Harvard researchers surveyed over 19,000 people across all age groups to determine how aware they were of changes in personality values and core beliefs over time. In this case, “time” meant not just the past, but the future: While many acknowledged not being the same person they were 10 years ago, they were unable to see themselves changing 10 years on, and in fact they believed that their present senses of self were largely fixed. Interestingly, this belief, which researcher Daniel Gilbert calls the “end of history illusion,” persisted across all age groups.
What’s the Big Idea?
The basic question, according to Gilbert, was this: “Is it really the case that we all think that development is a process that’s brought us to this particular moment in time, but now we’re pretty much done?” Not surprisingly, personality and value changes happen faster in younger people as they take their places in the world, but while change may slow down as they age, it doesn’t slow as much as many seem to think. Despite the fact that change and growth are lifelong processes, most people’s “estimates of how much they’ll change in the future are underestimates,” says Gilbert.