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  • A new analysis of 14 studies comprising 50,000 people may provide the best evidence yet that personality is not fixed through life.
  • Subjects in the US and throughout Europe showed considerable changes in their personalities as they aged.
  • Many of the changes were broadly consistent, although some people did change in unique ways.

You might be fundamentally you for your entire life, but don’t expect your personality to stay the same.

That’s according to a major study of 50,000 people over the course of several decades, which found the traditional notion of personality — as fixed and unchanged after adolescence — is mostly untrue.

People included in the sample showed a common trend as they got older, declining in all five major personality metrics that psychologists have come to trust as the gold-standard.

Psychologists have been writing about personality for the better part of three centuries, beginning most famously with William James’ 1890 text “The Principles of Psychology.” Relying on personal observation, James wrote that personality is “set like plaster” after age 30.

In the century or so since “The Principles of Psychology” was published, psychologists have come to rethink personality in bits and pieces. In 2003, the American Psychological Association observed the changing consensus among members of the field: Personality was beginning to look more like it was ever-evolving, even through old age.

The latest study combined 14 longitudinal studies that gathered information about people’s personalities, including data from the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia. Many of the subjects had already reached adulthood, which gave the researchers unique perspective on personality changes. Typically, studies skew toward young people.

Of the Big Five personality traits — neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness, extroversion, and agreeableness — all five showed major fluctuations across individual participants’ lives. And all traits, except for agreeableness, showed downward trends of about 1-2% per decade Read More Here