Baranski, E., Gardiner, G., Lee, D., Members of the International Situations Project, Funder, D. (in press). Who in the world is trying to change their personality traits? Volitional personality change among college students in 56 countries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Recent research conducted largely in the US suggests that most people would like to change one or more of their personality traits. Yet almost no research has investigated the degree to which and in what ways volitional personality change (VPC), or individuals’ active efforts towards personality change, might be common around the world. Through a custom-built website, 13,278college student participants from 56 countries using 42 different languages reported whether they were currently trying to change their personality and, if so, what they were trying to change. Around the world, 60.40% of participants reported that they are currently trying to change their personalities, with the highest percentage in Thailand (81.91%) and the lowest in Kenya (21.41%). Among those who provide open-ended responses to the aspect of personality they are trying to change, the most common goals were to increase emotional stability (29.73%), conscientiousness (19.71%), extraversion (15.94%), and agreeableness (13.53%). In line with previous research, students who are trying to change any personality trait tend to have relatively low levels of emotional stability and happiness. Moreover, those with relatively low levels of socially desirable traits reported attempting to increase what they lacked. These principal findings were generalizable around the world.