A Leopard Can Change Its Spots

And will actually be happier!

The old adage is used as everything from a warning to an excuse, but new research reveals that leopards really can change their spots—that is, people can change their personalities—and those that do are actually happier.

“We found that our personalities can and do change over time—something that was considered improbable until now—and that these personality changes are strongly related to changes in our well-being,” says lead study author Dr. Chris Boyce from the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences. Psychologists from The University of Manchester and London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) showed in a study published in the journal Social Indicators. 

The Research

The research followed 7,500 individuals from Australia who answered questions on their life satisfaction and personality at two time points four years apart. Personality was measured using a well-validated personality questionnaire assessing five broad dimensions which cover the breadth of a person’s personality: openness-to-experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The researchers then looked at the extent to which personality changed and how these changes related to life satisfaction in comparison to external factors, such as changes to income, changes to employment, and changes to marital status. They found that personality changes at least as much as these external factors and predicted about twice as much of changes to life satisfaction over the study period.

Small Personality Changes Can Lead to More Happiness

“The focus of many well-being studies in economics is on how changes to our circumstances, such as a higher income, getting married, or a different job might influence our well-being. The influence of our personality is often ignored in these types of studies in the belief that our personality can’t or doesn’t change. We show that personality can and does change and, not only is it more likely to change than an income increase, it contributes much more to changes in our well-being.”

Previous studies have shown that personality accounts for up to 35% of individual differences in life satisfaction, compared to just 4% for income, 4% for employment status and between 1% and 4% for marital status.

The paper concludes: “Our research suggests that by focusing on who we are and how we relate to the world around us has the potential to unlock vast improvements in our well-being.”

Looks like all your hard work on DailyHap.com can really make a difference! Loving leopard? Check out our fun Pinterest board for lots of leopard goodies to serve as constant reminders that you can change your spots too!

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by edg1

Category: Psych

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