Determinants of Personality: Nature, Nurture, and More

determinants of personalityModern psychologists have debated the causes and factors that determine a person’s personality for over a century. Charles Darwin’s seminal tome, On the Origin of Species posits that a person’s personality originates in the womb, with genetic and hereditary factors contributing to our primary traits. Other scholars, like John Locke believed the human psyche is primarily developed by a person’s environment and surroundings. This classic nature versus nurture argument has continued for decades, and while considered outdated in many scientific circles, remains an important tool for aiding in the determination or explanation of a person’s personality.

Besides genetics, heredity, and immediate environment, additional factors like physical traits, cultural and situational atmosphere also potentially contribute to a person’s disposition. The way we look can determine how others treat us and in turn, how we treat others. For further information, consider Dr. Patti Beth’s Human Development course, which further explores the history of psychology and the development of personality.

Nature

While most people believe that a variety of factors contribute to a person’s personality, genetics plays a large role in the determining a person’s character. Just as our physical traits are a combination of our parents’, personality attributes can come from them as well. Ms. Ley King’s course, An Introduction to Basic Biology discusses the molecular components and processes that create life, and in sections three and four of her course, she discusses genetics and gene expression.

Heredity and genetics can be seen not only in a person’s physical appearance but in his or her character as well. For example, my mother is extremely calm and even-tempered. Nothing seems to rattle her, and I can always count on her for a levelheaded approach to any problem. My dad, on the other hand, can be emotional and quick to act. Over the years, he’s learned to make fast decisions, which has contributed to his success in business however, often made him difficult to approach with a problem when I was younger. My two siblings and I have managed to acquire different aspects of our parents’ personalities: I tend toward overly emotional thinking, and both of my siblings often react to problems with a calm and cool demeanor. Proponents of the nature argument would offer that our dispositions were determined by our genetic code, given to us in the womb. Those who argue in favor of nurture would prefer to place these personality differences upon our childhood observation of our parents’ behavior. Either way, genetics and heredity can contribute to a person’s personality.

Nurture

As illustrated above, those who believe a person’s environment is the primary contributing factor to his or her personality is a proponent of the argument for nurture. A person’s environment and their upbringing can also contribute to his or her personality. For example, I was raised in a household where my interests were met with enthusiasm from my family members, and punishments often involved being sent to my room. One could determine, from my upbringing, that I am a happy and well-adjusted adult, and that my life has had few obstacles or setbacks. While creating a warm and nurturing environment is important to helping a child fulfill his or her potential, it doesn’t account for possible mental or physical illness, which can also have a strong hold on a person’s disposition. Despite the fact that I was raised in a loving and nurturing environment, I struggle everyday with anxiety and depression. Perhaps these genetic factors were too strong to counterbalance my childhood environment. For more information on parenting styles and which one to use in your household, look into S. Mahmud’s Outcome of Parenting Styles and Positive Parenting Skills course.

(Writer’s note: If you or any of your family members are being abused physically or emotionally, talk to someone and get help now. The National Child Abuse Hotline can help you determine the signs and symptoms of abuse, and can offer help. Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD.)

Situational

A somewhat new idea behind personality determinates is situation. Often a person will act differently in school or the workplace than they do at home or when out with friends. Before I became a freelance writer, I worked a regular 9-5 day job. I’d come home exhausted at the end of the day from the constant contact and social interaction with my co-workers, and while I loved the camaraderie and friendship, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m incredibly introverted, and I’d have to wind myself up everyday, and put on my acting hat, pretending that social interactions came easy to me. While some could argue that these situational determinates are just another side to the whole story of a person’s personality, this is yet another factor that provides insight into where our behaviors and temperaments originate. If you’re interested in better understanding your co-workers and yourself, check out Lisa Mahar’s Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace.

Physical

Our physical characteristics (while also genetic) can contribute to the development of our personalities. Teenagers are an excellent example of how physical traits can affect or contribute to personality. During adolescence, a person’s body is changing so rapidly, that it is often difficult to have a strong grasp on personal identity. Plagued with skin ailments as well as peer pressure, teens face many challenges that can affect their dispositions. Awkwardness pervades, and thankfully adulthood can bring with it a newfound comfort in one’s own skin, and the realization that youth has past. Physical traits also affect how we treat each other. Personal bias and even subconscious discrimination can mean the difference between a pleasant interaction and one fraught with trouble. These interactions with others set the stage for how we perceive ourselves, and what we choose to present to the world. One’s physical appearance could arguably fit into the nature category too.

Understandably the determining factors of a person’s temperament are not black and white. Multiple factors ranging from genetics and heredity to where we live and what we value contribute significantly to how we perceive the world and how we treat others. Our chemical make up and biological factors are expressed through our personalities, and our personality traits are a combination of how we are raised, how we look, and what we believe. Our personalities are always developing and changing and through hard work, many of our more unpleasant traits can be overcome.

EduCBA Academy for Business Studies offers an interesting course titled Indian Techniques for Personality Development, which helps you utilize a number of traditional Indian techniques to help further develop your personality. Using food, meditation, and an intensive study of leadership and motivation, this course will help you shape and understand your own personality. Overcoming our difficult or unpleasant personality traits can take time and energy due to the years spent acquiring them however, it is not impossible to change, and you can still be true to yourself in doing so.