“We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience.” – G B Shaw
Above is a hilarious quote by Bernard Shaw. However, it’s not just funny, it’s kind of true and supported by psychology research! If you look back at your own life and find yourself repeating some of the same mistakes over and over again, you’re probably not in a minority.
That’s because “personality” researchers have found that most people exhibit a stable personality throughout life, and since most behaviors depend on your basic personality, you’re likely to repeat them over and over again in your life.
This revelation is kind of scary (I was disappointed the first time I heard this), but there’s hope. Even, if you can’t change your personality, you can focus on a few of your behaviors and try and actively change them. Before we delve into more of the behavior change part, I’d like to write some more interesting facts regarding personality.
It’s been found that almost all the attributes and adjectives that constitute personality can be grouped under five broad factors: Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness – these five are referred to as the “Big Five” personality traits. There are very reliable tests that people can take to find out their individual scores on these traits, and their personality. You’ll either get low, moderate or high scores on each of these traits, and the sum of your individual scores constitutes your unique personality.
Here’s what the traits broadly signify:
Extraversion: is pronounced engagement with the external world. Extraverts enjoy interacting with people, and are often full of energy. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented, possess high group visibility, like to talk, and assert themselves.
Openness: appreciation for art, adventure, unconventional ideas and curiosity. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, open to emotion, sensitive to beauty and willing to try new things.
Conscientiousness: is a tendency to display self-discipline, act dutifully, and strive for achievement. High scores on conscientiousness indicate a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior.
Agreeableness: reflects individual differences in general concern for social harmony. Agreeable individuals value getting along with others and are generally considerate, generous, trusting and trustworthy and helpful.
Neuroticism: is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression.
Taking this test and finding out how you score on these five dimensions can be very revealing. It can help you choose the right career, know what your strengths and weaknesses are and help you pick a few behaviors that you might want to actively change. It’s important to select only a few behaviors, 1 or 2 behaviors at a time, and not more. Because behavior change requires a lot of effort, and one has limited abilities in this regard. The actual Big Five test is around 45 minutes long and costs money, but there are a lot of free and shorter versions on the Internet that can give you a fair idea. You can search for them on google.
Here’s a good link: www.personal.psu.edu/~j5j/IPIP/ipipneo120.htm
Wish I’d known this earlier, got to know about it only a few years back. After I took the long survey and looked at the results – it was very insightful. I scored extremely high on “openness to experience” – and people who score high on this attribute are better off in artistic fields or writing, or any other field like anthropology that involves a lot of change of scene and creativity. Thanks to my personality, I wasn’t really cut out to stick to one subject and delve more and more into it, I’m happier skimming over a lot of subjects 😉
Also found out that I’ve a somewhat low score in “conscientiousness” – and people low in this attribute have a lot of difficulty being disciplined and sticking to goals and plans. However, you can try to correct that by working on making some good timetables and deadlines, and setting interesting goals.
To sum up, the last word would be one of caution: don’t ever befriend or marry someone thinking that you can “change” them. It’s next to impossible and if you try to – they’re going to be mighty unhappy about it.
Hopefully, this information was interesting 🙂
The Big Five Personality Dimensions And Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis; Personnel Psychology; Barrick & Mount; 1991.
Personality and Performance at the Beginning of the New Millennium: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go Next?; International Journal of Selection and Assessment; Barrick et al; 2001.