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«OTHER» INTO US: psychologists identified mechanisms and resources of internal change

«OTHER» INTO US: psychologists identified mechanisms and resources of internal change
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Personality remains a mystery to scientists in many aspects. This is partly due to its «inconstancy». Personality is always changing, transforming under the influence of a variety of factors. A group of American and Swiss scientists tried to understand the mechanisms of this transformation.




About the variability of human personality, there are a lot of theories and very controversial opinions. Particularly in the scientific community. You can find claims that the human personality does not change much throughout life. There are those who believe that personality is extremely fluid and its transformation, having started in early childhood, never stops.

There are studies according to which every five years our character changes. In approximately that period of time, we become «different». It is possible that this, among other things, is the reason for the widely known and massively publicized advice that recommends changing jobs about every 5–7 years.  




However, the true state of personal transformation is equidistant from the polar opinions and is most likely somewhere in the «golden mean». Although cycles of personal change obviously exist, personality has some sort of reasonably stable «core».

And while the personality core is not absolutely unchanging, it informs personality change with a particular dynamic. If psychological characteristics are on the conventional periphery of the personality, in other words, removed from the «core», they can be changed relatively easily.

In particular, they can be transformed according to the desire of the person himself. Naturally, the stronger such a desire is, the faster and more effective is the personal transformation. But the closer to the «core» the individual qualities are, the more willpower is required to change them.




Understanding the complex dynamics of intrapersonal change is extremely important. After all, a person’s psychological traits significantly, if not decisively, determine the quality of his or her life. They influence work and family relationships and the nature of social interaction.

Therefore, psychologists from the University of Washington and the University of Zurich united to answer this socially important question: in what case can we talk about a profound transformation of personality, and how can it be possible at all?


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To do this, they analyzed dozens of studies of their colleagues in this field and, under the mechanisms that can transform human personality, a certain «common denominator». They presented the results of their research in the journal Nature Reviews Psychology.

According to them, there are four critical mechanisms involved in personal transformation. 




The first mechanism can be described as a kind of «precondition» or «tool» for transformation. These can be pretty specific personality traits. For example, willpower.

The second mechanism helps to change one behavioral model to another, more desirable one. In order to avoid psychological regression, a rollback to the previous model, a mechanism is needed to eliminate the triggers that push a person to leave or return everything «as it was».

It is possible to turn off such triggers that prevent internal changes by changing external circumstances. For example, by changing the habitual surroundings or environment.

The third mechanism is positive reinforcement of personal changes. Roughly speaking, a person needs some «bonuses» that can become additional stimuli for transformation.

The fourth mechanism is «supporting». It is a set of factors that enable a person not only to support but also to strengthen and develop new psychological traits of their personality.




But the main thing that lies at the heart of personality transformations is willpower. In their article, psychologists defined it as the main and mandatory condition for any personal change. To change, you need to really want to do it and have a serious motivation for it.

Because if the personality is trying to change, but the person does not have any good reasons for it, then the output of such efforts we will observe intrapersonal conflict. . Its essence is that a person will be more inclined to the «old» self, with which he was comfortable than to the «new» self, which threatens discomfort.

If the inner desire to leave things the same is stronger than the desire for transformation, change will not occur, and all transformational efforts will be futile. In addition to willpower, another vital transformational resource is time.

It must be sufficient to allow new psychological traits and behaviors to take firm root within our personality. It needs the same adaptation to new habits that we often need in the external, physical world. For example, at a new job, in a new home, or when carrying a baby.


Original research: The process and mechanisms of personality change


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