Thursday, February 19, 2015

Say what? Joblessness alters our personality to make us less friendly, study claims

People who can't find a job often say that the experience has knocked their confidence.
Now, a new study claims that unemployment changes a person's core personality traits, making them less conscientious and unfriendly.

Researchers say such personality changes start a vicious circle, making it harder for unemployed people to find new jobs, and there should be more support for those out of work to prevent such changes.
The results challenge the idea that our personalities are “fixed” and show that the effects of external factors such as unemployment can have large impacts on our basic personality,’ said Dr Christopher Boyce, of the University of Stirling, Scotland.
‘This indicates that unemployment has wider psychological implications than previously thought.’
The study found that men were more agreeable during the first two years of unemployment, compared to those in work, but after two years, jobless men were more unpleasant than those with jobs.
But for women, agreeableness declined with each year of unemployment.
‘In early unemployment stages, there may be incentives for individuals to behave agreeably in an effort to secure another job or placate those around them,’ the researchers wrote in the study published in APA’s Journal of Applied Psychology. 
‘But in later years when the situation becomes endemic, such incentives may weaken.’
The study revealed that the longer men were out of work, the less conscientious they became.
In contrast, women became more conscientious in the early and late stages of unemployment but experienced a slump in the middle of the study.
The experts theorised this may because females regained some industriousness by caring for others.
In a similar pattern, unemployed men remained open on their first year without work, but became more secretive and detached the longer they were unemployed.
And women became less open in the second and third years of unemployment, but rebounded in the fourth.
Dr Boyce said that unemployed people may be unfairly stigmatised as a result of unavoidable personality change and a lack of enthusiastic workers could potentially create a downward cycle of difficulty in the job market.
‘Public policy has a key role to play in preventing adverse personality change in society through both lower unemployment rates and offering greater support for the unemployed,’ he said.
‘Policies to reduce unemployment are therefore vital not only to protect the economy but also to enable positive personality growth in individuals.’
Together with researchers from the other British universities, he examined a sample of 6,769 German adults who took a standard personality test at two points between 2006 and 2009.
Of this group, 210 were unemployed for anywhere between one and four years during the experiment, while another 251 were unemployed for less than a year before getting jobs.
The researchers looked at the ‘Big Five’ personality traits - conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion and openness.

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