Table of Contents
Part IV: The Development of Personality:
The Old and the New
The Components of Personality
HERE WE ARE
concerned specifically with the part played by heredity and the
part played by cultural environment. In addition to the findings
of psychology, both genetics and anthropology have contributed
to our understanding. The extent to which an individual's personality
is influenced by heredity has been demonstrated in a remarkable
way by studies on twins and, in the minds of many, by Sheldon's
work on the relationship between human physique and temperament.
The importance of cultural environment has been demonstrated
by such anthropologists as Cora DuBois and Margaret Mead. We
shall consider these separately, though it is sometimes difficult
to isolate the two factors.
The Part Played by Nature: Heredity
first man to make a scientific attempt to attach the responsibility
for personality formation to hereditary factors was Sir Francis
Galton. (14) He
was particularly interested in outstanding personalities and
sought to establish a hereditary basis for genius. He was one
of the earliest scholars to apply statistics to this kind of
inquiry, and some of the facts which he brought to light are
truly amazing, although in one or two instances his conclusions
are to be challenged on the grounds that he made some unjustifiable
assumptions. Galton attached little importance to the various
non-hereditary factors influencing the lives of eminent men and
concluded that heredity was of prime importance. This was challenged
by A. de Candole, who attempted to show by a very similar method
that environmental influences were every bit as important. Some
amazing studies have been published since, tracing the descendants
of some less desirable matches and showing an extraordinary rostrum
of defectives and criminals. For example, the
14. Galton, Sir Francis, Hereditary
Genetics, Watts, London, reprint, 1950.
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famous Kallikak family
history traces from a single pair, a total of four hundred eighty
descendants. Of these, one hundred forty-three were feeble-minded,
and only forty-six were known to have normal mentality. The rest
were of doubtful intelligence. The clan included twenty-four
confirmed alcoholics, three epileptics, three criminals, thirty-five
sexually immoral persons -- mostly prostitutes -- and eight brothel
Although the statistical methods
of analysis are important in this context, undoubtedly the most
dependable method of sorting out the influences of heredity as
opposed to culture in the formation of personality, is by the
use of identical-twin studies. Here is a situation in which we
know for certain that the heredity of two individuals is exactly
the same. If two such individuals are subsequently separated
and brought up in different environments and it is found that
they nevertheless develop into very similar personalities, then
we have every reason to believe that heredity is strongly involved.
Quite a few such studies have been undertaken, and the results
seem to be highly significant. It is found that the twins tend
to have similar likes and similar dislikes and, in a few cases,
similar criminal tendencies. This parallelism of experience is
found to apply also to disease. Recently two such women separated
by 3,000 miles, contracted a chronic infectious disease affecting
the eyes and face within a few months of one another. This is
not the first time such things have been reported. (16) Curt Stern, speaking of
criminal tendencies, made the following observation: (17)
Twin studies carried out by
different investigators, in the United States, in different parts
of Germany, and Holland, when summarized, show a (high degree
of concordance). The high concordance of a criminal record in
pairs of identical twins is obviously not due to a "bad
home background" alone, since concordance in non-identical
twins is much lower - -and non-identical twins also share a common
upon intelligence factors, but others were able to show in connection
with emotional factors that environment played an important
part. This applies particularly to anthropological studies. Carr-Saunders,
speaking of this distinction, wrote: (18)
15. Kallikak Family. On this see S. S. Sargent,
Basic Teachings of the Great Psychologists, Barnes and
Noble, New York, 1955, pp.64ff. See also, Alfred M. Tozzer, "Biography
and Biology," in Personality in Nature, Society and Culture,
edited by C. Kluckhohn, and H. A. Murray, Knopf, New York,
1950, pp.144ff, and p.156 with reference to the family of Jonathan
16. Reported in Science News Letter, July 24, 1954.
17. Stern, Curt, Principles of Human Genetics, Freeman,
San Francisco, 1950, p.490.
18. Carr-Saunders, A.M., "Human Evolution and the Control
of its Future," in Evolution, edited by Sir G.
de Beer, Oxford, 1938, p.120.
The study of
identical twins leads to the conclusion that intelligence is
little influenced by the environment whereas temperament is more
affected. This method has yielded remarkable results in the hands
of Lange, who studied several cases in which a criminal was one
of a pair of twins. There were 16 pairs of non-identical twins:
in 15 of these cases, only 1 of the pair was a criminal. There
were 13 cases of identical twins: in 10 of these cases both members
of the pair were criminal. It is impossible to escape the conclusion
that a particular genetic endowment has much to do with this
particular form of anti-social behaviour. . . .
Obstinacy, impulsiveness, vanity,
self-assertion, and their contraries are largely determined genetically.
Environment may decide how far an obstinate person obstinately
pursues good or bad ends. . . .
The general impression left by such studies
as have been made so far may be summed up in Haldane's prophecy
that "the progress of biology in the next century will lead
to the recognition of the innate inequality of man."
should give us reason to be cautious in our judgments of those
around us, whether they are Christian or non-Christian. The complications
which such facts introduce into the Christian view of man as
a sinner, should not tempt us to take the easy way out by simply
ignoring these hereditary or cultural pre-determinants. We should
not require of all persons standard forms of conduct.
The Part Played by Nurture: Cultural
For example, some individuals are
naturally short-tempered. This is found to be true of the Aymara
of Peru who live at an exceedingly high altitude. However, this
is no indication that they are more wicked. It seems to be traceable
to a lack of oxygen, since air crews have experienced the same
lack of patience with one another at high altitudes when not
properly supplied with oxygen by artificial means. There are
other deficiencies which can profoundly modify personality. Notable
among these would be deficiencies such as are associated with
the thyroid and pituitary glands. Moreover, the extraordinary
effects of tranquilizing drugs serve to indicate how closely
related behaviour may be to purely chemical disturbances. Such
drugs act upon a body which basically has its particular chemical
constitution by heredity and not by choice. In this respect,
the problem logically comes under the heading of the hereditary
factors in personality development.
In spite of
what has been said above, it is well to preserve a balance by
observing the extent to which cultural environment can modify
personality in most unusual ways. Probably the simplest way to
cover this aspect of the problem is to refer to the work of Cora
DuBois and Margaret Mead. DuBois has given us an intimate picture
of the daily
life of the Alorese in
the South Pacific. (19)
Her conclusions are accepted by all who have any knowledge of
these people. It is necessary to say this because the picture
she paints is so extraordinary that one would wonder how such
a society could continue to function. Probably the key word is
frustration. Infants are frustrated at every turn almost from
the day they are born, and this engenders a frustrated personality
type which is carried into adult life and continues to express
itself in the deliberate frustration of the next generation.
So it is perpetuated. The modal personality is such that to the
Westerner the Alorese seem in general to be the most objectionable
people imaginable. Even the one redeeming feature of mother love
appears to be missing. But once again one must ask, Are these
people really more wicked because their personality is more objectionable
to our way of thinking?
The most unusual transpositions
of personality, however, are those brought to light by Margaret
Mead. In the same part of the world she found three primitive
cultures -- the Arapesh, Mundugumor, and Tchambuli -- in which
sex and temperament were, according to our view, strangely transposed.
(20) The Arapesh,
for example, do not show any strictly masculine types. Here everyone
develops a personality which we would think of as fundamentally
feminine. By our standards the men are all "sissies."
By their standards the men are completely normal, taking the
same delight in things as their womenfolk, but in our judgment
having no "proper" masculine tastes whatever. The Mundugumor,
on the other hand, are all masculine in personality type. There
is no femininity whatever in this culture. Gentleness is not
characteristic of the women folk in any way and is entirely absent
even in their handling of children. In the relations between
sexes and in all that is associated with feminine daintiness
in our culture, which we assume is predetermined by sex, there
is nothing but brusqueness and overt manliness. Such a culture
is completely the opposite of the Arapesh, and both cultures
have apparently obliterated what we have considered to be fundamentally
and physiologically predetermined characteristics of personality
But even more amazing is the behaviour
of the Tchambuli. Here the temperaments of the two sexes are
completely reversed. All "the bad men" are women. It
is the men who, to use analogous terms, blush when spoken to,
faint at the sight of a mouse, coo to the children and fuss and
gossip like women. But before we criticize, let us hasten to
add that these descriptive terms are not to be taken too seriously,
19. DuBois, Cora, The People of Alore,
University of Minnesota, 1944.
20. Mead, Margaret, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive
Societies, Mentor, New York, 1952.
these things completely
characterize the women folk of our own society. They merely serve
to make clear the fact that among the Tchambuli the characteristic
behaviour of men is what we would classify as typically feminine
and of the women as typically masculine in our society.
Summary of Determinants
In summary, therefore, it appears
that a culture for some reason may structure itself in such a
way that what we have hitherto considered as natural expressions
of physiological differences between the sexes may be completely
over-ridden or even reversed.
We see, then,
that in the formation of the personality there are a number of
determinants which lead to the development of character and often
structure that character so that it appears to us highly undesirable.
We may be led to make moral judgments where it is possible they
should not be applied. These determinants are cultural (the Arapesh,
etc.), geographic (the Aymara, for example), and hereditary (as
indicated in twin studies). At an even deeper level there may
be racial characters which are partly hereditary and partly cultural,
which structure the personality of the individual in spite of
We should also mention the work
of W. H. Sheldon (21)
who, after examining an extraordinary number of individuals (some
50,000) with respect to their physique, found a significant correlation
between physique and temperament. These correlations between
body types and temperament may be summarized as follows: the
soft, fleshy, individual who is affectionate, sociable, and fond
of food, 0.77; the muscular bony type with vigorous self-assertiveness,
0.82; and the lean fragile type of physique who has excessive
restraint, inhibition, and shrinking from social contact 0.83.
(22) Though many
authorities question the validity of his work, it is difficult
to avoid the conclusion, which is supported to some extent by
common observation, that people who look a certain way tend to
act a certain way. This reminds us of the words attributed by
Shakespeare to Julius Caesar when referring to one of his generals:
"Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; such men are dangerous."
It should be remembered that there is a corollary of all this:
namely, that a particularly desirable character may also result
quite by chance from the interplay of heredity and culture. Such
21. Sheldon, W. H., The Varieties of Human Physique, and
The Varieties of Human Temperament, Harper, New York,
22. Stagner, R., Psychology of Personality, McGraw-Hill,
New York, 1948, p.248.
a character is still
Adamic, and the Christian view of man is that the old nature
(whether bad or good) still requires redemption.
definition of personality given by A. L. Kroeber, "a big
psychological frame variably filled with cultural content,"
(23) sums up the
situation as far as we have gone. We began by saying we would
deal with the part played by heredity and the part played by
culture. One may well ask, What about the part played by the
man himself? Since this Paper is primarily concerned with Christian
experience, the part played by the man himself prior to conversion
does not greatly concern us, because we in no wise have to
judge it. This problem is covered in another paper. (24) The individual's responsibility after conversion
is considered in detail later.
23. Kroeber, A. L., quoted by C. Kluckhohn,
"Universal Categories of Culture," in Anthropology
Today, University of Chicago, 1953, p.516.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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24. Part IV, "Foreordination: God's Onnnipotence in the
Affairs of Men," in Time and Eternity, vol. 6 in
The Doorway Papers Series.