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What Makes You the Way You Are

By Daniel Nettle
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Personality by Daniel Nettle

Anyone can see that people have different personalities, but what exactly causes this? This book examines the factors that influence personality based on the research of numerous psychologists. You’ll learn about the core traits that determine a person’s overall character, the different strengths and weaknesses they have, and how to get the most out of your own personality.

Key idea 1 of 9

Our personalities derive from our genetics and the environment we grew up in.

Have you ever wondered why some people never seem anxious, while others have such bad anxiety they can’t sleep?

Put simply, it’s because people have different personalities. But where do those personalities come from? Is it something biological or do you get it from your environment?

The answer? It’s a combination of both.

About 50 percent of your personality comes from your genes. We can see evidence of this in the animal kingdom. For example, researchers once bred guppies from different geographical areas in an artificial environment free from predators. Later, they introduced a predator to see how they’d react.

Although none of the fish had faced a predator before, they reacted the same way they would’ve in the wild: namely, the fish originally from areas with a low number of predators exposed themselves to the danger more than the fish from areas with a high number of predators, which were better at protecting themselves and thus surviving.

This showed that their way of reacting to predators wasn’t something they learned – it was genetic. And, like these fish, humans also have certain personality traits that are biologically ingrained.

The other half of our personality depends on our environment and is mostly developed in our childhood. Children learn to adapt very quickly in order to survive. So when we’re in situations where we learn something important as children, it’s likely to influence our personality as adults.

For example, if a person is the oldest of several children, they often have a strong sense of responsibility. Firstborns often feel the need to take care of their younger siblings, which can influence their personalities throughout their lives. They might continue seeking leadership positions when they’re adults, for instance.

So although we do get quite a bit of our personality from our genetic code, our environment shapes it just as powerfully.

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