Think back to what you were like as a young teen. Were you shy or outgoing, happy or moody, responsible or not so much? Now look at yourself as an adult. Despite changes in your fashion sense and music taste, has your personality stayed pretty much the same?
Past research has found that personality typically remains relatively stable from adolescence into early adulthood, but until recently few studies have looked at the long term. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh believe they've completed the longest-ever personality study, measuring personality in the same group of people in early adolescence, then again in their much later years. The results, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, found that there may not be much of a correlation between people's personalities at 14 and their personalities at 77.
“Personality in older age may be quite different from personality in childhood,” the researchers concluded.
For the first part of the study, researchers used data from a 1950 study in Scotland where teachers rated their 14-year-old students on six personality characteristics: self-confidence, perseverance, stability of moods, conscientiousness, originality and desire to excel.
In 2012, the researchers tracked down 635 of those teens who had been assessed more than six decades earlier. Of that group, 174 agreed to take part in a new survey a year later. Now 77 years old, they rated themselves on the same personality traits teachers had rated them on so many years earlier. In addition, they nominated a close friend or family member to rate them on the same characteristics, too.
Personality changes through life
The researchers found there was no significant correlation between the ratings teachers had offered when the participants were 14 and the personality ratings participants gave themselves or the ones their friends gave them at age 77.
"We hypothesized that we would find evidence of personality stability over an even longer period of 63 years, but our correlations did not support this hypothesis, appearing inconsistent with previous results," the researchers wrote.
So the teenage you may not even remotely resemble the more senior version of yourself, it turns out.
"Personality changes only gradually throughout life, but by older age it may be quite different from personality in childhood," the researchers conclude. "Future studies should focus on developing better understanding of how and why personality changes throughout the life course."