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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III


Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part IV: The Development of Personality: The Old and the New

Chapter 2

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

     Probably the 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 keepers. (15)
     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 home background.

     Galton concentrated 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 Edwards.
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.

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    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."

     These things 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.
     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.

The Part Played by Nurture: Cultural Environment

     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

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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 development.
     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, as though

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.

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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.
     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.

Summary of Determinants

     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 himself.
     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, 1946.
22. Stagner, R., Psychology of Personality, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1948, p.248.

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a character is still Adamic, and the Christian view of man is that the old nature (whether bad or good) still requires redemption.


     Perhaps the 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.
24. Part IV, "Foreordination: God's Onnnipotence in the Affairs of Men," in Time and Eternity, vol. 6 in The Doorway Papers Series.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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