Anecdotal evidence gained from regular exposure to grumpy grandads, mature age ladies at bus stops and the oldie living next door suggests that the default human emotion when growing older is definitely grumpiness.
Why, even I feel a grump coming on now!
So, “imagine my surprise” at reading about this study first published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience and then more recently in Psyblog, which reports that people actually get nicer as they get older.
Dr Roberta Riccelli and her colleagues at the Univeristy of Catanzaro in Italy revealed the three main changes to personality that occur, on average, with age are that people become:
- more conscientious,
- more agreeable,
- and less neurotic (moody).
It’s an interesting assertion. I think some older people are certainly happier, probably because they feel they have achieved what they have wanted to achieve and so they are enjoying life more. Others seem to become increasingly bitter as long held dreams and aspirations aren’t realized and this bitterness comes through as the human emotion of grumpiness and negativity I referred to above.
Nevertheless the study examined the brain scans of 500 volunteers and researchers found that typical changes in brain structure that occur with age were linked to changes in personality.
Dr Roberta Riccelli, the study’s first author, said:
“Our work supports the notion that personality is, to some degree, associated with brain maturation, a developmental process that is strongly influenced by genetic factors.”
These changes in personality suggest a genetic influence, explained Professor Nicola Toschi, a study co-author:
“Of course, we are continually shaped by our experiences and environment, but the fact that we see clear differences in brain structure which are linked with differences in personality traits suggests that there will almost certainly be an element of genetics involved.
This is also in keeping with the notion that differences in personality traits can be detected early on during development, for example in toddlers or infants.”
Dr Luca Passamonti, a study co-author, said:
“Linking how brain structure is related to basic personality traits is a crucial step to improving our understanding of the link between the brain morphology and particular mood, cognitive, or behavioural disorders.
We also need to have a better understanding of the relation between brain structure and function in healthy people to figure out what is different in people with neuropsychiatric disorders.”
The study was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Riccelli et al ) and also reported in Psyblog. View full article
To learn more on human emotion and developing mental toughness contact Mental Toughness Partners.