Thursday 20 July 2017

Mary Kenny: The leopard changes its spots

A new study claims we change "out of all recognition" between ages 14 and 77

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Here's a blinding flash of the obvious: a study carried out at the University of Edinburgh has found that people change over the course of their lives. Between the ages of 14 and 77, profound shifts of personality occur: individuals alter "beyond recognition", according to the Scottish project - which was led by Mathew Harris, an academic brainbox, and examined the mental health of Scots over six decades.

Traits that were evident in adolescence faded. Back in the 1950s, young teenagers were assessed for characteristics such as self-confidence, perseverance, stability of mood, conscientiousness, originality and desire to learn.

A sizeable number of the same individuals were tested again recently, at the age of 77, and the boffins concluded that only two of these character traits - conscientiousness and stability of mood - remained consistent. Harris and his team were also puzzled as to why these two traits remained, whereas others often vanished into thin air.

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