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Mindful : February 2019
Looking back on your high-school self, you’re likely to think one of two things: that your older self bears almost no resemblance to the ado- lescent you, or that your personality hasn’t really changed much over your lifetime. Large studies, following hundreds of people for decades, have as most of their peers become more extroverted, and how core personality traits can be influenced not only by unique life circumstances but also by volitional change—in other words, as the result of self-awareness and a desire to be other than how you are. It all raises a fascinating philosophi- cal, even existential, question: If who I am changes, is there ever truly an “I”? It’s All Relative “This is one of the hottest fields within personality research,” says psychology researcher Rodica → Some People Never Change (And Some Do) Are you the same person you were at 16? Researchers are exploring why some people do—or don’t—evolve over a lifetime. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sharon Begley is senior science writer with STAT, a national health and medicine publication. She is also author most recently of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain and Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions (2017, Simon & Schuster). also reached completely opposite conclusions about how personalities evolve over time, coming down on the side of either personality stability or personality change. Where the rest of us might see empirical chaos, a growing number of personality researchers see opportu- nity. Rather than making sweeping statements about change and stability or dismissing conflicting studies as all somehow flawed, they are digging deeper to discover the aspects of personality that are most changeable. By identifying those traits, they can uncover why some people remain stuck in their wallflower past even 34 mindful February 2019 By Sharon Begley • Illustrations by Edmon de Haro brain science