Stability vs Change: 11 Ideas To Expand Your Mindset (2024)

Stability vs change is a key debate in discussions about developmental psychology.

When you understand the key points of this debate, it becomes easier to identify the blind spots that are preventing you from improving your personality. 

Personality development is a key part of my role as a life coach. It’s something I’m constantly helping my clients to achieve. That’s why I’m so keen to share my knowledge of personality psychology on this blog.  

With that said, let’s dive into the guide.

Expand Your Mindset
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1. How Do You Describe Stability And Change?

In developmental psychology, stability is the idea that personality traits remain stable over a person’s lifetime. Meanwhile, change is the idea that a personality can shift over time as a result of one’s life experiences.

2. What Is The Stability Vs Change Debate?

Psychologists will regularly develop theories about how much of the adult personality occurs as a result of stability vs change.

How much of our personality is a result of the traits that were present at birth? How much has been shaped by our experiences since being born? 

These debates are important for understanding the dynamic processes that shape the human personality.

3. What Is Stability In Development?

Stability is the theory that certain personality traits remain stable, regardless of a person’s development throughout life. 

For example, a typical person may demonstrate stability in various cognitive processes,  affection for their parents, or the desire to remain safe from danger.

Many in developmental psychology suggest that human life depends on stability. Without it, there can be no structure or organisation for a person’s life, a family or society at large. 

4. What Is An Example Of Stability Vs Change?

Psychologists might choose to look at shy or introverted individuals and question what encouraged the development of this personality trait.

  • Stability theorists may argue that quieter people are naturally this way due to genetics, or personality traits developed in infancy. 
  • Change theorists argue that their personality development continued to shift over time, based on interactions with family, friends, teachers and society at large.

Stability Vs Change Example

It would be extreme to argue that any example of stability vs change is an either/or debate. It would seem clear that there are elements of stability and change in all personalities.

It’s widely agreed that traits such as energy levels or extroversion remain stable throughout a person’s life, while social attitudes are likely to change over time. 

Of course, people seek different goals at different ages. We’ll all have different desires as young children than we’ll have in old age. 

Nevertheless, cross-sectional studies and longitudinal studies are ongoing on an analytic level to discover what is truly going on to shape our personalities. 

5. Personality Development: Nature vs Nurture

A very similar developmental psychology debate: how much of our personalities are shaped by our genetics (nature) vs our in-person experiences (nurture).

A common way to compare the impact of these is through studies of identical twins. As twins have almost identical genetics and are raised in the same household, they present appropriate conditions to research how nurture creates individual differences within two persons. 

6. What Factors Are Most Prominent In Personality Change? 

Developmental psychologists agree that a person’s personality can be measured using five dynamic aspects.

These aspects of a personality are often known as the ‘big five’ and can be remembered using the acronym OCEAN. 

They are: 

  • Openness to experience. How open you are to new experiences or a situation change in your life.
  • Conscientiousness. How responsible, organized and goal-directed you tend to be. Conscientiousness also covers how likely you are to follow rules.
  • Extroversion. How much you enjoy the company of others versus spending time alone. 
  • Agreeableness. How easily you trust others and follow their advice. Is it your nature to lead or follow? 
  • Neuroticism. How susceptible you are to experiencing negative emotions, including anger, irritability or anxiety. How easily are you triggered? 

These are the traits that developmental psychologists will argue are developed either as a result of stability or change. 

7. Is It Possible To Change Your Personality?

These psychological studies have been shown to prove that change is possible throughout childhood and into adulthood.

This is perhaps of no surprise to you. Most likely, you’ve witnessed your friends and family members change their behavior over time. 

However, there is also proof that our inner stability can make us resistant to change. This is something that all people will have to learn to overcome when looking to improve themselves. 

8. Why Do We Develop Faster As Children?

Another key area of study in development psychology is how change occurs in the human brain in childhood compared to adulthood. These studies are often cited in stability and change debates.

It’s widely agreed that those in infancy endure faster psychological development. The development of our neural connections in the brain occurs at a rapid pace and it has more elasticity in the early years. This means it’s easier to learn new behaviors and adapt to a situation change faster. A strong argument for change theorists. 

However, it’s also accepted that the brain becomes more specialized over time, reinforcing the neural pathways that are regularly used. Although this makes the brain more efficient, it explains why it can be more challenging for adults to change or adapt to new situations. This is often mentioned in arguments for stability.  

Related Articles on Self Confidence

9. Why Are We Resistant To Change?

This is an important question to ask. Many human beings have a conscious desire to improve certain aspects of our personality over time. Yet, a lot of us are unable to overcome this resistance.

Some may give up, deeming it impossible to change by concluding: “It’s not in my nature. This is just the way I am.”

But is that really true?

Plenty of current research into developmental psychology shows that change is possible, regardless of the individual differences among people in society. 

This guide will show you how thinking with an open mind towards self-development can help you turn this around: I Don’t Deserve To Be Happy – Expert Tips To Change

Resistant To Change
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A big part of resistance comes because the brain’s primary function is to keep us alive and well. The best way to do that is through a predictable and stable lifestyle.

Indeed, when we do try new ventures outside of our comfort zone, our brain tends to send panic signals. These can be tough to ignore, even when we logically understand that we will be completely safe trying new things.  

Behavior change is rarely easy. However, by taking small steps, it is possible to feel the fear and do it anyway. 

For more guidance on how to make permanent changes to your personality, take a look at this guide: TIPS How To Change The Story You Tell Yourself.

10. The Importance Of Situation Change In Developmental Psychology

Situation change is one of the most important factors that developmental psychologists must consider during their studies.

It’s accepted that a person’s behavior will change in certain situations, according to the people and circumstances that surround them in their everyday lives.

Studying situation change is therefore key to producing fair results through a scientific approach.

It’s not easy. It requires a lot of situation research. After all, measuring situation change = practically impossible. Situations in a person’s life aren’t ever static structures. Real life is lived like a flowing stream. There is a high degree of situational variables to measure – and it’s tough to measure which variable type is responsible for behavioral change.

On top of that, researchers also need to consider the corresponsive principle of personality development, which states that a person’s personality traits tend to determine what major types of situations they tend to get into. 

Still, this hurdle of social psychology provides further strength to the argument that most personality traits are flexible. 

11. Stability vs Change In Organisational Behaviour

Examining stability vs change is also common in the business realm. 

Leaders should understand the importance of stability of behavior within an organisation, as this will be largely responsible for consistent results, job security, continuity in task management and an understanding of what various roles in a company entails. 

A franchise must embrace stability in order to mirror its success across multiple branches. The same processes will bring similar results. 

At the same time, business leaders should also embrace the concept of improving structural and behavioral processes over time.

If a business can’t adapt and improve, it’ll end up in the dirt like Blackberry, Blockbuster, Woolworths and many others. An annual review – at the very least – is recommended to examine what’s working and what isn’t.

This isn’t too similar to the idea of New Year’s Resolutions in the individual context of personality development.

Whether you’re an individual trying to improve your personality – or a business trying to boost profits, it isn’t easy to stray from the norm and change suddenly the way you go about things.

But, in most cases, it’s worth fighting through that resistance and coming out better on the other side.

Any More Questions About Stability Vs Change? 

Thanks for reading my article. I hope you agree that developmental psychology is a truly interesting topic. 

With a clear and consensual understanding of it, it becomes easier to study dynamic aspects of your personality – and improve them. 

For more ideas on how to go about kick-starting your self-development, see this guide on  changes  tips on how to make changes to your personality, see this list of Life Management Skills To Thrive  

If you have any major questions about the typical patterns of personality change or the larger context of developmental psychology, feel free to leave it in the comments section below.   

It would be great to hear from you.

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.