How much can humans change? (part 2)


The big question has an answer. About 25% of personality “composition” can be changed – the idiogenic one. The major chunk of 50% is the biogenic element and that is solid as a rock – you can read about it in the first part of this article. The other 25% is the sociogenic element and I am going to elaborate on it.

The 25% sociogenic slice of our personality is composed of:

-       Close people – we were raised by or around, their love, personal values, what they taught us without knowing they are teaching or consciously.

-       Environment – the type of school, the friends we made, the neighbor’s daughter we played when we were kids, the food we had, the clothes we used to wear and so on.

-       The “big picture” – the country we lived in, the climate, the culture, the religion and any other cultural or geographic specific features.

In one phrase, the 25% sociogenic slice comprises all the behaviors that are learned from socializing and from the cultural norms and expectations that we absorb from the environment in which we lived until ~16 years old.

Based on this, psychologists have created “the Big Five personality tests”. There are many versions of this, but the common ground is that there are 5 personality traits:

·       Openness to experience – is related to how much you want to know and experience, how curious and creative you are. Your hunger to meet new people, see new places and express in original ways. How artistic and investigative you are. Or not so much.

·       Conscientiousness – the ability to control impulses, to set a goal, stick to a plan. It’s described by how much of a hard-working person you are, how dedicated you are and how much self-discipline you have. It reflects in how much you like to follow rules or… how much you like to improvise.

·       Extraversion – how much energy an enthusiasm you put in what you do, how sociable, confident and ambitious you are. How much you are affected by what you see versus what you think. How sociable and adventurous you are…or not so much.

·       Agreeableness – how much do you value others, how much you prefer to cooperate, and can you empathize with people. Do you forgive easily, are you a warm and kind person, or…not that much.

·       Neuroticism – emotional stability (mood, self-consciousness etc) versus fear of risk, unsafety, anxiety, nervousness or depression.

These are measured in tests sometimes when you give an interview for a job. The values are supposedly quite stable after ~16 years old. So this goes into the 25% sociogenic part of you and it basically implies that:

1.     Your personality will influence your decisions, consciously or not. And it’s ideal to increase your self-awareness so that it happens consciously often.

2.     Your openness will influence the amount of power you have over your own life. The more opened you are, the bigger chance to get what you want in life.

3.     Your childhood events, people, places can affect your personality

4.     Your emotional stability will influence your reaction to stress and need to have control. These, in turn, will influence your decisions and how your life plans turn out.

You can choose what behaviors you display, how you communicate with others, you can learn to control your personality traits once you know yourself very well, but you can’t change your personality. Therefore, these 25% are considered unchangeable.

Finally, we got to the 25% idiogenic part of us. The part we can change!

The idiogenic consists of reasons, plans, goals, hopes and commitments, as well as personal projects you undertake day by day. All these are changeable. It might not sound like much, but it can be a lot if change is important for you!

PS: about how to make change happen…I will write next week 😊


1.     Personality- What Makes You the Way You Are – by Daniel Nettle

2.     Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, by Brian Little

3.     Driven: How Human Nature Shapes our Choices - by Paul R. Lawrence

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