Are personality traits genetic?

Your genetic makeup does affect you to a certain extent, but perhaps less so than many people think. Your genes won’t decide whether you will be a successful business-person, just because your parents may be. But your genes can certainly influence the probability than you may have the predisposition towards certain areas of talent (or lack of it). One of my sisters is very artistic. Visually artistic, and this is the area she studied and the area she works in. I am as artistic as a banana. If I draw a stick figure people ask what that scribble is supposed to be. Another sister of mine studied accounting. I have to take a calculator to add up figures (sigh). So why aren’t we all talented in the same way? I mean, we all have the same genes, right? Wrong. If we had the same genes, we’d be identical twins. And we aren’t.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to suggest that our genes lay down a set of broad tendencies, which are then supplemented by what we learn, our experiences and how we grow up. I could probably be good at math if I had developed the slightest interest in it at school. But math was always the most boring topic and I was always happy the lessons were over.

So genes don’t automatically affect our behavior, but they certainly have an important (if rather general) role in what areas we may be better at than other people. But there is a LOT of learning to develop these talents or to compensate for the lack of talent. Also, each child is an individual, carrying a different “cocktail” or their parents’ genes, unless they are identical twins. So it can easily happen that siblings develop in entirely different ways and develop entirely different interests.

It’s important, I think, not to overrate the effect of our genetic background. I’m not saying that we can simply learn everything. Even if I practice a lot, I probably won’t be able to fly on my own. My genes have neglected to provide me with wings. Tough! I just have to live with that. Also, I’ll never be an Olympic gymnast. I’m not bendy enough… Again: thanks genes.





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