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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > No. 149 > A personality in the making

A personality in the making

Are traits like sociability and conscientiousness fixed through life? Experts used to think so but, as psychologist Meg Arroll discovers, new research shows we are more adaptable than we previously thought

psychology

ILLUSTRATION: JESSICA DURRANT/GETTY IMAGES

A bout a million years ago, when I was a psychology undergrad, I remember sitting in a module called ‘Personality and Individual differences’, taught by one of the best lecturers I’ve ever had. In this class, we were introduced to personality theory – the crux of which was the notion that our personalities are relatively fixed throughout life. While listening to the age-old nature-nurture debate, I wondered if I really was the same painfully shy, skinny scrap of a thing I had been as a child. I recall thinking that yes, it does seem plausible that our personality traits are an innate part of us, yet I didn’t feel like that same frizzy-haired girl whose goose flustered and flapped away if anyone said ‘boo’. If my personality was fixed, I contemplated, how had I transformed somehow into the bold, roguish young woman, who was now shaking with choked laughter in a lecture hall with my best mate?

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About Psychologies

This month we’re exploring how to truly have a happy Christmas. If you don’t have any religious beliefs, the holidays can be rather become a meaningless glut of overconsumption and commercialism, but this issue will help you explore how to create a different experience for you, your friends and family this year. And often it’s about kindness. Our interview with June Sapong explores how we can use kindness in our everyday lives to make the world a better place. One of our own relays her experience of finding the bravery and courage to start dating again. When a relationship goes sour, it’s normal to lick your wounds for a bit but how do we begin to heal and have the courage to be vulnerable and get back out there again? Ellen Tout takes us on that journey. Natalie Hourihan explores ‘creativism’ with author and entrepreneur Orna Ross and shows us how to connect with our ‘creative intelligence’ so we can design a life that works for us on our terms. The good news we all have access to this intelligence, we just need to know how to harness it!
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