Monday, July 11, 2011

Personality changes usually subtle, unless evoked

Q: Can your personality be changed, or is with you from birth to death?

Ted Egnot, Moneta

A: I posed this question to the psychology department at Virginia Tech, and the short answer is, "Yes, your personality can change -- but most changes happen over long periods of time, and are not very big changes," said Kirby Deater-Deckard, a professor who teaches a graduate course on personality.

Deater-Deckard added that as the time period increases, so does the noticeable change. And, children exhibit a more drastic personality evolution as they grow than adults do during their adult years. Adults' personalities and temperaments stay relatively static.

When adults' personalities do change, the changes can be the result of a variety of factors and can be lasting.

"For example, an individual who has been happy most of her or his life, but who becomes chronically depressed, will likely show a noticeable change in personality," Deater-Deckard said.

"Another interesting example is found among people who are highly aggressive and antisocial in adolescence. Some of these individuals continue to behave in this way throughout adulthood, but some become less aggressive as they get older."

Some personality changes can be tied to dementia that occurs in old age, if the changes are lasting, rather than temporary.

"This is by no means guaranteed to happen when someone develops dementia, but it is a common result of the changes in cognition that occur," Deater-Deckard said.

Q: I just received an announcement from an organization in the region about a new member of the staff, who was described as "a native of England and Japan." What does your Virginia Tech language guru think about that?

Robert Johnson, Lexington

A: He doesn't like it. This column's grammar guru, retired Virginia Tech English professor Virgil Cook, said that "native" was the wrong word to use on the invitation.

"A native of a country or region was born there. To say that a person is native to both England and Japan makes the sentence illogical," Cook said.

"I assume that what the writer of the announcement meant was that the person had lived for a long time in both England and Japan."

Have a question? Or an answer? Call Bridget Bradburn at 777-6476 or send an email to Please provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.

Look for Bridget Bradburn's column on Mondays.

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