Our personality traits are thought to be inherited. While this is true to some extent, research states that our personalities evolve just like our brains (Strauser, 2013). We don’t tend to remain an extrovert or an introvert throughout our life span. According to Christopher Soto, a research psychologist, and director of the Colby Personality Lab (Colby College, Maine), our personality is “50 percent innate” (from genes) and “50 percent learned” from the environment (Bernstein, 2014). This is very true. I guess each of us can reflect this with our very own personality and can state how we would have changed over the course of time.
Personally, I can relate to this fact quite well. I was an introvert as a young teenager. But I remember that my personality changed during my early twenties where I tried to be more social and behaved like an extrovert. I guess this trait remained close to two decades. But with the progression of age I realized that I was going back to introversion and it kind of mentally affirmed me that it suited me best as a personality trait.
Another research (published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) that evaluated over 132,515 adults between the ages 21 to 60 based on ‘Big Five’ personality traits model found that though personalities are set by genetics they do evolve with age (John & Gosling, 2003). It was found that people tend to change on the 5 personality traits of conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion (John & Gosling, 2003). As people age they change in aspects like agreeableness during their 30s and continue to improve through their 60s (John & Gosling, 2003). This explains why individuals, who have been extroverts during their college years, tend to become quiet, docile and self-contained during their late-thirties and have changed to become introverts. Perhaps, this can be due to change in the family roles and responsibilities, change in careers/jobs, busy schedules and other environmental factors contributing to such change.
Our personalities change with the environment in which we live, for good or bad. What we learn over the period of years through experience and introspection become encoded within us and cause our personalities to change. It has been observed that when individuals become more conscientious, agreeable, and responsible and emotionally stable with the advancing of age their personalities improve. Psychologists tag this as maturity principle (Bernstein, 2014). People who are high on agreeableness, responsibility and openness are low on neuroticism (anger, anxiety, vulnerability) (Bernstein, 2014).
From personal experience, I can agree and relate well to the fact, that as we age, we become more introvert in nature. When we become more conscientious, agreeable, responsible and emotionally stable, we tend to become more inward. We don’t tend to seek happiness only by being amidst of a large circle of people, try to do things to gain others’ acceptance and/or appreciation and try to be the center of attention. As introverts we do interact with people but with more meaningful and purpose-driven intentions. We feel comfortable with small groups yet know how to draw from inward strength and resources. We tend to become more introspective in nature and see less need for arguments, neuroticism (anger, anxiety, and vulnerability) and needless extraversion.
Bernstein, E. (2014). Personality Research Says Change in Major Traits Occurs Naturally. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304279904579515702293041712
John, O.P. & Gosling, S.D. (2003). Personality changes for the better with age. American Psychological Association, Vol.34, No. 7. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug03/personality.aspx
Strauser, D.R. (ed) (2013). Career Development, Employment, and Disability in Rehabilitation: From Theory to Practice. New York: Springer Publishing Company