Remember the saying you cannot not teach an old dog new tricks, or once a person is 30 years or older they cannot change who they are. Modern psychological researchers suggest that your personality becomes grounded the older you become. A review of behavioral sciences literature indicates that many aspects that are considered personality are behaviors that can be modified. Practitioners of Applied Behavior Analysis have helped people change aspects of their personality for decades now. For example, a child who is labeled as bad by parents, and school teachers, who may claim that the child just has that personality type. The problem with that assessment is that the situation for the child is hopeless. Behavior modification has shown that the behaviors that the child engages in are just that behaviors. In other words, behaviors do not define who a person is. Okay that example is fine for children but what about adults. Some psychological researchers believe that the personality might be inherited, which is a strong factor in personality and provide an understanding of why some people maintain a consistent personality as they age. Another factor for stability of people’s personalities is that they have become comfortable with whom they are, and they have become successful in their environment. Many people have changed behaviors that they were comfortable with, such as smoking, eating, exercising, so it is possible to change given the proper incentive. The point is that it is possible for people to change parts of their personality. For example, a person living in a home for senior citizens that does not engage in social activities might be labeled as an anti-social personality. A behavior modifier would look at this scenario differently, and ask the following questions. Would increased participation lead to dropping the label anti-social? How much time would the person have to participate to be considered social? What does social participation look like? Answering these questions will help the behavior modifier design a plan that would change the behavior designated as anti-social, which to the non-professional would appear as a change in personality. To illustrate this example further let’s add some hypothetical information. In example of the home for senior citizens there are five social events per week, and the minimal participation desired to be considered social is to attend 3 of those events in a week. The goal of the behavior modifier would be to help the client participate in one social event per week starting with five minutes, and slowly increase to one full event, and then add another social event. This skeleton plan is just a small example of methods behavior modifiers would use to change a person’s personality. People have demonstrated the ability to adapt to various environments for thousands of years. Changing parts of one’s personality is just another adaptation to help one be successful in the environment. Changes in the environment typically lead to changes in the person, so understand that you can change, and that you are not stuck with any one type of personality.
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