Our Personality - Is It Genetically Inherited or Determined by The Environmental Factors?

The main difference among individuals lies in their personality. One's personality consists in his/her general profile or in the special combination of psychological traits of character that refer to his/her unique nature. One's unique combination of psychological features leads to the way in which that specific person reacts and interacts with the others or the environment. One's personality includes a set of mental characteristics which reflect the way in which a person thinks, acts and feels.

Many specialists have asked themselves which is the main factor that determines personality: is personality genetically inherited or developed gradually through experience?

I am sure all of us have repeatedly heard remarks such as: "He acts exactly like his father!" or "He behaves like that because this is how he was brought up!" And this is when the controversy appears: which is more important when developing your personality - human nature or education? Does one's personality depend on heredity through genetic inheritance or on the environment in which someone leads his/her life?

According to psychologists, the most reasonable answer of all is neither one, nor the other, but the interaction of the two - the genetic and the environmental/educational/experience factor.

Therefore, heredity establishes the limits of one's personality traits that can be developed, while the environment - represented by the cultural, social and situational factors - influence the actual development within the limits.

Cultural factors are related to the cultural values earned by someone in the course of his/her life, especially during the period when his/her personality is formed. These cultural values have a great impact upon an individual's behavior. For example, a person that is fond of reading or any other form of art will behave more elegantly than someone that does not manifest any interest in culture. Obviously, the latter will be more insensitive and will have a more violent behavior than the former.

Social factors are represented by family, religion and the groups of people one has made part of through the years.

Situational factors emphasize or diminish some aspects of one's personality. For example, a person that has experienced recently one failure after another would not wish to be involved in another project - at least for a period of time - even if this particular one might be successful.

Personality-related psychological research and studies are grouped in three main groups: nomotetic, idiographic and complementary approaches to personality.

Nomotetic approaches are based on the tendency to see one's personality as constant, hereditary and resistant to change, while the environmental influence is minimal. Therefore, nomotetic approaches state that the way in which a person/personality will act under certain circumstances can be calculated and anticipated, foreseen. The conclusion lies in the fact that one's personality is constant and psychologically measurable.

Idiographic approaches are more orientated towards understanding the idea of the unique nature of every man and the self development. Personality development is seen as a continual change process. The specialists that believe in idiographic development of personality state that individuals react and response differently to the environment and to the people around them. Therefore, the interaction between the self and the social and cultural environment has an important role in a personality forming. A general evaluation of personality is not a proper method for psychology and this does not offer the adequate means for understanding the unique ways in which a person sees and responses to the world. In a nutshell, one's personality is adaptable, changeable, unique and cannot be psychologically measurable.

The complementary approaches are traced somewhere in the middle, between the nomotetic and idiographic ones. This is where we can include Freud's famous theory about the three constituents of one's personality: the ID, the ego and the superego. Freud's theory belongs to the idiographic approach as it comprises the idea of personal growth and development, but he does not agree with the fact that personality can be modified after childhood is over.

What do you think about that? Do you consider yourselves the unaltered copy of your parents, do you have constant and expected reactions to events, have your affective and behavioral features been "agreed on" during childhood and since then you haven't changed at all? I for one think that all of the above theories have their true sides and their false ones�and, anyway, in an uncertain world like the one we are living in, the way in which we think and behave under certain situations is likely (please notice the fact that I am not a hundred percent sure) to be the most uncertain of all.


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