Being in a position where I have to meet different people on a daily basis is always something that elevates my level of curiosity when it comes to their different personalities. Sometimes, I get the impression that someone is talented, wise or even a genius. When at other times, I have the opposite intuition about someone else. It got me thinking about how or if our personalities are relevant to our anatomy and to our psych. With that, I came across some very interesting findings.
The first thing I started wondering about was how nature and nurture impact our personalities. Are we born to be the people we are? Is it in our genetic make up? Or does life shape us into who we are? Interestingly enough, it turns out that personalities are a combination of both. We are, in fact, born with certain genes that manipulate our individuality. But at the same time, different situations can bring out different personality traits in us.
There is a phenomenon in social psychology that is known as the fundamental attribution error, which basically describes our tendency to demean the situational influences while judging the behavior of others. We all seem to be delightful people when we are calm and relaxed but when things get difficult and we are put under pressure, we tend to behave irrationally and violently. That situation does not completely define who we are; it simply reveals part of who we are.
To elaborate more on the fact that the environment or situations that influences ones’ personal traits, I’d like for you to imagine a person who is out on a late night with a large group of friends. Wouldn’t we all consider that person to be outgoing and social? The circumstances at hand are what encouraged that trait to be dominant at that specific time. But if we saw that person working at the office the next day, our impression of him/her would be that he/she is serious and formal person.
What is interesting is that psychologists try to measure the personality of an individual through a self-report questionnaire. The readability of the results varies depending on the results of the questionnaire when given to a large group of people. From the outcome, they come up with norms for each personality and define the traits. But the test remains somewhat inefficient since people taking the test tend to have a leniency towards a phenomena referred to as “social desirability” since no one really feels comfortable revealing to a stranger that they are lazy, temperamental, judgmental, or insecure.
We’ve all judged someone based on the way their body features are. Believe it or not, in most situations, our judgment makes sense! In 2009, a study by Justin Carre at Brock University presented photographs of different men to a large group of participants. They were asked to estimate the level of violence of these men based on their facial features. The results were efficient where the participants identified men with wide and long faces as most violent. Turns out that men with such features have a higher level of testosterone in their system, making them more violent.
Also in another study, it showed that men with brown eyes tend to be more dominant than men with blue eyes since the Pax6 gene that has to do with the eye color is linked with tissue growth both in the iris and the brain.
More importantly is the IQ test. The IQ test (Intelligence Quotient) which we all know as the test that measures “how smart we are”, is something that I personally consider a disaster. First of all, the IQ test measures intelligence based on questions that lack a creative and empathetic side. It also varies based on the individual’s educational background and motivation at the time that they take the test. In 1932, 27 states in America performed the IQ test on selected segment of the population, which resulted in a law that permits sterilizing people considered feeble-minded to stop their genes from spreading. Over 60,000 people were sterilized in America and 400,000 in Germany.
Going through all of these findings made me realize that we shouldn’t judge ourselves or feel discouraged based on some tests that lack accuracy. Although some of these facts make sense, we must make sure that they don’t have a dominant impact on our decisions or the way we think.
Hamda AlHashemi is a 20 something year old interior design graduate, and an SZHP employee. She appreciates art, food, psychology and culture. For her, Arabic calligraphy is music for the eyes; beautiful and calming. She thrives to become an entrepreneur of her own furniture line and aims to get her Phd on the long run. Hamda’s articles revolve around how our psychological thoughts influence our actions, and how to use them to our advantage.