Genetics as the Nexus of Human Personality Essay

Submitted By lekesolanke
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Pages: 6

Genetics as the Nexus of Human Personality
Through the eons, philosophers and scientists alike have mused about the multifaceted dimensions of the human psyche. With fervent endeavor, present minds are sparked by past ghosts in search of the ever-elusive ‘unified personality theory’— just as the future will bequeath even further effort. In my most humble attempt, I will unify the four major theories of the current time. Exempt of personal research, the focus will be on relating finished research and proposed concepts of others. My proposal is that genetics is the nexus of personality and that all aspects of an individual are ultimately shaped by their genome directly or by the gene pool indirectly (with regard to evolutionary processes such as natural selection). The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘personality’ as “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.” This allows for an individual’s disposition to be readily submissive to rigorous study and experiment, albeit various aspects (behavioral) being more forthright and accessible than others (Freudian).
The first and most important theory I must address is that of Behaviorism. How does genetics come into play regarding Skinnerian and Pavlovian conditioning? In their famous genetic twin study experiment, Thomas Bouchard and David Lykken offer an intriguing explanation, among others, of their work. They propose that rather than the environment influencing people’s characteristics, the opposite occurs; people’s genetic endowments shape the environment they are in. A perfect example of this is that “variation in ‘affectionateness’ may be, in reality, genetically determined so that some children are just born more affectionate than others. Their inborn tendency toward affectionate behavior causes them to respond to affection from their parents in was that reinforce the parents’ behavior much more than genetically non-affectionate children. This, in turn produces the affectionate behavior in the parents, not the other way around.” (Hock, 2012, pg.25) This is an ingenious application of the biological concept offered in Richard Dawkins’ book The Extended Phenotype. In the book, Dawkins explains that genes only give rise to proteins, yet we should not restrict the phenotype of the genotype only to immediate, physical characteristics. The long reach of the gene, as Dawkins puts it, can change the environment in a number of ways. One example is that of a beaver whose genome allows for the behavior (one ‘selected’ by evolution) of building damns; we can consider that beaver damn (a changing of the environment) to be part of the ‘extended phenotype’ of the creature. Other examples include a bird’s nest or a termite’s mound. (Dawkins, 1982) It’s easy to see how genetics has a hand in shaping the environment for conditioning or if you like, conditioning the environment for shaping through fluctuations of a human populations gene pool.
A main tenet of the Humanistic personality theory asserts that humans are wholly unique. There is genetic evidence for such a statement because the amount of actual people alive and those that have lived vastly outnumber the set of possible human beings allowed by the incalculable combinations of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acids, otherwise known as DNA. The Humanistic theory also states the inherit goodness of all human beings; this can be explained through evolution and the inheriting of reciprocally altruistic yet ‘selfish’ genes in humans. The “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” or tit-for-tat mentality is one that finely describes the pressure of ‘selfish’ genes to call for goodness. In situations where tit-for-tat can work (even with the occasional or perhaps frequent exploiter), it will be ‘chosen’ by the mechanism of natural selection. (Dawkins, 1989) One example is 100,000 years ago in the land of Africa, where the tribes were small, reciprocal altruism was of exceptional advantage. In modern…