological health. A new study now shows that the quantity of social interactions a person has at 20 -- and the quality of social relationships that person has at age 30 -- can benefit her well-being later in life. From ScienceDaily, July 23, 2015.

Current Research The site provides an overview of various models of infant, child and adult temperament, from the early work of Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess, and colleagues involved in the New York Longitudinal Study from the 1950's to current researchers, including FAQ's, Q&As, assessments, application, and downloads.

Childhood Personality Predicts Long-Term Trajectories of Shyness and Aggressiveness Jaap J. A. Dennissen, Jens B. Asendorpf, Marcel A. G. van Aken (2008) Childhood Personality Predicts Long-Term Trajectories of Shyness and Aggressiveness in the Context of Demographic Transitions in Emerging Adulthood. Journal of Personality 76 (1) , 67–100. This study suggests that children’s personality can predict the timing of key transitional moments between childhood and adulthood including leaving the parents’ home, establishing a romantic relationship, and entering the world of part-time work.

College Social Life Can Predict Well-Being at Midlife It's well known that being socially connected promotes a person's overall and psychological health. A new study now shows that the quantity of social interactions a person has at 20 -- and the quality of social relationships that person has at age 30 -- can benefit her well-being later in life.

Extroverts are Happier and Healthier Later in Life People who were more outgoing and social during their younger years reported being significantly happier and more satisfied later in life. according to research by Catharine Gale and colleagues published in the Journal of Research in Personality and summarized here in Discover Magazine online, July 8, 2013.

Happiness Equals Love George Valliant explores and explains the data behind his finding that The only thing that really matters inline are your relationships to other people. From Positive Psychology Daily News, July 16, 2009.

How 4th Grade Predicts Your Future A growing body of psychological research is revealing a few remarkable connections between our childhood experiences with peers and our lives in adulthood. Read about personality coherence of adult personality in kids who were rejected, controversial, neglected, and accepted as fourth graders. From Psychology Today, June 2015.

How 14 Things That Happened To You In Childhood Shape You As An Adult From attachment with caretakers to making one’s own decisions, to being spanked as a kid, there is evidence that these experiences from one’s childhood can affect personality in adulthood. From Business Insider, July 28, 2014.

How Childhood Hunger Can Change Adult Personality According to a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry a sample of children who suffered severe starvation as infants were more anxious, less sociable, less open, and more hostile than those who were more well-nourished. From Time, April 11, 2013.

How Long Will You Live? Ask Your Friends Joshua Jackson and colleagues discovered that peer estimates of personality are better predictors of health and longevity than are self-reports according to research published in Psychological Science and summarized here by Wray Herbert for The Huffington Post, November 19, 2014.

Talkin’ About Your Generation Science examines how pivotal events and cultural trends shape individuals and entire birth cohorts in this article from the APS Observer, January 2015.

That Impulsive, Moody Preschooler May Grow Up to Be a Problem Gambler Give me the child at 3 and I will give you the adult compulsive gambler. That is the striking finding of a new study published in Psychological Science and summarized here in ScienceDaily, April 23, 2012.

Kagan's View Article from the Boston Globe by Christopher Shea The temperamentalist: Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan argues that inborn temperament stays with us through our lives. August 29, 2004.

Parents or Peers? The online magazine Slate often features a dialog on a controversial topic in the form of letters between two experts. In the October 28 - November 21, 1998 issue Judith Rich Harris and Jerome Kagan face off on the issue of The Nature of Nurture: Parents or Peers?.

Personality Can Change Although personality traits are relatively stable over time, they can and often do change across the life span, often for the better. Read about the work of Christopher Soto and others in this commentary from NPR, June 30, 2016.

Tested: Whether You Can Change Your Personality At Will According to research by Hudson and Fraley (2015) and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 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. This summary from PsyBlog, June 16, 2015.

Why Was Darth Vader So Evil? Blame His Lack of Parental Care, Say Psychologists Why was Darth Vader such a bad dude? According to a team of psychologists led by Peter Jonason, it's down to his lack of parental care: the fact he was separated from his mother at age 9, and his father's absence. The researchers believe such circumstances can catalyse the emergence of the Dark Triad of personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy. These traits are usually seen as negative, but Jonason and his colleagues believe they may be an adaptive response to tough early circumstances that signal to a child life is bad. From BPS Research Digest, August 5, 2014.

You Can't See It, But You'll be a Different Person in 10 Years No matter how old people are, they seem to believe that who they are today is essentially who they'll be tomorrow. according to the End of History Illusion. According to researcher Daniel Gilbert, Life is a process of growing and changing, and what our results suggest is that growth and change really never stops…despite the fact that at every age from 18 to 68, we think it's pretty much come to a close. You can listen to the original segment and comment by Gilbert here, on the NPR website (runs 3 minutes, 58 seconds) or read a more in-depth summary here.

Your personality can invite loneliness, and loneliness can shape your personality According to new research, it appears our personality affects the likelihood that we'll become more lonely (and feel less well) as we get older, but also that being lonely (and feeling less healthy) shapes our personality, potentially setting up a vicious circle of isolation. Published in the Journal of Personality and summarized here for BPS Research Digest, July 21, 2015.

Assignments, Exercises, and Activities

Fostering Critical Thinking in Personality Psychology: The Trait Paper Assignment. Hittner, J. B. (1999). Fostering critical thinking in personalty psychology. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 26, 92-97. From the abstract: A personality trait-based term paper assignment that is appropriate for use in personality psychology courses and that is designed to foster critical thinking skills is introduced. The extent to which the trait questions correspond to generic critical thinking questions is considered, the specific thinking skills induced by each trait question are discussed, and potential limitations of the assignment are noted. Preliminary data are also presented which suggest that the trait-based term paper assignment stimulates critical thinking and enhances knowledge about personality traits. It is hoped that the ideas presented and issues discussed in the present article will encourage academic psychologists from all subdisciplines to develop writing assignments that foster critical thinking skills. This assignment is not rooted in a particular model of traits and so is adaptable to any model.

Case Studies

Grant Study Men: Interview With Two Participants. Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and historian Donald Cole reflect on their lives, careers, and experiences as participants in the Grant Study. (Ben Bradlee was known as Frederick in Vaillant's book ``Adaptation to Life'').

The Five Factor Model: Johnny Carson Marianne Miserandino, Arcadia University, noticed that the obituary of Johnny Carson is filled with personality descriptors making it a useful illustration of the five factor model of personality, personality stability, personality change, and personality coherence. (For the full description of how to utilize this obituary as a case study see Miserandino, M. (2007) Heeeere’s Johnny: A Case Study in the Five Factor Model of Personality, Teaching of Psychology, 34(1), 37-40. See also this NPR interview with documentary filmmaker Peter Jones Johnny Carson: 'King Of Late Night,' A Man Unknown. May 14, 2012 (runs 9 minutes, 33 seconds).

Why Was Darth Vader So Evil? Blame His Lack of Parental Care, Say Psychologists Why was Darth Vader such a bad dude? According to a team of psychologists led by Peter Jonason, it's down to his lack of parental care: the fact he was separated from his mother at age 9, and his father's absence. The researchers believe such circumstances can catalyse the emergence of the Dark Triad of personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy. These traits are usually seen as negative, but Jonason and his colleagues believe they may be an adaptive response to tough early circumstances that signal to a child life is bad. From BPS Research Digest, August 5, 2014.

Current Researchers and Research Teams

Roberts, Brent W. Brent W. Roberts, University of Illinois describes his work as studying the patterns of continuity and change in personality across the decades of adulthood and the mechanisms that affect these patterns, with a particular focus on the development of conscientiousness.

Electronic Texts

Examples and Illustrations

Outgoing vs. Shy Summarizes research on early temperaments related to extraversion, introversion, and shyness. Includes an excellent graphic summarizing these differences. From LifeScience, September 25, 2011.

Lecture Notes

Slide Presentations

Tests, Measures, and Scales

Temperament An on-line self-test for adults.

Multimedia Resources

Identity through the lifespan The song One Hundred Years by Five For Fighting captures what it's like to be 15 and madly in love and then follows that love through an imagined life time. Check out the lyrics here. Would make a good introduction to identity, Erikson, and personality stability and change. First link was to the original, try this unusual montage here.

George Vaillant Video. George Vaillant, of the Grant Study of Harvard graduates, describes his insights from the study in this video supplement to the ``Atlantic Monthly'' article on Vaillant, the Grant study, and the pursuit of happiness. His conclusion: Growing old is not as scary as we thought when we were younger (runs 6 minutes, 51 seconds).

The Lifetime Effects of Self-Control in Childhood In following a cohort of individuals from birth to their late 30s, Terrie Moffitt and her colleagues found that children who scored low on a variety of self-control measures at age 3 were more likely as adults to have criminal records, addictions, welfare dependency, low financial savings, bad credit ratings, and health problems compared with those who scored high on self-control as toddlers. Watch her keynote address at the inaugural International Convention of Psychological Science in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, March 13, 2015 in this video. Runs 49 minutes and 2 seconds.

This Fascinating TED Talk Shows Why You Have No Idea What Will Make You Happy in 10 Years In his 2014 TED talk, Harvard social psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains the end of history illusion where people are unable to anticipate just how much they'll change in the future — even though they can appreciate how much they've grown in the past. So, at every age, you think the person you are today is the person you'll be for the rest of your life. Runs 6 minutes, 50 seconds.

The Personality Myth In America personality is often seen as destiny. Whether you're a famous CEO like Steve Jobs or a serial criminal like Hannibal Lecter, most of us think that our position in life has a lot to do with our personality. This episode looks more closely at this belief. We start at a Court House where lines of people who are getting married describe the personality of the person with whom they are to be joined for life. Then travel to a prison in Ohio where a woman has struck up a work relationship with a prisoner who it turns out did something far worse than she imagined. Finally Lulu talks to a scientist to come up with a complete catalogue of all the things about us that actually do stay stable over the course of our lives. They look at everything from cells to memories until ultimately they come up with a list — but it's a really short list. From Invisibilia" from NPR'', June 24, 2016. Runs 57 minutes 27 seconds.

You Can't See It, But You'll be a Different Person in 10 Years No matter how old people are, they seem to believe that who they are today is essentially who they'll be tomorrow. according to the End of History Illusion. According to researcher Daniel Gilbert, Life is a process of growing and changing, and what our results suggest is that growth and change really never stops…despite the fact that at every age from 18 to 68, we think it's pretty much come to a close. You can listen to the original segment and comment by Gilbert here, on the NPR website (runs 3 minutes, 58 seconds) or read a more in-depth summary here.


Page last modified by July 19, 2016, at 03:26 PM