What Makes You What You Are

2615 Words Apr 12th, 2013 11 Pages
Personality: What makes you the way you are? - Science News - The Independent
At some point in your life, you 've probably filled in a personality questionnaire ("Do you see yourself as....?"), and wondered as you ticked the boxes if there can really be any validity to such a simplistic way of assessing people. Surely the scores just reflect your mood on the day, or what you want the investigator to think. Surely everyone gives the same answer, which is "it depends". Or even if the scores measure something, surely it is how the person sees themselves, rather than how they actually are. In a new book, I examine what the extent of the science underlying personality psychology really is. The answer is: more than you would think. While it has
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Moreover, these turn out to be the very regions that other types of evidence (evidence from brain damage, for example) would lead us to expect would be involved in that particular area of psychological function. Geneticists, too, are getting involved in personality research. It has recently become apparent that more of the human genome differs from individual to individual, even within our rather genetically homogenous species, than was previously thought. We know this inter alia from the complete sequence of Dr Craig Venter 's genome, which was published earlier this month. About 0.5 per cent of the genetic information in his maternallyinherited genome is different from his paternally-inherited one. Variant sequences affect nearly half his genes, and it is likely that in many cases those variants will have some functional effect on body, brain or behaviour. In a few cases, we even know which genetic variants have effects on personality. There is a gene that encodes a receptor molecule for the neurotransmitter dopamine, and which contains a repeating sequence whose length varies from person to person. A number of studies have found that the length of this sequence correlates with self-reported extraversion and reward-seeking behaviour. In another gene, the serotonin transporter, individuals with one variant are more likely to develop depressive symptoms in response to stressful life events than bearers of the other version. In a few years, we may be in the

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