Can You Really Change Your Personality? 

By Sophia Robson
Research and Community Engagement Officer

Is personality set or fluid? Can you consciously change your personality and if so, then how?

In order to delve further into these questions, we must first define what personality is. Although there is generally no agreed upon definition of personality, most theories summarise personality as the characteristic set of behaviours, cognitions and emotional patterns of an individual. Researchers in the field also generally agree that personality is considered to be stable from day to day however can shift over time.

So now that we know that our personality can shift does that mean this happens subconsciously or can we actively change it? Many studies have aimed to answer this question through a variety of contexts and methods.

A study conducted in 2018 and posted in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that personality could indeed be consciously shifted under certain conditions. Participants were asked to complete a “Big 5” personality questionnaire and were then told to identify which traits they would like to work towards changing, if any. Over the course of 15 weeks they completed “challenges” that aimed to work towards changing the targeted trait. People who wanted to be more extroverted for example were told to “introduce themselves to someone new” and these “challenges“ increased in difficulty each time. The results showed that by the end of the 15-week program, most participants demonstrated change in their desired trait however, only if they actively completed challenges, simply wanting to change did not produce any change. This piece of evidence therefore suggests that we can consciously change our personalities if we actively work to do so through implementing changes to our behaviour.

Apart from changing behaviour patterns, it is argued that altering beliefs that lie under the surface of broad traits may also lead to changes in personality. Psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that beliefs and belief systems play a vital role in shaping and controlling how our personalities are expressed and shaping these beliefs may be more realistic and effective than changing surface traits.

Although this topic is still under contention, emerging evidence suggests we are not as fixed with who we are as we once thought. Actively changing how we interact with the world around us through implementing new behaviours and changing our underlying beliefs could lead us to become the person we wish to be.