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Research Methods Term Paper

By bfenn122 Apr 13, 2013 4845 Words
The Effect of a Change in Ego on a Person’s Personality Traits Bethany R. Fenn
Psychology 2820E, Western University
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Abstract
The purpose of this brief study was to evaluate if a significant experience not only changes a person's perspective on life (sense of self) but the actual traits and characteristics that make up an individual’s true personality. The Personality Development Survey measured the personality fluctuations of 12 male participants, and 12 female participants, over the different stages of their life (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood), who are residing in the city of Windsor, Ontario. The survey was conducted at a Zehrs grocery store in Windsor. The present study found that undergoing a drastic change or experience is unlikely to cause fluctuations in personality characteristics. The results suggest that a true concept of personality change still has not been completely discovered, even though a person's self-identity may be subject to change when they undergo new life experiences.

The Effect of a Change in Ego on a Person’s Personality Trait
Over the course of a person’s life time they will undergo rough emotional times, childhood fads such as a change in interests or wardrobe, and even a change in peers. Research such as Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial stages has found that a person’s ego or self-identity is always changing due to new life experiences (Eagle, 1997). As our ego is seen as our sense of self, people also exhibit definite traits from when they are an infant that make up a persons personality. These traits contribute to habitual patterns of behaviour, thought and emotion. The purpose of this study was to evaluate if a significant experience not only changes a person's perspective on life (sense of self) but the actual traits and characteristics that make up an individual’s true personality.

Personality change is a widely controversial topic. Many different past attempts and approaches have been taken to understand if it is possible that a person’s traits can significantly change. Carl Rogers developed a humanistic approach (1989), he believed change was possible through constructive therapy. He emphasized without a relationship and the certain conditions to be met within the relationship change was not possible and that it was because of those definable conditions that definable change proceeds. He suggested that individuals can adjust their life styles and self-dignity to meet the circumstances they currently are living in with the help of a therapeutic relationship. Roger's Humanistic approach shows support for the idea that a person's perspective of life and self- identity is interchangeable. In this study the focus is on whether or not an experience that affects a person's self-identity can change a person's personality traits.

Another classical article exploring the idea of personality and self- identity change was Dreger’s article, on how far social change can change a personality (1966), which opposed the idea that a relationship can change an individual’s personality. Dreger states that alleged personality change due to dramatic social forces may be superficial because social forces when we are young may not be as influencing when we are older. A person may be able to feel differently about their selves, they may even associate their selves with different kinds of people but that does not necessarily mean that they no longer possess the same characteristics that they possessed as a child.

Marcel et al developed a study testing middle aged adults to reflect if change in the Big Five Personality factors had taken place because of new middle life concerns and the added responsibility of parenting (2006). The results reflected that large amounts of stability were found. The study concluded that personality may simply mature to increase our life satisfaction because as adults we experience different responsibilities and interests than we did as children, but our true personality characteristics remain stable over our life time. The article outlines the idea that experiences or concerns can change our behaviour however personality traits seem to remain constant. People make certain adaptations in order to maintain life satisfaction. Our traits reflect on characteristics such as how shy or outgoing we are, how open we are to people, how compassionate we are and so on.

Next, people rely on their stable personality traits to try to rely on the memory of emotion. A study was conducted where students were to recall on an emotional event that took place and rate their emotions, three months later they were asked to recall on how they answered the first time (Dodini, 2006). Their memories were quite accurate on what their emotional responses had been at the time. This provided evidence that personality traits predicted emotion. This study may not have directly studied if personality could change because of certain experiences, but it showed that people could still recall on the way they felt at the time.

An adult can undergo constant changes in attitudes and values but that does not necessarily mean their personality traits change (McCrae, 1993). McCrae reflected on 3 studies that showed that values and beliefs were due to the trends and stages people under go over their life time. This can be a huge problem when studying personality change, especially self-assessments, because many adults see changes in attitudes or fads as a personality change which makes the test inaccurate. Individuals can change interests in different categories, they undergo religious changes, discoveries of sexual orientation, changes in how they present their selves but the characteristics a person has in their childhood are still reflected throughout their adult life.

Substance abuse can completely alter a person’s behaviour. It changes what the person considers important and even seems to temporarily change their personality (Diclemente, 1994). An abusers personality may seem to be completely transformed but when a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol they are living in an unrealistic world. A person that suffers from drug or alcohol addiction will continue to behave differently until the addiction has been completely conquered. This reflects Carl Rogers idea that therapy can help a person gain a different insight and improve their life satisfaction.

A statistical study was conducted by Herbst, McCrae, Costa, Feaganes and Siegler (2000) on personality change and if it was possible. The study asked 39-45 year old males and females to assess their personality based on a 6-9 year period. The results showed that 52.5% of people recalled that they had stayed the same over time and only 9% recalled they had changed remarkably. This study showed that people remotely stay stable over time and only a few are subject to change. What was also concluded is that people have a hard time perceiving if they had undergone change because 38.5% percent of people thought they maybe had changed a little. There was troubling consistency when the study was completed over different groups because of this identity problem. People didn’t know exactly what Personality is and had different interpretations of the definition. Individuals constantly mixed up self- esteem and personal characteristics thinking it was the same thing. However, it is possible to be an outgoing person and have a low self- esteem because self- esteem is a characteristic of self- identity not personality. In the present study the actual change of personal traits is being tested not self- esteem. Self -esteem is subject to change but it is unknown if personal traits or characteristics can change.

In summary, a true concept of personality change has not been completely discovered yet. It has been found in multiple research studies as listed above that there is a correlation between significant experiences and changes in aspects that contribute to a person’s personality such as self -esteem, motivation, and maturity level, but it has not been undiscovered if a person’s true traits can change. Perhaps this is because a person’s true traits cannot be changed. We may be born with a set group of characteristics and even if we try to disguise them through fads and stages, they will never truly change. This personality study is testing participants on if they believe their big 5 personality traits have changed over the stages of their lifetime and if a drastic experience caused the change.

This present day study tests whether a drastic experience or change can have an affect on not only a persons self identity and self esteem, but their personality traits as well. The hypothesis was that the personality traits a person exhibits from when they are infant remain stable over the different stages of life, even when a person may experience changes in their ego. An experience can adjust the way an individual behaves temporarily, and maybe change their values but peoples personal characteristics are stable over the course of their life time.

An experience can be defined as any event that a person feels has taken any kind of toll on their life. Changes in personality traits are defined as an changes in the Big Five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extra version, agreeableness, and neuroticism) over the different stages of a person's life (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood). Whether or not a person has underwent a drastic change or experience was the independent variable and the fluctuations in a person's personality traits over the course of their life was the dependent variable.

Method
Participants
The participants were residents of Windsor Ontario who were over the age of 45 years old. They had to be 45 years old to ensure that they were mature adults since they were tested on whether or not their personality has changed over the stages of their lives (childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, and mature adulthood) (mean age= 55.25 years old, standard deviation= 7.43, range= 65). There were 24 participants in total, 12 females and 12 males were chosen. The participants had to be Canadian citizens, living in the city of Windsor Ontario, could read and write clearly in English and had corrected or normal eyesight to be eligible to be a part of the study.  Participation was on a voluntary basis conducted at a Zehrs grocery store in Windsor Ontario. It was a good location for the survey because grocery stores are busy locations where a variety of adults pass through every day. The study took place over 3 days where the same cashier offered a survey to each customer to complete while they were ringing in their purchases. The participants chose their condition by self selection. They were either a part of the group that has undergone a drastic life changing event or has never undergone a drastic life changing event. Materials

The materials needed in this study were limited. The self report survey called The Personality Development survey (see exhibit one) was provided with a pen or pencil to fill the survey out. The survey consisted of 25 questions altogether. The first 6 questions were preliminary questions that determined the participants eligibility to participate in the study. Then there were one yes or no question that determined whether the participant has undergone a drastic experience or not. If the participants answered yes to that question there was 3 follow up questions they had to answer regarding the experience they were indicating. Lastly, there were 15 Likert-type questions regarding the participants personality traits over 3 stages of their life (childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, and mature adulthood).

The independent variable is represented by the two conditions, which are that either the person has undergone a drastic life changing experience or they have not. After completing the preliminary questions the person was asked "Have you undergone a drastic change or experience that changed the course of your life?", if the person answered yes they were required to answer whether or not the event effected their self esteem or self identity and at what age the event took place. These questions helped sort the participants into groups after the completion of the survey.  The last 15 questions consisted of 3 groups of questions reflecting on: their childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, and mature adulthood. Each group had the same 5 questions which assessed the participants personality traits at that certain stage in their life. The questions were judged on a point system of Likert-type questions, with a scale of 1 to 7. 1 being the extreme of one side of the certain personality trait and 7 being the other extreme side of the personality trait. For each group the scores were added up to assess how the scores differed for each age period. For example if a participants total score for their childhood was10 and adolescence was 5, then it was clear they underwent a change in the personality traits they obtain.

I attempted to see if a persons personality traits can change over the course of their life and what causes the change with the Personality Development Survey. The survey was an attempt to see if personality traits can change over the course of a persons life and if the change is correlated to a drastic life experience. Procedure

Participants completed the Personality Development Survey individually. The survey was offered by the grocery store cashier to each customer to complete while the cashier was ringing in their purchases. The cashier was instructed to say to each customer: "Are you interested in completing a survey on personality development for a student attending the University of Western Ontario's research project?" If the customer agreed to take part in the research project, the cashier handed them a letter of information about the survey (see exhibit two) and a consent form they were required to sign (see exhibit three). Once the customer handed their consent form back, the cashier addressed questions they had and distributed the Personality Development Survey to them. At the top of survey there was simple instructions the participant had to follow in order to complete the survey. The survey took no more than 10 minutes at the most to complete.

When the participant completed their survey and handed it back to the cashier, they received a debriefing form (see exhibit four), which marked the completion of their participation in the study. The cashier was required to hold on to all the surveys until the final day of the study.

The study was conducted over a 3 day time period. Each day 8 surveys were completed, 4 of the completed surveys were females and 4 were males. The surveys were handed out over an 8 hour period each day (started when the cashier's shift began and ended when the cashier's shift finished). The surveys were handed out by the same cashier each day.  The participants had to be over 45 years of age, citizens of Canada that live in Windsor Ontario, able to read and write n English and had normal or corrected eyesight and hearing. These controlled conditions were outlined in the preliminary questions.  If a participant did not meet these required conditions the cashier disregarded the completed survey and a new one had to be completed in it's place (extra surveys were provided). Results

            The main researcher scored the 24 Personality Development surveys and sorted the participant's surveys into 2 groups: those that answered “yes” to having undergone a drastic change/experience and those that have never undergone any change. After the scores for each of the 3 groups of questions were totaled and the surveys were sorted, the main researcher then found how much the participants scores fluctuated between each set of questions. On average the participants who had undergone a drastic change/experience answer's fluctuated by 2.89 points (SD=3.46). The participants who had never undergone any change answer's fluctuated on average of 2.50 points (SD=1.52). A two-tailed independent samples t-test was used to examine a relationship between fluctuations in personality characteristics and undergoing some sort of drastic change or experience. The t-test indicated no significance difference between the conditions, t(22)=0.561, p>.05. Therefore, undergoing a drastic change or experience is unlikely to cause fluctuations in personality characteristics. Discussion

The results of the present study indicate there is no evidence that there is a relationship between fluctuations in personality characteristics and a person undergoing a drastic change or experience. Because of the consistency with self esteem changes and drastic experience it appears, as Erik Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial stages reflected, that a person’s ego or self-identity is always changing due to new life experiences (Eagle, 1997). This conclusion is consistent with the proposal that a true concept of personality change still has not been completely discovered, even though a person's self-identity may be subject to change when they undergo new life experiences.

Higher average scores equate to more fluctuations in a participant's personality traits over the course of their lifetime. However, the mean fluctuations scores in the Personality Development Survey were relatively low for both conditions. As in other research (Herbst et al, 2000) fluctuations in the personality scores could be the result of participants different interpretations of the definition of personality. The condition in which participants had not underwent a drastic life experience had a slightly lower mean score but the difference was not large enough to produce significant results. Thus, any difference between the means of both conditions was most likely due to sampling error.

A random sample taken from Windsor, Ontario can generalize the present study's findings to the entire city of Windsor, Ontario. Further implementation of the Personality Development Survey can be used to obtain results from a broader sample such as people residing in all of Ontario who have underwent any sort of drastic life experience.

Participants self-assigned their selves to a condition therefore a quasi-experimental procedure was used. This study's deficiency in randomization makes it hard to rule out confounding variables and threatens the study's internal validity. Confusion could have occurred when the participant had to decide if they had underwent a drastic experience or not. A participant could have ruled out an event they had experienced in life because they failed to see the significance of the event. Internal validity may also have been threatened because any fluctuation in personality scores could have been due to a medical condition such as a personality disorder. Thus, its difficult to draw a conclusion on whether or not drastic experiences do cause any kind of personality change, from the results of this current study.

The experience and non-experience cohorts were both meaningful. The non-experience cohort only contained 6 participants while the experience cohort obtained 18 participants. This present study shows that there are more people who have underwent a drastic life experience then people who have not. This conclusion is consistent with the idea that as adults people may have different interests and responsibilities then they did as a child because of the experiences they have gone through as their life matured. (Marcel et al, 2006). Therefore, external validity is not threatened in this present study.

The hypothesis was that the personality traits a person exhibits from when they are infant remain stable over the different stages of life, even when a person may experience changes in their ego. According to McCrae individuals can change interests in different categories, they can undergo religious changes, discoveries of sexual orientation, changes in how they present their selves but the characteristics a person has in their childhood are still reflected throughout their adult life (1993). All in all, there still is not a significant conclusion to whether or not change in personality traits is possible. However, this study is another step toward further research in studying the concept of fluctuations in personality traits over the course of a person's life. References

DiClemente, C. C. (1994). If behaviors change, can personality be far behind? Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association (pp. 175-198).
Dodini, A. J.(2006). Effects of personality and mood on the forecast, experience, and  memory of emotional events. Ph.D. diss., The Catholic University of America.
Dreger, R. M. (1966). Just how far can social change, change personality? Journal of psychology: Interdisciplinary and applied, 64, 167-191
Eagle,  M. (1997). Contributes of Erik Erikson.  Psychoanalytic Review, 84, 337-347.
Herbst, J. H., McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T., Feaganes, J. R., & Siegler, I. C. (2000).Self-perceptions of stability and change in personality at midlife: The UNC alumni heart study. Assessment, 7, 379-388.

Marcel A G van, A., Jaap, J. A. D., Susan, J. T. B., Judith, S. D., & Goossens, L. (2006). Midlife concerns and short-term personality change in middle adulthood. European Journal of Personality, 20, 497-497.

McCrae, R. R. (1993). Moderated analysis of longitudinal personality stability. Journal of personality and Social psychology, 65, 577-585.
Rogers, C. R. (1989). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. TACD Journal, 17, 53-65.

Exhibit One
 
Personality Development Survey
 
Instructions: Please complete this survey honestly and to the best of your ability. Read and answer the questions carefully. Do not write your name or contact information anywhere on this survey. Your answers will be kept confidential and only used for the purpose of research. Read the letter of information and sign the consent form before completing this survey.  

Preliminary Questions:
 
Please answer the following questions  honestly. Circle  only  one  answer.  
.     Please print your age on the line provided _______________

 1.
Are you a  Canadian  Citizen?
Yes No
 
2.
Are you a  resident of Windsor  Essex Country?
 
Yes No
 3.
Are you able to  read and  write in  English?
Yes No

4.
Do you have normal vision/hearing?
 
Yes No
 5.
If no, do you have corrected eye sight  and  aided hearing? Yes No
 
Personality and Development Survey: Circle  only  one  answer.  
Have you ever undergone a drastic change or experience that has effected the course of your life? Yes No  
Only answer the next 2 questions if you answered yes:
 
Did this event contribute to a change in your self identity (how you see yourself) or your self esteem? Yes No  
At what age did  this  event take place  at _______________  
Reflecting on your childhood:
 
1. As a child would you say you were inventive and curious or consistent and cautious? (1 being extremely cautious and 7 being extremely inventive)  
1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
2. When you were a child would you consider yourself efficient and organized or easygoing and careless? (1 being extremely organized and efficient and 7 being extremely easygoing and careless)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

3. As a child were you very sociable and outgoing or quiet, reserved and less involved in social situations? (1 being extremely sociable and 7 being extremely reserved)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

4. Were you a child who was passionate and friendly or cold and unkind? (1 being extremely friendly and 7 being extremely cold)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

5. When you were a child were you prone to feelings of stress and anxiety or calm and stable? (1 being extremely stressed and 7 being extremely stable)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Score (for experimenter use only): ___________

Adolescence and Early Adulthood
1.As an adolescent and early adult would you say you were inventive and curious or consistent and cautious? (1 being extremely cautious and 7 being extremely inventive)  
1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
2. When you were an adolescent and early adult would you consider yourself efficient and organized or easygoing and careless? (1 being extremely organized and efficient and 7 being extremely easygoing and careless)  

1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
3. As an adolescent and early adult were you very sociable and outgoing or quiet, reserved and less involved in social situations? (1 being extremely sociable and outgoing and 7 being reserved and less involved)  

1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
4. Were you an adolescent and early adult who was compassionate and friendly or cold and unkind? (1 being extremely cold and unkind, and 7 being extremely friendly)  
1     2     3     4     5     6     7 5. When you were  an  adolescent and  early adult were  you prone  to  feelings of stress and anxiety or more calm and stable? (1 being extremely prone to stress and anxiety, and being extremely stable)  

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Score  (experimenter use only):_________
 
 Mature Adult hood
 
1.As a mature adult would you say you are inventive and curious or consistent and cautious? (1 being extremely cautious and 7 being extremely inventive)  
1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
2. As a mature adult would you consider yourself efficient and organized or easygoing and careless? (1 being extremely organized and efficient and 7 being extremely easygoing and careless)  
1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
3. As a mature adult are you very sociable and outgoing or quiet, reserved and less involved in social situations? (1 being extremely sociable and outgoing and 7 being reserved and less involved)  

1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
4. Are you a mature adult who is compassionate and friendly or cold and unkind? (1 being extremely cold and unkind, and 7 being extremely friendly)  
1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
5. Are you prone to feelings of stress and anxiety or more calm and stable? (1 being extremely prone to stress and anxiety, and 7 being extremely stable)  
1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
score (experimenter  use only):__________

Exhibit Two
 
Letter of Information
 Thank you for participating in my study. You will be completing a survey called the Personality Development Survey. The survey should take 10 minutes at most but you are allowed as must time as needed for you to fully complete the survey.  Your participation is completely voluntary and you may choose to stop your participation in this study at any time. Upon completion you will be given a debriefing form that will give you feedback and information about the survey you are completing. Your answers will be kept completely confidential and solely for the purpose of research.  This research is for a project for my Research Methods and Statistics course and will be supervised by my professor, Dr. Karen Hussey. Please ask the cashier if you have any questions before you begin the survey, thank you again for your participation.  

Bethany Fenn: bfenn@uwo.ca
 Dr. Karen Hussey: khussey@uwo.ca

 
 
           
 
 
 
 

Exhibit Three
 
Consent Form
 
I_____________ (print name) have read the letter of information, have had the nature of the study explained to me and I agree to participate. All my questions have been answered to my satisfaction.  

Signature of Participant ___________________________
 Date of Participation______________________
 
*For experimenter use only:
 Printed name of experimenter  __________________
 Signature of experimenter____________________ Date of Completion____________________

 
Exhibit Four
 
Debriefing Form: Change in Personality Traits
 Thank you for your participation in my study. During the course of our life time we may or may not undergo experiences that change the way we feel about our self and others. One of the main elements of Erik Erikson's theory of "Psychosocial Stages" is that our ego identity (our conscious sense of self that we develop through social interaction) is always changing due to new experiences and the information we acquire in our daily interaction with others. However do the experiences we undergo and the constant changes in our self identity contribute to a change in the personality traits we obtain? Or are we born with certain traits we will possess for our entire lives?  This experiment is an attempt to understand if a persons personality traits can change over the course of their life time and what accounts for this so called change. It's purpose is to see if not only the ego can change from drastic life experiences but also a persons actual personality traits. The questions in the Personality Development Survey are based off the Big Five Personality Traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extra-version, agreeableness and neuroticism, respectively.  I hope to find that as our self identity and self esteem may change due to the experiences we undergo, our personality traits remain constant. I believe our ego may be constantly changing but we possess certain traits as a child that will remain constant throughout the course of our lives. Your survey, along with others will be complied to form the data I will be analyzing at a later date.  

If you have any questions regarding my study or an interest to receive further information about the subject feel free to contact me: Bethany Fenn, bfenn@uwo.ca  
Further References about the Study:
 
Dreger, R. M. (1966). Just how far can social change, change personality? Journal of psychology: Interdisciplinary and applied, 64, 167-191  
Eagle,  M. (1997). Contributes of Erik Erikson.  Psychoanalytic Review, 84, 337-347.  
McCrae, R. R. (1993). Moderated analysis of longitudinal personality stability. Journal of personality and Social psychology, 65, 577-585.  
If you have any questions about your rights as a research subject, you should contact my professor, Dr. Karen Hussey at khussey@uwo.ca

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