WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Looking at How Personality Forms

Jan 18, 2017

There is still plenty of mystery about how personality forms.  Researchers at Knox College are probing the mystery and they hope for some help from the public.

“We think it’s exciting to be able to understand personality characteristics and personality traits and their development as well as health behaviors,” said Andy Hertel, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Knox College.

“In the long run, the research could also help us understand how we can improve people’s lives, perhaps by developing interventions or different therapies.”

Hertel and Sara O’Brien, who’s also an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Knox, are recruiting mothers from west central Illinois and their children who are between the ages of 11 and 14.  They hope to speak with at least 250 pairs.

Those interested in participating can email the researchers at paks@knox.edu or call 309-341-7094.

The mother and child will be asked to complete surveys separately in conversations that will last about an hour. The researchers said responses will be kept confidential.  The plan is to hold the meetings at Knox College, though the researchers are willing to travel off campus.

The study will build on prior research on the subject done by Hertel, O’Brien, and  other researchers.

“One thing that has come out that’s really interesting is that measuring personality, even in younger ages, can be a really strong predictor of future behavior, even decades down the line,” said O’Brien.

She said some aspects of personality can show up right after birth.  O’Brien and Hertel are interested in the 11 to 14 age group because personality traits are still subject to change during those years. O’Brien said personality begins to stabilize in later adolescence. 

The researchers said while much is known about how personality forms, they believe there is a great deal more to learn.