Lesson 1 of 7 - free your true Self to guide you


Two Research Studies
on Human Personalities

Traits are brain regions

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       This research suggests that "personality traits" are largely determined by (roughly) age six. The articles don't propose what factors determine a person's personality, and suggest that a person's life experience alone does little to change their personality over time. Both of these research reports suggest that human personalities can change.

        This brief YouTube video offers perspective on what you're about to read:

      See my comments after the summaries. - Peter Gerlach, MSW

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Personality Set for Life By 1st Grade, Study Suggests
By LiveScience.com staff, via Yahoo News - 8/6/2010

Our personalities stay pretty much the same throughout our lives, from our early childhood years to after we're over the hill, according to a new study. The results show personality traits observed in children as young as first graders are a strong predictor of adult behavior.

"We remain recognizably the same person," said study author Christopher Nave, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Riverside. "This speaks to the importance of understanding personality because it does follow us wherever we go across time and contexts."

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Tracking Personalities

Using data from a 1960s study of approximately 2,400 ethnically diverse schoolchildren (grades 1 - 6) in Hawaii, researchers compared teacher personality ratings of the students with videotaped interviews of 144 of those individuals 40 years later.

They examined four personality attributes - talkativeness (called verbal fluency), adaptability (cope well with new situations), impulsiveness and self-minimizing behavior (essentially being humble to the point of minimizing one's importance). Among the findings:

Talkative youngsters tended to show interest in intellectual matters, speak fluently, try to control situations, and exhibit a high degree of intelligence as adults. Children who rated low in verbal fluency were observed as adults to seek advice, give up when faced with obstacles, and exhibit an awkward interper-sonal style.

Children rated as highly adaptable tended, as middle-age adults, to behave cheerfully, speak fluently and show interest in intellectual matters. Those who rated low in adaptability as children were observed as adults to say negative things about themselves, seek advice and exhibit an awkward interpersonal style.

Students rated as impulsive were inclined to speak loudly, display a wide range of interests and be talkative as adults. Less impulsive kids tended to be fearful or timid, kept others at a distance and expressed insecurity as adults.

Children characterized as self-minimizing were likely to express guilt, seek reassurance, say negative things about themselves and express insecurity as adults. Those who were ranked low on a self-minimizing scale tended to speak loudly, show interest in intellectual matters and exhibit condescending behavior as adults.

Changing Personality

Previous research has suggested that while our personalities can change, it's not an easy undertaking. Personality is "a part of us, a part of our biology," Nave said. "Life events still influence our behaviors, yet we must acknowledge the power of personality in understanding future behavior as well."

Future research will "help us understand how personality is related to behavior as well as examine the extent to which we may be able to change our personality," Nave said.

 Comments

        This research doesn't define ''personality'' or propose what factors shape it. These findings support the premise in this Web site that early childhood experience (perhaps including the pregnant mother's environment, stress, and wholistic health) significantly shapes who an infant "becomes."

        From research since 1986, I propose that children deprived of healthy nurturing during their first years of life develop a fragmented personality causing psychological ''wounds.'' These can cause significant personal and social problems throughout life, unless the adult intentionally admits and reduces their wounds by retraining and harmonizing  the conflicted parts of their personality (''subselves'').

        This report's author acknowledges that changing personalities is possible, but "is not an easy undertaking." Lesson 1  in this educational Web site offers a research-based concept of how to intentionally harmonize your personality by meeting and reorganizing the subselves that comprise it.

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Personality Predicted by Size of Different Brain Regions
By Rachael Rettner, LiveScience Staff Writer, via Yahoo News 6/23/2010

In a social situation, it's easy to tell the difference between a wallflower and the life of the party, but a new study suggests we can also spot differences in their brains.

The results show the size of certain brain regions is related to people's personalities. For instance, highly altruistic people had a bigger posterior cingulated cortex, a brain region thought to be involved in the understanding of others' beliefs. Bigger regions are assumed to be more powerful.

"One of the things that this shows is we can start to develop theories about how personality is produced by the brain," said study researcher Colin DeYoung, of the University of Minnesota.

While people's personalities are likely shaped by both genetic and environmental factors, the findings might help explain the differences in people's actions and demeanors from moment to moment, he said, or "what produces the patterns of behavior and emotion and thought that we describe as personality."

The Big Five

There are many ways to describe someone's character from talkative to anxious to hardworking and organized. Psychologists have found that many traits often go together and have grouped these traits into five overarching categories...

  • extraversion

  • neuroticism

  • agreeableness

  • conscientiousness and...

  • openness/intellect.

Psychologists can get a pretty good picture of someone's personality by determining to what degree they express each of these traits.

Scientists have only recently begun to link up personality research with neuroscience to try to figure out the underlying brain mechanisms responsible for personality differences.

DeYoung and his colleagues imaged the brains of 116 participants who had previously completed a questionnaire designed to assess their personality in terms of the "big five."

Next, they matched up all the brain images. Since everyone's brain is different, the images won't line up perfectly right off the bat. So the researchers picked one image from a participant who scored about average for all five traits to serve as a "reference brain."

A computer program was then used to squish and stretch the images so that they all lined up with the reference brain. This allowed the researchers to compare all the subjects' brains, and see how large or small certain brain regions were relative to one another.

Personality in the Brain

A connection between brain region size and personality was found for four out of the five traits (all except openness/intellect).

Those who scored high on neuroticism which indicates a tendency to experience negative emotions, including anxiety and self-consciousness was associated with a larger mid-cingulate cortex, a region thought to be involved in the detection of errors and response to emotional and physical pain. Neurotics also had a smaller dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, a region implicated in the regulation of emotions.

Extroverts, those who are sociable, outgoing and assertive, had a larger medial orbitofrontal cortex, a region involved in processing rewards. This goes along with the idea that extroverts are sensitive to rewards, which in our society often involve social interactions and status.

Conscientious people, who tend to be orderly, industrious and self-disciplined, had a larger middle frontal gyrus, a region involved in memory and planning.

The researchers note however, that a bigger brain region does not necessarily mean the region has better functioning, although extensive evidence supports this assumption.

The results do not indicate, that people are doomed to embody one personality or another for their whole lives. Though it's not necessarily easy, personalities can, and do change.

"Our experience can change the brain," DeYoung said. "And as the brain changes, personality can change," he said.

The results were published online April 30 in the journal Psychological Science.

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Comments

        Like the prior report, this one doesn't define "personality." It offers a partial definition by naming five significant traits in all people. This report finds that these (and all?) personality traits are related to specific regions in the brain. This supports the idea that the ''personality subselves'' proposed in Lesson 1 here are really discrete, interactive brain regions which can't be "killed," "exiled," or "demoted." They can be retrained.

        The observation that functional regions differ in size in different brains raises the question of "What factors determine human brain growth?" The report doesn't propose an answer, other than the generality that brains are affected by genetics and (early-childhood?) environment.

      It's significant that the researchers chose not to include self-esteem among the key personality traits they studied. My experience as a veteran therapist is that shame (low self-esteem) is a major (and widespread) personality trait that significantly affects all aspects of kids' and adults' lives.

        Note the labeling of some emotions as "negative" (anxiety, self-consciousness). Many lay and clinical authors further this harmful misconception. I propose that emotions are neither "negative" or "positive," but are each useful pointers to current needs. The way emotions are expressed can be "negative" (stressful) or positive (stress-relieving)

      The personality trait of neuroticism is rooted in the outdate Freudian "medical model" pf psychological problems. I propose that non-organic neuroses and psychoses are symptoms of the widespread psychological wound of reality distortion resulting from early-childhood trauma..   

        The report's author agrees with the view that brain functioning - and hence personalities - can change  Lesson 1 here offers a safe, effective way to retrain and reorganize the dynamic subselves that comprise your unique personality..

        For related research summaries, see this.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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Updated April 11, 2015