Trying to improve someone’s emotional stability without their commitment is unlikely to happen, a new study has found.
The research was published in the ‘Journal of Research in Personality’.
A growing number of studies suggest that personality traits can be altered by intervention. As a recent study by Nathan Hudson, professor of psychology at SMU noted, personality traits are linked to a wide range of outcomes in life, such as the quality of relationships and job success.
The aim of his recent research was to test two theories; that a successful personality intervention may require participants to choose the traits they are changing and to actively invest in changing the target traits.
He found that awareness – the ability to be responsible, hardworking, and organized – could be enhanced even if participants were not motivated to change. Performing a series of tasks over a regulated period has been found to change habits and therefore improve consciousness.
But emotional stability was another matter: Study participants only became better at handling difficult situations if they chose to work on their emotional stability. Otherwise, the tasks assigned to them over four weeks turned out to be ineffective.
âThis provides promising evidence that schools, businesses or other organizations could ask people to make relatively minor changes that could help improve their lives by making them more organized and responsible over time,â said Hudson.
âIn contrast, it appears that emotional stability might require a bit more investment on the part of the people participating in an intervention,â Hudson added.
Hudson stressed that this research was not about trying to control people.
âThe idea of ââa personality trait change – especially of other people trying to change an individual’s personality – can seem scary. But whether we recognize it or not, society is filled with interventions designed to. trying to change our personality traits, âhe said.
âFor example, elementary school is a giant intervention designed to help children become smarter, yes, but also kinder and more sociable, responsible and hardworking,â he said.
Previous research by Hudson and other psychologists had shown that people who actively worked to change aspects of their personality were, in many cases, successful in achieving the results they wanted.
But until now, it was not clear whether a person could achieve good results if they didn’t choose the personality trait they were looking to change and if they were not invested in that change.
Hudson conducted two separate studies to answer this question. Each lasted four months.
In the first, 175 students were randomly assigned to change either their consciousness or their emotional stability. They were then given their choice of tasks to improve that personality trait. For example, those who were selected to work on being more conscientious faced challenges such as “organizing and cleaning your desks” or “making a list of the tasks you would like to accomplish”.
The second essay asked over 400 students from multiple universities to choose which trait they wanted to work on. Yet, unbeknownst to them, half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive challenges targeting a characteristic they had not chosen.
In both studies, student personality traits were measured before and after task assignment using the 44-item Big Five Inventory test that is standard among psychologists.
Hudson found that students who performed more tasks for awareness-building tasks saw improvement, even when they were unsure why they were assigned the tasks. But for those who didn’t choose to work on emotional stability, the challenges were entirely inert – or even made that trait worse. Hudson suspected that the reason people need to be motivated to change emotional stability is that this trait deals with negative emotions.
âFor many people, it can be difficult to stop feeling angry or to stop being stressed,â he said. “My hunch is that indirect strategies for changing someone’s emotions, like writing in a journal or thinking about positive things, can only really work when people want to use these techniques to change their emotions,” he said. -he adds.
Consciousness, on the other hand, can be easily faked and increased over time by mechanical acts, like cleaning your room or using a calendar.
âMotivation is largely irrelevant for interventions targeting consciousness, as long as participants buy into the intervention,â Hudson concluded.
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