Personality: A changing perspective

Can we change our personality?

Recent evidence has provided further support that our personalities are not as fixed as once thought…

Indeed, a study conducted this year by Smaldino and colleagues, published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, demonstrated this by using a sophisticated computer model to analyse how people best perform in different environments. Not only did their model suggest that traditional personality traits may not be universal, but it also uncovered that personality may actually be far more ‘plastic’ than some might think.

By comparing the personalities of individuals from industrialised societies and small-scale foraging societies, they found that personality plasticity exists in both types of society, but may be particularly prominent within foraging communities. This is because, within these types of civilisations, individual’s have less choice over the environment they choose to participate in, and so have to adapt their personality to fit-in to the community they find themselves in.

On the other hand, whilst plasticity of personality is observed within more industrialised societies, greater social complexity and diversity makes it less pronounced. This is because, under these circumstances, individuals have more choice over the social groups that they choose to join, and so are more able to gravitate towards those that are a better fit to their innate personality. Consequently, a wider range of personality traits are observed within such communities, as individuals do not have to flex as much in order to fit in.

These findings back up what many of us will have suspected all along. People can flex their personality to better meet the demands of their environment. Personality is dynamic and adaptable, not fixed and stable as was once a commonly-held belief.

This research offers new insight and a novel perspective on the nature of personality, and sparks many other reflections and questions of how the adaptable nature of personality can be best utilized.

Some of these questions include, what is adaptability, and how does it link into personality? When is adaptability most useful, and how do we recognise when to shift? What are the other benefits of adaptability beyond ‘fitting in’? How might personality and adaptability differ between cultures? And how can we improve our adaptability?

Over the coming weeks and months, my work with SpotlightPROFILE hopes to uncover the answers to some of these questions, and others, to help us to learn more about personality, adaptability, and the benefits it may bring.

Watch this space…

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Key words: #personality #adaptability #culture #research #Nature