Can My Personality Type Change?

Category: Q&A

Welcome to our new Expert Q&A series! In this blog series we offer full, unrestricted access to the cluttered minds of our research team to answer your most pressing questions about personality, psychology, and psychometric tests. Have a question? Send it on over to questions@truity.com

Our first question is from our friend Areej...

Q. Can a person's personality type change? For example: I'm an INTJ but could I be an ENTJ when I grow up? Or could I have been ISFJ when I was younger? 
- Areej

A. If you asked Isabel Briggs Myers (the creator of personality types, with her mother, Katharine Briggs) or Carl Jung (the psychologist whose theories Briggs and Myers studied) they would say no, a person's personality type does not change. According to the theory they devised, personality type was fixed very early in life and it was not possible for the type to change with age or experience. Of course, a person could develop within their type, by becoming more aware of their strengths and/or weaknesses and developing new skills. But their underlying type was supposed to stay the same. 

So that's the theory. But Briggs and Myers were just that—theorists—not scientists. They didn't do empirical studies on real people to extract data about their personality traits. Their ideas about personality type were created from books and personal observation, not large-scale data. So to completely answer your question, we have to look further, at the research that's been done since they came up with their ideas.

Personality psychologists who study large populations have found that indeed, shifts in personality do take place over time. There are some shifts that are common to many people and seem to have to do with the general effects of getting older. For example, people tend to become less Extraverted and more Introverted as they enter middle age. They also tend to become more concrete in their thinking, a shift that corresponds to being more Sensing and less Intuitive. Finally, older people are more likely to appreciate structure and order in their lives, which would make them more likely to identify as Judgers.

In addition to the personality changes you're likely to make with age, it's quite possible that your individual experiences might cause a shift in your personality. New circumstances, relationships, or challenges might make you discover things about yourself that you didn't know before. Especially if you are young, you may have spent more time living in a way that others impose on you, instead of being in touch with your own natural style. When you have a chance to make your own choices, you might find that your life looks very different.

When psychologists first devised the concept of personality, it was supposed to describe the aspects of people that met two major criteria: the qualities that made them different from each other, and the qualities that could be relied upon to stay the same over time. Unlike behavior, which could change unpredictably from moment to moment, psychologists thought that personality was pretty much set in stone. However, as it turns out, the human mind is a lot more complex than we gave it credit for (surprise, surprise!).

It's true that drastic shifts in personality are still very unusual, and most people find that changes are small, gradual, and subtle. If you've identified the personality type that fits you best, you may not ever change enough that you start to identify with a whole different type. But you're a work in progress, and you will discover new things about yourself for many years to come.

Truity

Truity was founded in 2012 to bring you helpful information and assessments to help you understand yourself and use your strengths. We are based in San Francisco, CA.

Comments

Guest (not verified) says...

You're right. To balance my life, I try to be more extrovert and thinking. But still. My dominant personality is INFP. Seven years ago and now I'm still INFP. Your explanation is good. I learn much from you. Thank you. God bless you.
Hesti from Indonesia

Guest (not verified) says...

I have found that several of my friends have identified with shifting more or less introverted and extraverted as they aged. This is not super common, but I have seen people be more or less extraverted as they mature.
I have also found that people are often heavily influenced by family. For example, my family is dominated with perceivers and I was the first judger. I had to learn to be more perceiver-esque, even though my natural inclination was to be structured and neat. Another example is the opposite: a good friend of mine is a perceiver in a family full of judgers and he commonly displays judger attributes.

Guest (not verified) says...

I tested as an ENTJ when I was younger and now in my 40's I tested as an ENTP. IMO The J and the P seem like they could change but that is just my expirience. I react and navigate life differently than I used to. I dont think it is likely that someone would have all 4 letters change.

paigeleger says...

I have have always been an Introvert, but I've learned to be more of an extravert. I believe we learn to become more balanced in order to function in the different circumstances of our lives. But even though I've learned to be extraverted, and not to fear that behavior, I'm still more comfortable being an introvert. The same with the other aspects of my personality. For instance, I am more of a Perceiver than Judger, but as I've matured, I've learned to appreciate the value of organization and structure, and learned to be more organized, or else I'd never accomplish what needs to be done. But I still really enjoy a day of just complete abandon to whim. Events in my life have definitely changed how I view things and approach life, but I'd say my basic tendencies and what is most comfortable for me hasn't changed in my almost 50 years. When I have been forced to act outside my nature, for too long a time, I've become stressed, tired, and have even suffered with depression. But at the same time, I don't think it's a good idea to read too much into our personality types. Discovering your personality type can be helpful to better understand yourself, but I don't think it has to dictate who you are or can become.

Guest (not verified) says...

When I took this test in high school, I scored as a ISTJ. Then I went to college (and took a coupe tabs of acid), and since then I have definitely changed to a INTJ.

I used to be all sensing - I paid attention to details. Now I am such a strong N that I feel like I am psychic sometimes. I am very absorbed with the past and future (my friends call me 'captain foresight' because I can predict many things.) But the present seems fuzzy to me now as I am nearly completely sucked into my own head creating ideas and connections.

Truity says...

Bet you didn't think scientists would have actually documented the effect you're talking about. But here you go: Single Dose of Hallucinogen May Create Lasting Personality Change.

Opennness, the trait discussed in the study, corresponds with the Sensing/Intuition dimension of personality type.

Finally, news you can use! :)

pbrojl says...

Hi! I enjoyed the above article. However, it speaks about what would generally happen in relation to age, circumstances (environment), and adaptability. However, I took two of these test when I was 15 years old in 1992. The results were ENTJ. In the year 2000 (I was 23 y/o), I took this test again in college and the results are the same: ENTJ. I just took this test today, May 5th, 2014 (I'm 37 y/o), and my results have not vary: ENTJ. Hence, I find the Briggs-Myers result, permanence of personality, more in tune with me because I'm an ENTJ who has not changed over the years. I really enjoy my personality and have come, gradually with an adventurers mind set, to take into account other personality traits. However, are there articles in any psychology journals (e.g.) about people that keep there personality all there life? Thank you!

INFJessica (not verified) says...

Can you create an Infographic for INFJs please! :):):)

Hailey (not verified) says...

could you make an infographic for intp please? that would be awesome! :D

Guest (not verified) says...

it's interesting because when i was in my 20s, 30's, 40's and early to mid 50's i always tested out to be INFJ ... i have been a caregiver for my sick mother for the last 4 years in my home...she is emotionally damaged and manipulative....i did not understand the extent of her dysfunction until i began to care for her on a daily basis....i now surprisingly test out as an INFP....perhaps a self protection to not 'feel' things so deeply as being so empathetic prior was tearing me apart....???....i live in the country ~ thankful that i can escape to recharge outside.....anyway, i'm not sure why my personality type tests differently after 40 years of being the same....i've tried 4 different tests (long and short versions) and each says INFP now....perhaps when she's gone i'll revert back to INFJ....

ChrisRigden (not verified) says...

I think this article is misunderstanding personality type theory. The core of who we are continues as Isabel said (except perhaps with hallucinogens! and perhaps in other specific circumstances). But who we are *IS NOT* the 'test result' or assessment. We should never take an MBTI or other psychometric at face value. Studies have shown that 28% of reported results are wrong (compared to best fit) by at least one letter.

As we mature we grow and develop our less-strong functions. If we take the assessment during such development, it may show the 3rd or 4th function as more dominant, because it is more concious than before. But our type does not change to that different type. Likewise, if we take it while at work, research has been shown that for many people the results are skewed toward the work culture, and are therefore more likely to be a mis-representation of the individual's true self. And as one guest points out, our family culture may also influence our reported type, and our journey then is to discover who we really are.

According to the ethics of administering the MBTI, it should not be done without a one-to-one session with an experienced practitioner to help them confirm or otherwise whether the reported type fits. Sadly, this is widely not the case, especially in a work context.

The free online ones have less research backing up their validity, but are still useful as a *starting point* for exploration. But talking to someone knowledgable about type theory (in addition to questionnaires, and talking to people who know you) is the most useful way to figure out best fit.

K Lyn (not verified) says...

I did a whole battery of tests while at university 30 years ago, one of which was Briggs Myers. When the results came in, I was an ENFP. Just recently I took the test again, and now I am not only an ENFJ, but the "J" is quite strong in me. At least in my experience, mine did change, and it seems to follow with the paragraph above about becoming more more of a judger when you age.

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