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Thread: Heritability of character and personality

  1. #1
    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post Heritability of character and personality

    I wouldn't qualify the following study as new exactly, as it was published in 1986, but it still makes for an interesting read.

    New York Times: MAJOR PERSONALITY STUDY FINDS THAT TRAITS ARE MOSTLY INHERITED

    The main finding is:

    "Among traits found most strongly determined by heredity were leadership and, surprisingly, traditionalism or obedience to authority. ''One would not expect the tendency to believe in traditional values and the strict enforcement of rules to be more an inherited than learned trait,'' said David Lykken, a psychologist in the Minnesota project. ''But we found that, in some mysterious way, it is one of traits with the strongest genetic influence.''

    Other traits that the study concludes were more than 50 percent determined by heredity included a sense of well-being and zest for life; alienation; vulnerability or resistance to stress, and fearfulness or risk-seeking. Another highly inherited trait, though one not commonly thought of as part of personality, was the capacity for becoming rapt in an aesthetic experience, such as a concert.
    ...
    The need for personal intimacy appeared the least determined by heredity among the traits tested; about two-thirds of that tendency was found to depend on experience. People high in this trait have a strong desire for emotionally intense realtionships; those low in the trait tend to be loners who keep their troubles to themselves.

    ''This is one trait that can be greatly strengthened by the quality of interactions in a family,'' Dr. Lykken said. ''The more physical and emotional intimacy, the more likely this trait will be developed in children, and those children with the strongest inherited tendency will have the greatest need for social closeness as adults.''
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    Advisor Angela's Avatar
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    Very interesting, Maciamo.

    Just going by my own limited personal experience, I think a lot of personality traits are inherited, or, let's say, have a strong genetic component.

    You can see it in families, where one child is just born with a certain trait, while another sibling doesn't have it. Or, it can be so strong that it's prevalent in the whole family. Both my mother's and father's families tend to be very shy, a bit introverted, with a tendency to get withdrawn under stress. I married into a family of extreme extroverts. It was a bit of a shock! :)

    I'm not sure about the traditionalism and obedience to authority and following the rules one. That sort of applies to me, I think. I was a very "adapted" child; I don't think I ever gave my parents a bit of worry. Except for a brief spell on the wild side in university I've always been traditional and I certainly follow the rules, although I follow them mainly because I seemed to always know that if you follow the major ones, the "authorities", whoever they are, leave you alone and then you can think whatever you like, and to a large extent do as you like too. There are people, however, who hold very traditional values but have no problem breaking the rules if they think it's necessary.

    Very interesting info on intimacy. I guess if you want intense emotion and intimacy in a relationship it pays to look at the relationships in the person's family. I suppose, though, if it's so environmentally affected, terrible experiences in later life could change things.


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    Advisor LeBrok's Avatar
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    1 members found this post helpful.
    I find studies like these extremely interesting.
    It might be the case that character and personality traits might have even stronger genetic base that this study concludes. Read this:
    Further, some researchers consider paper-and-pencil tests of personality less reliable than observations of how people act, since people's own reports of their behavior can be biased. ''The level of heritability they found is surprisingly high, considering that questionnaires are not the most sensitive index of personality,'' said Dr. Kagan. ''There is often a poor relationship between how people respond on a questionnaire and what they actually do.''
    ...some twins go out of their way to emphasize differences between them, in general identical twins are very much alike in personality.
    I noticed how strong heredity of character are after my fraternal twins were born. They were very different from day one. One ambitious, the other easy going, one easily agitated the other optimistic, one leader, the other follower, etc. I can say that they are almost exactly the same 25 years later. The only explanation I could come up with, why they were so different at birth, was genetics.
    At best we can slightly influence these traits. Teach them how to deal with shortcomings of some traits. But going against one's nature is a terrible uphill battle.



    Among traits found most strongly determined by heredity were leadership and, surprisingly, traditionalism or obedience to authority. ''One would not expect the tendency to believe in traditional values and the strict enforcement of rules to be more an inherited than learned trait,'' said David Lykken, a psychologist in the Minnesota project. ''But we found that, in some mysterious way, it is one of traits with the strongest genetic influence.''
    Surprisingly?!!! Tradition is one of primal tribalism traits for god sake. This is what kept our ancestors safe in their tribes for few million years. And what stands against "loving thy neighbor" in our modern world. Combine it with, what I think is hereditary trait too, the "fear of new or different", and we have hyper nationalism, hatred, racism and wars.
    How can we fight it if it is hereditary?
    Be wary of people who tend to glorify the past, underestimate the present, and demonize the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post

    I'm not sure about the traditionalism and obedience to authority and following the rules one. That sort of applies to me, I think. I was a very "adapted" child; I don't think I ever gave my parents a bit of worry. Except for a brief spell on the wild side in university I've always been traditional and I certainly follow the rules, although I follow them mainly because I seemed to always know that if you follow the major ones, the "authorities", whoever they are, leave you alone and then you can think whatever you like, and to a large extent do as you like too. There are people, however, who hold very traditional values but have no problem breaking the rules if they think it's necessary.
    I'm not traditional at all, and only follow rules, but strictly I might say, when I understand they are good and fair. For example I'm law obedient citizen in Canada from day one, but was a rebel throwing Solidarity flyers on the street in communist Poland.
    I take all on reason, not on belief or tradition. It doesn't mean I avoid traditions of others, and I participate in them in social settings.

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    An interesting concept.

    My brother & I are twins of a sort, we're Irish twins [the dub given to kids born in the same year], and we have always been very close. However, we're as different as night and day personality wise. He is the very definition of a collectivist while I rather far more individualistic. He has to have everything planned and I think nothing of throwing some stuff in a duffel bag, getting out some savings, and booking a flight to Japan. He is something of an introvert and I am an extrovert. He is awkward, selfish and self-centered while I have such a selfless charming personality I can start talk with pretty much anyone I come across, regardless of their body language / facial features saying they don't want to talk. He freaks out at the smallest things, the "vein of doom" as we jokingly call the pulsing vein in his forehead, while friends & colleagues have often joked I am so laid back that the sky could be falling and I'd be completely unmoved.

    With respect to traditionalism that isn't truly heritable. It is what you are taught. My family is widely European except for dad's mother, who was half Japanese, and some further ancestry on mum's side in China. We were both raised to mostly western ideals and standards. Now my brother's traditions are western / British mostly. My traditions, and a number of my deeper rooted personality traits [for I have actually had an employer once write on my reference letter i had the "oddest personality" he had ever encountered and as a general manager of an environmental lab he had traveled a lot], are far more eastern in their origins. Enough I even had a colleague, from China, inform me I was more "Asian" than her north American-born children. We both spent many years in Japan to boot.

    Respecting authority is not heritable per say any more than traditionalism is. All it is is survival. No insult intended but people who don't respect authority oftentimes find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order. But, for example, if it was truly heritable a cop's son wouldn't become a drug dealer then would he?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vanilla2 View Post

    Respecting authority is not heritable per say any more than traditionalism is. All it is is survival. No insult intended but people who don't respect authority oftentimes find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order. But, for example, if it was truly heritable a cop's son wouldn't become a drug dealer then would he?
    There are bad cops, you know. Some go to become policeman just to be in control and enjoy position of power to dominate people. Some of them are corrupt and dip in drug deals too. Now we can see similarities with drug-dealer character.
    Keep in mind that a whole person character is conglomeration of cooperating and conflicting traits. I'm sure will find thousands of genes responsible for character traits. How day combine from parental source will create a unique person. Well to the point, and more like a spectrum that falls between character of mother and father. In case of very similar mother and father the child will be very similar to both. For example if you have very loving and good spirited and caring mother and father you will have very loving and caring kids. If one parent is kind the other menace, kids can turn both or in the middle depending on genetic mix. If both parents are menace kids will be menace too. Sure there are some exceptions, because genes can create surprising mix, but rarely.
    My brother & I are twins of a sort, we're Irish twins [the dub given to kids born in the same year], and we have always been very close. However, we're as different as night and day personality wise.
    How can you explain that two kids born at same time, having same food, breathing same air, having same teachers and parents can have such different character.s If it is not from nurture, what is it then?

    Welcome to Eupedia Vanilla2.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    How can you explain that two kids born at same time, having same food, breathing same air, having same teachers and parents can have such different character.s If it is not from nurture, what is it then?
    Some of it is genetic, but some is just finding one's place in regard to the other sibling(s). I have an identical twin sister, and although we are genetically the same, my mother nicknamed me the leader of opposition. I was the one who would test the rules and my trade mark line was "it's not fair!". ^_^ My sister was more obedient, maybe counting on me to right any wrong and test the consequences of crossing the lines. She was better at school and I was better in P.E. There are psychology studies about the roles in families and what position kids adopt spontaneously.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moi-même View Post
    Some of it is genetic, but some is just finding one's place in regard to the other sibling(s). I have an identical twin sister, and although we are genetically the same, my mother nicknamed me the leader of opposition. I was the one who would test the rules and my trade mark line was "it's not fair!". ^_^ My sister was more obedient, maybe counting on me to right any wrong and test the consequences of crossing the lines. She was better at school and I was better in P.E. There are psychology studies about the roles in families and what position kids adopt spontaneously.
    Sure, it is more complicated that just pure genes, the environment plays part, and this includes siblings interaction, rivalry and cooperation. There is also gene expression, methylation, in play. Might not be 100% identical in twins. Also identical twins are not fully 100% genetically identical. From first cell divisions they get individual mutations, deletions or recombinations, making them a little bit different.

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    Regular Member Moi-même's Avatar
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    I would need to have her tested and compare our genome on gedmatch, but the chances that the odd mutations will happen to be on the character genes...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moi-même View Post
    I would need to have her tested and compare our genome on gedmatch, but the chances that the odd mutations will happen to be on the character genes...
    That would be exciting to see how you girls match, or any identical twins.

    I found this:
    Geneticist Carl Bruder of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his colleagues closely compared the genomes of 19 sets of adult identical twins. In some cases, one twin's DNA differed from the other's at various points on their genomes. At these sites of genetic divergence, one bore a different number of copies of the same gene, a genetic state called copy number variants.

    Normally people carry two copies of every gene, one inherited from each parent. "There are, however, regions in the genome that deviate from that two-copy rule, and that's where you have copy number variants," Bruder explains. These regions can carry anywhere from zero to over 14 copies of a gene.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...not-identical/

    The biggest difference is caused by gene duplication.

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    Regular Member firetown's Avatar
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    I am not sure how much is actually inherited rather than copied from same sex parent. I can see certain role models having had a strong influence on me as well as me and my father are quite different from one another regarding interests etc.
    If you search this forum for "blood type", "rhesus negative" or "rh negative", you will probably see my posts.

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    I tend to see environment much more effective.

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