Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nature vs. Nurture: The Source of Personality

I am wrapping up some research on influence and persuasion and the papers that keep pulling my attention are from the fields of developmental psychology and neurobiology. There is pervasive evidence that the development of synapses that ultimately exhibit personality-defining tendencies and behaviors are dramatically affected by external factors. Unfortunately, the group that is studied to identify the causal factors is comprised of children that are abused, neglected, or raised in an emotionless environment. Regardless of genetic inheritance, these children develop stress behaviors that are hard-coded in the synapses of the right hemisphere. Children who receive predictable and congruent reactions from their caregivers do not develop the same synaptic connections and, therefore, only exhibit episodic stress behaviors (as opposed to the pervasive over-reactions of the abused, neglected, and unstimulated children).

So there are some genes that predispose us to certain physical and mental characteristics, but other traits, such as elements of our personality, are determined by our experiences. Some experiences build one set of right hemisphere synaptic connections and the opposite emotional experiences build another set of right hemisphere synaptic connections.