Genetics and Personality

Published: 2019-06-10 06:30:00
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The personality of an individual is one of the major concerns in psychology. Many Psychologists have come up with various theories explaining the causes of nature in different people. Personality refers to the patterns of feeling, thinking and acting of a human being. These patterns not only affect a persons characteristics but also influence his irritability and sociability. The need to determine the causes of these behavioral patterns led to the development of various theories and debates that define human behavior. One of the most widespread debate was the nature vs. nurture debate that was initiated by John Locke in the seventeenth century. Many psychologists after him have investigated the role nature plays in influencing the personality of a person and the role the environment plays in influencing the personality of a person. The consensus was that both nature and nurture influence human personality (Benjamin, 2002). The influence of nature on human behavior lies in the human genetics. The temperaments and other personality characteristics can be passed from parent to children for many generations. A study of the genetics and personality can prove the effect nature has on the personality of a person.

The proponents of a biological approach to analyzing human behavior have indulged into an explorative quest to determine the role of genes in influencing human behavior. They seek to establish how biology influences the personality of a person through genetics. For instance, the environment has no role to play in influencing the development of a childs temperaments at birth. The genes of the parents solely determine a newborns temperaments. Temperaments refer to the ability of a child to respond to various environmental stimuli and their ability to exercise self-regulation. Studies into the behavioral patterns of newborn have exhibited various similarities with the behavioral patterns of their parents (Benjamin, 2002). A study of the behavioral patterns of these children would help in establishing the role of genetics in influencing the personality of a person. The abilities of newborns to express their irritability and other personality characteristics are limited and, therefore, the scope of this study is limited.

Other psychologists opted to use pragmatic approaches in determining how genetics influences the personality of a person. Psychologists such as Gordon Allport and Raymond Cattell sought to use scientific methods to prove that the personality of a person depends on the brain structures and neural-mechanisms such as serotonin and dopamine pathways. They argued that hormones and other neurotransmitters affect the personality of a person and are carried down from parents to their children. To prove the role of brain structures in influencing the personality of a person, these scientists relied on and the behavioral patterns of Phineas George, who survived a fatal accident during the construction of the railway line. A spike ran through Georges skull after a blast in happened in his work. George mysteriously survived the accident with the spike in his head. After successful surgery and the removal of the spike, observations were made on the characteristics of George (Johnson, 2009). There were significant changes that drew the interests of many psychologists. These changes were attributed to the fact that parts of his brain were affected by the accident. With this evidence psychologists argued that human behavior is influenced by the processes taking place in various parts of the brain. The development of these parts is genetically influenced, and therefore genetics influences the development of different personalities.

Another scientific proof of the influence of genetics on the personality of a person was the study on psychological disorders and their causes. One of the most common disorders in the human society is autism. Various psychologists sought to establish the role of genetics in the development of autistic characteristics in patients. A study of the number of autistic cases among twins revealed that there was a 36% probability of monozygotic twins developing autism. In dizygotic twins, the probability was very low and close to zero. One of the major characteristic of monozygotic twins is that they share the same genetic characteristics. The increase in the probability of monozygotic twins developing autistic characteristics proves that genetics have a role to play development of the personality of a person. The research showed that if one of the monozygotic twins was autistic, there was a 60% probability that their twin would be autistic too. This experiment revealed that autism was not entirely a genetic characteristic, but genetics had a greater influence on the probability of developing autism (Wepman, 1963). The research proved that there was a high probability of families with a history of people with autism developing the same disorder down the family line. This proves that the autistic gene is transmitted genetically and affects the behavioral patterns of the child.

The most common study that establishes the role of genetics in influencing the personality of a person is the twin study. The twin study has helped clear the ambiguity on the role of nature and nurture in influencing the development of the personality of a person. This research compared the behavioral patterns of monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins in order to establish the role of genetics in influencing the personality of a person. Unlike dizygotic twins, monozygotic twins have the same genetic set up. Their behavior in different environments would reveal the role of genetics in influencing their behavior. The classical twin study revealed that, despite the fact that the environment the twins were exposed to played a role in influencing the behavior of a person, there were high levels of similarity of the behavioral patterns of the monozygotic twins (Wepman ,1963). Despite being exposed to different environments, there were similarities in the behavioral patterns of the monozygotic twins. There were great similarities in the levels of irritability and response among the monozygotic twins tested. These similarities were not as common among the dizygotic twins. This proved that even though the environment influenced the personality of a person, genetics played an important role in influencing the behavioral patterns of a person.

The personality of a person is one of the most important factor in the human development. Various psychologists have come up with different theories and schools of thought that explain the sources of human personality. The personality of a person is not a fact that is determined by one factor but a sum of various factors put together. Factors such as the cognitive development of a person, the environment and the humanistic nature influence the psychological development of a person. Genetic is undeniably one of the major influences on the personality of a person. Various studies have proven that the children take on many characteristics of their parents. However, genetics are not the sole factors that influence the personality of a person. As much as one cannot change the genetic composure of a person, one can influence the personality of a person by influencing other factors such as the environment.


Benjamin, J., Ebstein, R. P., & Belmaker, R. H. (2002). Genetics of Personality. InMolecular genetics and the human personality (pp. 42-67). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Pub.

Johnson, W., Turkheimer, E., Gottesman, I. I., & Bouchard, T. J. (2009). Beyond HeritabilityTwin Studies in Behavioral Research. Current Directions in Psychological Science. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01639.x

Wepman, J. M., & In Heine, R. W. (1963). Genetics and personality. In Concepts of personality (pp. 60-79).


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