You have to follow through: Attaining behavioral change goals predicts volitional personality change

Nathan W. Hudson, Daniel A. Briley, William J. Chopik, Jaime Derringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research has found that people's desires to change their personality traits predict corresponding subsequent trait growth over time. However, few studies have examined the processes through which people can volitionally change their personality traits. Thus, it remains unclear whether merely desiring change predicts trait growth or whether actively pursuing change is necessary. The present study was a 15-week intensive longitudinal design that tested whether engaging in trait-typical behaviors predicted trait change. Participants provided self-report ratings of their personality traits and were able to freely accept and complete weekly "challenges"-prewritten behavioral goals that would pull their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in line with their desired traits. Results indicated that merely accepting behavioral challenges did not predict trait changes. Rather, only actually completing challenges (i.e., performing trait-typical behaviors) predicted trait change over time. Thus, merely wanting to change does not appear to be sufficient to evoke trait growth; successfully changing one's personality traits may require actively and successfully implementing behaviors to change oneself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-857
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • Adult personality development
  • Trait change goals
  • Volitional personality change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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