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J Pers. 2017 Jun;85(3):285-299. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12240. Epub 2016 Feb 18.

Lay Conceptions of Volitional Personality Change: From Strategies Pursued to Stories Told.

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The University of California, Riverside.


Recent research suggests that individuals play an active role in their own personality development. Here, we investigated lay conceptions of this volitional personality change process. In Study 1, participants (Nā€‰=ā€‰602) provided open-ended descriptions of their desired personality changes as well as the strategies they were using to achieve these changes. In Study 2, participants (Nā€‰=ā€‰578) completed these same measures and provided narrative descriptions of the emergence of their desires for (and previous) personality changes. Desired changes were quantified in a manner consistent with the Five-Factor Model (though desires pertinent to Openness to Experience were rare), whereas reported strategies were distinguished on the basis of cognitive and behavioral content. Desires to increase in Extraversion corresponded negatively with the use of cognitive strategies and positively with the use of behavioral strategies, whereas desires to increase in Agreeableness exhibited the opposite pattern. Finally, desires for change were typically construed as stimulated by specific events, whereas previous personality changes were attributed to shifts in social roles. Laypersons hold a diverse range of desired changes and strategies. In addition, different categories of events are recognized as catalysts of desires for (and previous) changes.

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