It’s often thought in psychology that personality is in-born. People are born with certain cognitive traits can stick with them from birth to death. Now, part of personality is based on nurture, referencing back to the nature vs. nurture argument.
Many psychologists agree now that personality is a mixture of nature and nurture. Some traits are born within us, and other parts of our personality are influenced by our environment. For instance, we may be born introverted, and because of how we were raised and our environment, we may develop a taste for certain types of music or certain foods.
I think many people will agree that personality can change, at least on the nurture side of things. We might start to enjoy listening to country music instead of rock.
However, a common question asked by MBTI test-takers is, “Can I change my personality type?”
Personality types are very different from a nurture view of personality. These types like INFP or ENTJ are made up of cognitive functions, cognitive traits that have been in the person since birth. Changing your personality type means changing which cognitive functions you prefer to use. So, is that possible?
This depends a lot on environment. If you’re INFP, but your work environment forces you to plan and schedule more and be more organized than adaptable, you may begin to change your Perceiving side to Judging, and perhaps act more like an INFJ. However, whenever you leave such an environment for a long period, you’ll most likely revert back to INFP.
Now, some personality theorists do not believe personality can change. You may begin to develop traits contrary to your type in different environments, but you’ll usually revert back to your original type.
Though this only one study and in a very specific environment, some researchers, Yeakley, Norton, Vinzant & Vinzant, in 1988, wanted to use the MB-TI test to see if personality changes were occurring in the members of a church. Around 800 people from the church participated.
These members were required to take three tests. The first test was for how the member was before they joined the church, the second was for how that member saw themselves now, and the third was for how they saw themselves 5 years from now.
The first test showed the expected distribution of personality types. The second test, however, showed that the members’ current personalities where that of ESFJ, ESTJ, and ENFJ. Finally, the third test showed that many members thought they would be ESFJ in five years.
Now, when tested in other religious organizations like Baptist and Lutheran churches for instance (more churches were tested than those two), the changes in personality were not statistically significant.
Though my resources are not clear as to if this first church and its results were statistically significant, they make it seem that the reason why such members would want different personality types (like ESFJ and ESTJ) and begin to have such personalities is rooted in the fact that many of the leaders of this first church were ESFJ and were instilling ESFJ traits within their church members.
Though I do not know if this change in personality was permanent, I can only assume that if a church member left that church their personality would revert back to their original personality type. Within that church though, a member would strive to be ESFJ or a type close to ESFJ, and would stay ESFJ during their church stay.
So can personality change? Given certain environments, personality can change, but only temporarily.
Is this change healthy? No, I believe if someone wants to change their personality they should first figure out what traits they want to see in themselves that they want to change and thus figure out what traits their personality type lacks. It’s not about getting rid off traits like introversion, it’s about accepting those traits and learning where to compensate. No personality type is better than another, and don’t let anyone say otherwise. Every personality type lacks something, and if we can learn that, than we can understand where we can compensate for what we lack.