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Intelligence and Personality

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Are intelligence and personality stable across adulthood and into old age? As we begin to develop inside our mother’s womb, we have already started the process of learning about our world through sounds like music, white noise, and even the sounds of our parent’s voices. As we enter our world and begin to grow, we are exposed to everything within it. The learning process takes on a whole new meaning in terms of what we learn, and the speed in which we learn it, thereby, deploying what is known as intelligence and personality. This paper will discuss the process of how we learn, how we retain what we have learned, how our personality is somewhat shaped by our knowledge, and finally, the stability of such knowledge, combined with our personality as we transition from adulthood into old age. As we transition from middle adulthood into late adulthood, we do in fact lose some of our cognitive skills along with significant changes to our personalities, however, the effects of the changes are not based on age, but in fact, are based on the individual. As we enter early adulthood we leave behind the basics of learning, and start seeking independence in terms of our identity and lifestyles.

During this time period, individuals start to venture outside the confines of the family structure, and begin the process of building relationships, social boundaries, and habits. “Middle and Later Adulthood, About 25 to 65 Years. Adults seek to accomplish goals that make them feel they have made a difference in the world. This is the “payoff” stage in which we can use the personality that we’ve developed to achieve our occupational, social, and personal goals. We gain a sense of fulfillment from those accomplishments but also seek additional satisfaction through mentoring younger generations. Generativity means the ability to be useful, to do things like teach values, coach baseball, and volunteer” (Witt & Mossler, 2010. p. 2.3). By doing so, individuals entering early adulthood falls under the cognitive apprenticeship approach, which is “an instructional model wherein parents, siblings, other adults, and especially teachers serve as a combination of model, guide, tutor, mentor, and coach to foster intellectual growth among learners” (LeFrancois, 2011, p. 4.5).

Unlike early adulthood, during our mid 30’s our cognitive skills still continue to grow and develop, as does our physical appearance, however, when compared to early adulthood, our cognitive development begins to grow at a significantly slower rate. As can be seen by a study called the Seattle Longitudinal Study, conducted by K. Warner Schaie, which tracked the changes of various cognitive abilities over a period of several decades. “Schaie found that during middle adulthood we reach the highest level of functioning in four areas: vocabulary, verbal memory, spatial orientation, and inductive reasoning. Only perceptual speed and simple mathematical computation ability declined during middle age. Perceptual speed actually begins to decline in early adulthood it was found that, on average abilities don’t begin to decline significantly until after age 60” (Witt & Mossler, 2010. p. 4.2).

On the bright side, middle adulthood can be an exciting time for most in terms of development, within middle adulthood most are at their earning peak, and strive to provide for their family as well as preparing for retirement. It is also a time when middle adults are more flexible with their time, and are more likely to travel, engage in regular social engagements, as well as revisiting their education goals. Although middle adulthood is not without its trials, because of their experiences and growth, they are better equipped to resolve any problems that they may encounter, they can also find themselves in a position to even offer sustainable advice to others. However, there are also some drawbacks towards middle adulthood, in terms of our long-term memory as well as our short-term memory. In general our long-term memory is relatively more stable than short-term memory “Because STM is an active, conscious process, limited in both duration and capacity, it is easily disrupted by external events, as is clear every time we become distracted. LTM, on the other hand, is not easily disrupted. If you remember the capital of Denmark today, you are still likely to know it next month, next year, maybe even next decade” (LeFrancois, 2011, p. 5.2).

In most cases, what we are able to learn now, can be remembered through repetition, reflection, and word association for decades to come. Although our memory continues to grow as we learn more, as we grow older we still process and retain new information, however, it just takes allot longer to learn as well as retrieve new information from memory. “Memory is involved in all aspects of human functioning. In fact, it is very difficult to separate memory and learning, so closely are they linked. Learning is a change in behavior that results from experience; and, in a sense, memory is the effect of experience. More precisely, it is the system that allows us to retain and retrieve the effects of experience. There will be no evidence of learning without something having happened in memory; by the same token, something happening in memory implies learning” (LeFrancois, 2011, p. 5.1). As we continue to grow and learn, we develop what is known as fluid intelligence, which is our ability to use abstract reasoning in conjunction with our ability to analyze information. “Fluid intelligence refers to our ability to see relationships, use abstract reasoning, and analyze information.

Crystallized intelligence refers to our ability to use knowledge, experience, vocabulary, and verbal memory (Horn & Hofer, 1992). Fluid intelligence declines with age, but crystallized intelligence continues to grow as we learn more during middle age. However, a problem with Horn and Hofer’s research is that it was laboratory based. To measure fluid intelligence, the adults in their study were all given specific and standardized reasoning tasks. In that controlled situation, the researchers found a steady drop in ability” (Witt & Mossler, 2010. p. 4.2). It is often viewed that our level of intelligence gained by our social interactions with friends and family throughout our lives, plays an important role in regards to our intelligence and personality, as we enter our golden years. However, most are unaware that a positive personality contains different factors that must be considered separately in order to fully grasp the concept, the two factors that help make up a positive personality are; personality adjustments and personality growth.

Each playing a distinct role in shaping who we become, as seen in a study conducted at Jacobs Center for the Study of Lifelong Learning, International University Bremen, Germany ”Why do we think that the distinction between personality adjustment and personality growth is important? We propose and present some initial evidence that these two types of positive personality development in adulthood are embedded in different facilitative structures, result from different developmental goals, and demonstrate different incidence rates. The age-related increase in adjustment seems to be a normative trajectory, whereas age-related increase on indicators of growth is a rather rare event – at least under current historical circumstances that have not yet fully adapted to the massive increase in average life expectancy. Therefore, to better understand these two different types of personality development and promote them, it is important to conceptualize and study them individually” (Staudinger & Kunzmann, 2005. Para. 10).

“It is possible that individuals who are dis- posed toward social engagement are more likely to experience bene- fits on integration to a larger social network with concomitant benefits for behavioral interaction patterns and adaptive recruitment of resources for a functional life style (Allemand & Hertzog, 2007. p. 27). As we come closer to solidifying our personality, we are now older and somewhat wiser through wisdom gained and lessons learned throughout our life experiences. Although our ability to process new information along with our long-term and short-term memory, are significantly lessened when compared to our younger days, it is because of such wisdom, we are now able to make better decisions than just ten years ago. As we mature, our personality also changes to coincide with our lifestyle “In direct contrast to our ability to process new information as well as to recall it as younger adults. As we get older we become more stable in large part due to maturity and becoming more confident about who we are and what we want.

It seems that to a great extent our personality is more stable in our middle years than in our early adult years, where the greatest change occurs” (Roberts, Walton, & Viechbauer, 2006). That stability is in large part due to our heighten level of confidence, and our learned ability to remain calm, as well as making responsible decisions. However, these traits as not found to be across the board, gender also plays a role as we continue to age, and our personality changes “our personality also seems to change more in a positive direction as we mature, and we become “more confident, warm, responsible and calm” (Roberts & Mroczek, 2008, p. 33). Due to making better decisions during the transition between middle adulthood and late adulthood, we can also see a drastic change in what brings joy and satisfaction into our lives. At our peak of our earning abilities, to which in most cases individuals find themselves within the middle adulthood stage of life possessing a strong focus, and preparing for their golden years. “Middle age is when work is often most satisfying. It has become more interesting, and workers are proud of their professional performance. By having a higher work satisfaction, a positive work motivation, social and professional expertise, and responsibility. Middle age is when work is often most satisfying.

It has become more interesting, and workers are proud of their professional performance” (Witt & Mossler, 2010. p. 4.3). One of the most common and also the most overlooked signs of getting older, is our cognitive development in late adulthood. Has this ever happen to you? You walk into a room and for whatever reason, and you cannot remember what you went in there for in the first place. If you answered yes, then please turn your focus to how many times that has happened to you in the last month or so, then, if at all possible, try to figure out if your lack of short-term memory getting worse, odds are it is in fact getting worse. We must then consider that there is a vast difference between older more stable memories, and those that are considered to be newer memories. “Brain degeneration is a well-known fact for seniors, for example, they may quit often forget to take their medications on a daily bases, however when ask about a family event, they can describe in detail what happened and may even remember who attended. If there is a universal behavior related to memory, it might be walking into a room, stopping with a puzzled look on your face, and asking yourself, “What did I come in here for?”

Nearly all older adults experience an increase in memory loss. Older, stable memories are less likely to be forgotten than newer ones” (Witt & Mossler, 2010. p. 5.2). As we age we find ourselves having to put forth a considerable amount of effort towards how we process information, especially when attempting activities that involves complex skills. For example, in most cases an older age group, will take a significantly longer period of time to learn a new computer program, than with a much younger group of individuals. However, the tables can quickly turn if instead of a new computer program, the older group is given a task that involves resolving a real-life problem, to which the outcome can certainly be in the favor of the older group of individuals. “Relevant problem-solving ability remains stable until late in life before finally declining. In part, this may be due to the wealth of information that older adults accumulate and all the practice they have had at solving problems. Such advantages may offset any declines in memory and information processing in a more limited working memory area” (Witt & Mossler, 2010. p. 5.2).

Ever try to imagine how big the Universe is? We can’t, and with good cause, due to our very limited knowledge of the darkness we know as space. Now try to imagine going through life without having the ability to see, touch, smell, hear, or taste anything within your environment, we can’t do that either. Although our knowledge of the sensory systems are on a grand scale compared to our knowledge of the Universe, the ability to complete the task will continue to elude us, simply because of sensation and perception “All sensory organs may be considered to have evolved not to induce sensations, but to make it possible for us to perceive: They make up a coordinated set of perceptual systems that provide us with different kinds of information about ourselves and about the world. Although each sensory system is distinct and depends on different sets of circumstances—vision depends on light and hearing, on sound waves—they function together. Each relays information to the same brain, often giving us information about the same objects or events” (LeFrancois, 2011, p. 3.1). While conducting operations within the far northern regions of Iraq, the helicopter carrying my team had the misfortune of being shot down and crashed as a direct result of enemy fire.

The residual effects I felt after sustaining a major concussion were; blurred vision, muffled hearing, a splitting headache, and interestingly enough, I lost my sense of taste for roughly two months. Although I was very fortunate to not lose my sense of sight and my ability to hear, it was still a very disturbing experience, having my sensory systems somewhat diminished to the point of being deemed Mission Ineffective for 30 days. After the 30 days, my vision and hearing tested within the normal range and was able to re-engage our Mission Plan, although, my sense of taste was still absent from my sensory systems, I was still able to lead and conduct Special Operations within a Combat Zone. Perception plays an enormous role as to its influence upon our sensory systems, so much so, that in some cases it can override the actual sensory organs, making the organs react as if the action was a reality. For example, you are having a conversation with another person to which happens to share your passion and excitement for a particular dish, the person begins to explain the smell, taste, and elements of specific items within the dish, what happens to your sensory organs that are typically tied into the sensation of food?

Odds are, your brain automatically reverts to a time when you were actually eating the dish, and the influence of perception starts its effect. Your mouth starts to produce an excess of saliva in anticipation of what’s coming it way, your tongue starts to maneuver around you mouth and eventually venturing outside, licking your lips in an attempt to satisfy its taste buds, your stomach immediately starts production of gastric acid eagerly awaiting the savory food that is about the enter, and sometimes you can even smell the food. All of these things are happening, and yet, the conversational dish is nowhere to be seen, smelled, touched, or tasted, that is how much of an influence perception has upon our sensory systems “there is convincing evidence that the many sensations of which we are not aware nevertheless have an effect on our sensory systems. This characteristic is labeled the cocktail party phenomenon because it is easily illustrated in crowded rooms where many conversations are going on at once. In such situations, it is relatively easy to carry on a conversation without being aware of other simultaneous conversations. But if one of these other conversations turns to a topic of vital interest to you—you hear your name, for example—your attention might immediately switch” (LeFrancois, 2011, p. 3.6).

In conclusion, we have discussed the process of how we learn, how we retain what we have learned, how our personality is somewhat shaped by our knowledge, and finally, the stability of such knowledge, combined with our personality as we transition from adulthood into old age. A 12-year study by Mroczek and Spiro “found that depression, hostility, anxiety, and anger are all tied to a higher incidence of sickness and disease. These studies make intuitive sense: Those who are happier, worry less, and are more thoughtful have better health than those who are more often angry, anxious, sad, and emotionally unstable” (Witt & Mossler, 2010. p. 5.4). But more importantly, after all the studies and test have been conducted, one concept stands true, the concept of self. It does not matter how old you are, by having a positive outlook on life combined with exercise and a proper diet regiment, a person’s lifespan along with his or her cognitive abilities can in fact increase. As we transition from middle adulthood into late adulthood, we do in fact lose some of our cognitive skills along with significant changes to our personalities, however, the effects of the changes are not based on age, but in fact, are based on the individual.

Allemand, M., Zimprich, D., & Hertzog, C. (2007). Cross-Sectional Age Differences and Longitudinal Age Changes of Personality in Middle Adulthood and Old Age. Journal Of Personality, 75(2), 323-358. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2006.00441.x LeFrancois, G. (2011). Psychology: The Human Puzzle. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc. https://content.ashford.edu Roberts, B., & Mroczek, D. (2008). Personality trait change in adulthood. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 31–35. Roberts, B., Walton, K., & Viechbauer, W. (2006). Pattern of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 1–25. Staudinger, U. M., & Kunzmann, U. (2005). Positive Adult Personality Development: Adjustment and/or Growth?. European Psychologist, 10(4), 320-329. doi:10.1027/1016-9040.10.4.320 Witt, G. A., & Mossler, R. A. (2010) Adult dvelopment and life assessment. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/AUPSY202.10.1

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