Genetic Nature of Personality Traits

“Hamer noticed a correlation: the people with more copies of the mini satellite- more stutters- exhibited a greater desire for novelty… It was one of the first studies linking a personality trait to a specified genetic state….In the coming decades, there will be a monumental leap in our knowledge of the genetic location of inherited diseases. And more and more genes will be discovered that link behavior to the chemicals in our brains, and genes tied to our urges and emotions” -Weinberg p 349-350

I think that if Weinberg were to comment on her speculation today, almost 15 years after the publication of her book, she would say genetic disease typing is moving a lot slower than she thought. I myself might just be out of the loop, but I feel like there have not been any major leaps forward in the field that studies genetic links to our personalities.

On the other hand, a 2012  article describing a study done by British researchers asserts that nature (genes) play more of a role in our personalities than nurture does, supposedly providing an answer to the nature vs. nurture debate. The study showed that identical twins were twice more likely to share personality traits than non-identical twins, who do not have identical DNA. The researchers focused on personality traits such as perseverance and self-control, and showed that there was the biggest genetic difference in these types of traits, i.e. the ability to keep going when things got hard. The researchers were less focused on individual talent, and more about what drove that talent.

I think that this is a very interesting and diverse field, with plenty of room for several applications and a great potential to make people’s lives better by understanding and diagnosing their conditions efficiently. But I also think it leaves a lot of room for ambiguity, particularly where what doctors diagnose as psychological conditions intermingle with what would now be known to be genetic predisposition. I also think that people might have more excuses for their behavior, now that they could blame their actions on DNA, or almost like instinct, as if they were forced to do something. But I think the biggest issue comes from what Weinberg was afraid of, completely knowing what every trait and gene in our body do and having a map of them. I think this is a ethical dilemma, and further research in this area would be open to ethical scrutiny of not done carefully.

Genetic Nature of Personality Traits

Frediani and Nature vs. Nurture

The close of the novel was a very interesting one. Frediani was found guilty and brought to prison; however, his time in prison was what stood out most. Weinberg stated that Frediani was part of a psychological case study that dealt with parenting styles and behavior, very similar to the nature vs. nurture debate that states that either it’s your genes that make up your behaviors or its the external forces and influences of the environment that shape behavior. During this case study Frediani suggests that his parents were very strict, his dad had a macho attitude, and his mother rarely stood up to him. During his adolescent years Frediani stated that he had built up an enormous resentment towards his parents and started acting out. This idea was very interesting because it was also brought up but quickly overlooked at the very beginning of the novel. It is interesting to think about whether it was Frediani’s life and the influences of his parents that made him have mood swings and exhibit irregular behavior at times. While genes make up the traits of an individual, there is a heavy influence of external environment and parenting styles that shape the behavior of an individual. It was also interesting because Frediani was referred to as possessing the characteristics of a sociopath early in Chapter 21. This makes an interesting connection between the way in which Frediani described his young life and the behaviors exhibited in his new self. Below is a link that explains the nature vs. nurture debate in more depth and it is interesting to see the connections between Frediani’s external influences and how that shaped his behavior with the debate below.

Frediani and Nature vs. Nurture

It’s In His Genes

“Paul Frediani’s parents believed their son when he said he was innocent. To do otherwise would be to question their role as parents, the values they has instilled in their eldest son, the genes they had passed on to him.”
-Weinberg, 234

How much of blame should Frediani’s parents be assigned for his situation? Personally, I feel none. There was no distinct lack of nurture or extreme abuse of Frediani as a child that should have caused this situation.

The genes, however, may have some effect on Fredinani’s criminal record. Earlier in the semester we spoke about a gene that makes people more likely to be violent or have extreme emotional reactions to common occurrences. Based on the accounts from his ex-lovers, in which Frediani was painted as an emotional wreck and a hazard to the women’s safety, he could be exposed to the same genetic mutation. Is it possible that Frediani is just a victim of his genes?

 

I don’t believe so, because in the same video that explained the violent gene we saw an innocent, calm, and gentle family where each member had the gene. The family was in control of their own actions and not harming anyone.

Therefore, if anyone is to blame, it is not his parents, his upbringing, or his genes: it is just him.

It’s In His Genes