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Chapter 7

Personality Stability,
Development, and
• Discuss the stability of personality, including
the causes of stability
• Discuss the development of personality
• Discuss intentional personality change

Personality Stability
• Rank-order consistency = people tend to
maintain the ways in which they are different from
other people the same age

• Evidence
– r = .60–.90 for 10-year span
– Childhood personality predicts adult behavior
– Personality disorders are stable

Personality Stability
• Causes
– Temperament (personality in young children) is
affected by genetics
• Positive/negative emotionality & effortful
• Easy, difficult, slow-to-warm
• Jerome Kagan
Personality Stability
• Heterotypic continuity = effects of fundamental
temperamental tendencies change with age, but
temperament and personality stay the same;
behaviors associated with traits change
(ex. shyness manifests itself differently across age)

– Physical and environmental factors continuously

affect personality
– Birth order: debatable, small effect sizes
• 1st born higher in conscientiousness; 2nd born openness
Personality Stability
• Causes
– Early experience: exposure to differing levels of
– Person-environment transactions = people
tend to respond to, seek out, and create
environments that are compatible with, and may
magnify, their personality traits
• Active
• Reactive
• Evocative
Personality Stability
– Cumulative continuity principle = individual
differences in personality become more consistent
as one gets older
• Environment also becomes more stable as we
• Psychological maturity

Personality Development
• Development and stability can go together
– rank-order stability and mean-level change can
occur at the same time.
• Cross-sectional studies = surveys of people at
different ages
• Mean-level changes on the Big Five

Mean Scores on Big Five Personality
Traits Between Ages 10 and 60

Personality Development
• Cohort effects = People of different ages may differ
because they grew up in different social
– may contribute to age differences in cross-
sectional studies
• Longitudinal studies = the same people are
repeatedly measured over the years; a better
method for studying development
– Similar findings to cross-sectional studies
Personality Development
• People become more socially dominant, agreeable,
conscientious, and emotionally stable; and self-
esteem (up to age 50) and ego development increase
• Confirms the maturity principle = Traits needed to
effectively perform adult roles increase with age,
especially conscientiousness and emotional stability

• Not everyone changes in the same way (changes are

based on means!)
• Personality continues to change, even in old age
Personality Development
• Causes
– Physical development and changes in strength
– Increases in intelligence and linguistic abilities
– Hormone-level changes
– Changes in social roles and responsibilities

Personality Development
• The social clock = systematic changes in the
demands that are made on a person over the years
– places pressure on people to accomplish certain
things by certain ages
– Women who followed either the feminine (start a
family) or masculine (start a career) social clock
reported higher contentment and satisfaction
than women who followed neither

Personality Development
• Goals across the life span
– When younger: preparation for the future
– When older (70+): things that are emotionally
– Related to breadth of perspective about time

Personality Change
• Desire for change is typical, and usually in the
socially desirable direction
• Reason for wanting change: make life better
• Four potential methods of change
– Psychotherapy
– General intervention programs aimed at life
– Targeted intervention programs aimed at specific
– Life experiences 13
Personality Change

Personality Change
• Psychotherapy and psychiatric drugs: can
produce long-term behavior change
• General interventions: usually aimed at
important outcomes
• Cognitive behavioral therapy
– Talk therapy
– With or w/o drugs

Personality Change
• General interventions: address broad
personality traits
– Goal is not to “change personality” per se, but to
increase levels of success in life (get an education,
stay out of jail, get a good job, etc.)
– Writing exercises, nutrition classes, parenting
classes, etc.
– Generally positive outcomes ($$$)

Personality Change
• Targeted interventions: address certain
personality traits
– Increasing self-control: relaxation, learning to
think differently about temptations and
frustrations, mindfulness meditation, set realistic
goals that are compatible with personal values
– Meditation does show benefits, but usually these
effects are small

© 2016 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Personality Change
• Behaviors and life experiences
– Positive: exercise, starting college or a job,
beginning a serious relationship
– Negative: trying drugs, onset of chronic disease
– Becoming unemployed
– Negative life events
– Travel
– Military training

Personality Change
• Obstacles to change
– Not seeing a reason for change
– Takes effort
– Blaming negative experiences and failures on
external forces
– People like consistency and predictability

Personality Change:
Both Good and Bad
• Instability and inconsistency can cause

• Most change is adaptive but slow

• Who do you want to be, and what can you do

to make this happen?