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Have you ever wondered why you look different from your parents, friends, or your friendly next-door neighbor? Except in cases of identical twins or a celebrity doppelganger, we all have this uniqueness in how we look and our characteristics and habits. What can be attributed to this uniqueness? Answering this involves digging up the age-old debate of genetics versus environment, more popularly, Nature versus Nurture. 

Nature - The Genetics Part

Nature, referring to genetics, is the unique combination of genes you inherit from your biological parents. Your genes influence certain characteristics like blood group, eye color, natural hair color, etc. 

Even certain health conditions are caused by a change in your genes. For example, cystic fibrosis is a condition caused by mutations in the CFTR gene. 

The influence of genetics can be visibly seen across other species as well. For instance, the color of fruits and flowers of a plant is determined by its genetic makeup. 

Nurture - The Environment Part

‘Nurture’ here refers to the environment. The environmental factors also blanket the lifestyle and other habits of an individual.  For example, a person’s weight can be influenced by factors like diet and physical activities. The environment also influences the risk for certain health conditions like coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes

In plants, the amount of sunlight and water exposure can determine the height of the plants as well as the number of fruits/flowers produced. Can we really tease apart nature and nurture for human traits and characteristics?

What Research Says

Research on identical twins has been used to separately study the effects of genes and environment on specific characteristics. Identical twins are known to have the same DNA and are thus, ‘genetically’ identical. Therefore, theoretically, they must have identical characteristics.

But mostly, this is not the case. Identical twins may grow up to be two very different people with varied personalities and preferences. Since they have identical genetic makeup, these differences can only be attributed to environmental factors.

nature vs nurture in twins

A study on smoker-non-smoker twins revealed that skin aging was way more accelerated in smoker twins than the non-smoker twin.

nature vs. nuture among smokers

Thus, the uniqueness of organisms is not because of genetics or the environment acting alone. There is no winner in the Nature vs. Nurture debate. Human traits are influenced by both Nature and Nurture.

Getting Your Genetic Report

You can learn about the genes that influence various attributes, from your nutrition and fitness profile to cancer risk, through a simple genetic test.  Most genetic tests provide your DNA information in the form of a text file known as the raw DNA data. This data may seem like Greek and Latin to you. We, at Xcode Life, can help you interpret this data. All you have to do is upload your raw data and order any of the thirteen genetic reports we offer. Xcode Life then analyzes your raw data in detail to provide you with a comprehensive genetic analysis.

Video

Xcode Life’s Traits & Personality report profiles genes associated with various personality traits. This report mainly revolves around behavioral genetics, which is a field that analyzes how genes and environments bring about differences in mood, personality, and intelligence. 

Is personality genetic?

Some people are predisposed to being open and outgoing, while others may be more shy and reserved. While some may be big risk-takers, a few others may prefer playing it safe. This is because we are predisposed to a certain way of interacting with people around us. 

Some interesting facts about genes and personality traits:

Genetics accounts for 34 to 47% variance in empathy 

Heritability of leadership role occupancy is about 24%

Up to 42 percent of the tendency to be an entrepreneur is genetic

20% of the variation in educational attainment is genetic

67% of anger trait variation is associated with genetic variability

33% variation in life satisfaction is explained by genetic variations

Is personality genetic?

Traits and Personality Report

The report covers over 25 personality traits associated with employment, education, emotion, relationship, and mood. Along with your outcome, the details of the genes analyzed for each trait are also provided. The report comes with personalized recommendations based on your results. These recommendations include tips to enhance or improve your personality.

Please bear in mind that human traits are a result of complex interactions between multiple genes and environmental factors. The findings presented in this report are of a preliminary nature and are not meant for diagnostic purposes. 

Xcode Life Personality sample report

What are the traits covered in this report?

The report analyzes 25+ personality-related parameters, including empathy, leadership potential, exploratory behavior, creativity, optimism, memory, reaction time, and deep sleep. For a comprehensive list of the traits covered, click here. 

For a sample Trait and Personality report/ preview of the report, click here.

Video: Sample Report Walkthrough

Conscientiousness: An Introduction

Conscientiousness is one’s ability to follow socially prescribed norms, be goal-directed, plan, and delay gratification. It is included in the Big Five Taxonomy of personality traits and makes one diligent and careful.

Characteristics of Conscientious Individuals

Conscientious individuals tend to be:
- Very organized
- Self-disciplined
- Reliable
- Workaholics
- Sticklers for their routines
- Critical thinkers
- Problem solvers

Importance of Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness affects one’s behavior and compels them to do well in their life, career, and workplace.

Research has found that good health has been associated with conscientiousness. This is because people who are conscientious are less likely to indulge in unhealthy habits like drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Also, their self-discipline and avoidance of stressful situations drive them to lead healthy lives.

Conscientiousness can shape an individual’s career choices, the relationships they make, friendships, marriage stability, and other aspects that influence their life, health, and longevity. A study reported by Patrick L. Hill and his colleagues from the University of Illinois suggests that having high conscientiousness has cognitive benefits, which is also related to longevity.

How Does Conscientiousness Influence Other Characteristics?

Conscientiousness is one of the many characteristics that shape an individual’s behavior and personality. It is associated with five sub-traits, namely:
- Self-efficacy
- Orderliness
- Dutifulness
- Self-discipline
- Cautiousness
- Dependability
- Thoroughness

Genetics and Conscientiousness

Most, if not all of our traits, are influenced by genes.

Studies have shown that conscientiousness has a heritability of about 50 percent.

The genes that are associated with conscientiousness include SMOC1, LAMB1, DYRK1A, and COL19A1.

The SMOC1 Gene

The SMOC1 gene contains instruction for the production of secreted modular calcium-binding protein 1. This gene is located on chromosome 14. The SMOC-1 protein binds to other proteins and regulates the growth and development of tissues throughout the body.

rs11626232
rs11626232 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the SMOC1 gene. It has been associated with conscientiousness levels. The C allele of rs11626232 has been linked to lower levels of conscientiousness.

Non-genetic Factors that Influence Conscientiousness

The Big 5 personality traits work together, giving each one of us a complex personality. Each of these traits influences the other. Also, a person’s personality is not constant but keeps changing as they go from childhood into teenage and adulthood.

Some factors that influence a person’s personality and, thereby, individual traits like conscientiousness are:
- Age
- Education
- Life experiences at different stages

Recommendations for Improving Conscientiousness

Conscious effort and practice can help you increase your conscientiousness. The Harvard Medical School recommends the following to improve your conscientiousness:
Focus on specifics: Set your mind on being punctual, or start with organizing your desk. You might see a difference. A start to be more conscientious will help you to achieve more.
Make daily plans and stick to them: Create a to-do list every day and try to complete it at the end of the day. This will encourage you to be more organized.
Use reminders: If you are naturally not a conscientious person, you will not be able to do any work as planned. Hence, it is recommended to set reminders in any of your gadgets.
Stay social: Staying in touch with your family and friends will motivate you to be conscientious.

Here are some additional tips:
- Eliminate distractions while performing a task.
- Reward yourself for showing conscientiousness, and it will act as positive reinforcement.
- Listen to others more as that can help you understand people and develop emotional intelligence.

Summary

  1. Conscientiousness is said to be a part of the Big Five Taxonomy of personality traits.
  2. An individual with high conscientiousness shows a great deal of self-discipline, planning and is goal-oriented.
  3. Being conscientious has been associated with a healthy, longer life as these individuals tend to steer clear of stressful situations, have a regular workout schedule, and practice a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Two main genes that have been shown to play a role in an individual having this quality are SMOC1 and LAMB1.
  5. People with a high level of conscientiousness also show other characteristics such as commitment, high emotional intelligence, thoroughness, and excellent organizational skills.
  6. An individual can also improve his conscientiousness using simple techniques performed consistently.

References

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/raising-your-conscientiousness
https://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=SMOC1
https://www.nature.com/articles/4001896

Impulsivity: An Introduction

Impulsivity is a personality trait commonly observed in both children and adults. Impulsivity is the tendency to act without any prior thinking, without worrying about the consequences or reactions to one’s action. Impulsivity has been associated with risky behavior.

Interestingly, people see impulsivity positively when the action or decision works in favor and negatively when it doesn’t.

According to a popular 1995 clinical psychological study, three major factors contribute to impulsivity:

  1. Acting instantaneously (spur of moment actions)
  2. Inattentiveness (not able to focus on the task)
  3. Not planning and thinking in advance

In children, the initial stages of impulsivity are considered quite common. The developing brains of children prevent them from thinking about consequences. Consistently levels of high impulsivity in adults and children may, however, be associated with mental health disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and substance abuse.

Benefits of Impulsiveness

Genetics And Its Effects On Impulsiveness

The HTR2A Gene

The HTR2A gene helps produce the 5-HT2A receptor (5-hydroxytryptamine receptor 2A). This receptor is found in various parts of the body, including the brain, stem cells, immune cells, and the heart.

This activated receptor causes psychotic health problems like depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.

rs6313 and rs6311
rs6313 and rs6311 are single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs in this gene. The T allele of this rs6313 the A allele of rs6311 are associated with lowered levels of impulsivity.

Non-Genetic Influences Affecting Levels Of Impulsivity

Gender

According to certain studies, men show higher levels of impulsivity than women. Men tend to enjoy the various traits of impulsivity like risk-taking, sensation seeking, and aggression more than women and are hence more impulsive.

Age

A psychosocial experimental study analyzed the levels of impulsivity and sensation seeking in people of different age groups. The study concluded that impulsivity starts reducing from the age of 10.

Children and early teenagers show the highest levels of impulsivity. After 16, adolescents are able to control their impulsivity much better.

Exposure to Violence During Early Childhood

When children and teenagers are regularly exposed to violence as they grow up, their ability to self-regulate and control impulsivity reduces.

Injury to the Brain

The frontal lobes of the brain control impulsive behavior. When there is an injury to the brain that affects the frontal lobes, it can lead to changes in impulsive behavior.

Recommendations To Manage Impulsivity

Practice delayed gratification
Delayed gratification is resisting the temptation of getting something right away because of the promise of a bigger reward in the future. People with high levels of impulsivity suffer from the need for instant gratification (the need to get something or do something right away).

When you start enjoying the results of delayed gratification, the dire need to get something done instantly comes down. A 2002 study offered a group of students two kinds of incentives - a small incentive available right then and a bigger incentive available after a week.

Students who followed delayed gratification waited a week to pick the bigger incentive. The students who were unable to wait for the bigger award and were impulsive were found to be more associated with substance abuse problems

Brain Training Exercises
Brain Training programs are usually designed to improve specific functionalities of the brain. You can use a mix of tools, exercises, and programs to improve impulse control, too. These are methods to help bring positive changes to a person’s behavioral traits without medicines.

**Cognitive Behavioral Training (CBT) Techniques
Another proven technique to help better impulse control is CBT. CBT techniques help people understand their triggers when it comes to impulsivity and provide alternative ways to handle urges and temptations. A trained CBT expert should be handling these interventions.

Medications
If impulsivity is a sign of mental health conditions like ADHD, substance abuse, Impulse-Control Disorder (ICD), or eating disorder, then medications that treat these conditions can help improve impulse control too.

Summary

  1. Impulsivity is a behavioral trait where the person acts on an impulse without prior thinking. Impulsivity is associated with risk-taking behavior and control disorders.
  2. In both children and adults, high levels of impulsivity can be associated with mental health conditions like ADHD, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder.
  3. Impulsivity affects other common behavioral traits like sensation seeking, Non-Suicidal Self-injury, and psychoticism.
  4. Changes in the HTR2A gene can increase or decrease a person’s level of impulsivity. This gene produces a receptor found in various parts of the body, including the brain, stem cells, immune cells, and the heart.
  5. Men are considered more impulsive than women. Impulsivity is the highest in children under the age of 10 and slowly decreases as the child grows.
  6. Exposure to violence in childhood is also a factor that can increase traits of impulsivity in adults like sensation-seeking and risk-taking behavior.
  7. Brain injuries can alter the behavior of the individual and increase or decrease impulsive behavior.
  8. Practicing delayed gratification and considering brain exercises and Cognitive Behavioral Training can all help build impulse control.
  9. If impulsivity is a result of conditions like ADHD or substance abuse, medications can help keep the symptoms controlled.

References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23894251/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impulsivity#Marshmallow_test
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12095190/
https://www.habitsofmindinstitute.org/resources/quotes/hom-quotes/2-managing-impulsivity/

Impulsive behaviour


https://www.resourcetreatmentcenter.com/behavioral/impulse-control/symptoms-effects/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4351151/

Openness: An Introduction

Openness is one of the Big Five personality traits. The Big Five Personality Traits, also called the OCEAN or Five-Factor Model (FFM), is one of the popular models suggested for grouping personality traits. The five personality traits in this model include:
- Conscientiousness
- Agreeableness
- Neuroticism
- Openness
- Extraversion/Extroversion

This personality trait is also referred to as openness to new experiences. People with a higher tendency for openness move out of their comfort zone easily.They usually have a broad range of interests and are open to learning about new things and experimenting. People with this trait are more curious and seek new experiences like going on challenging trips or embracing different cultures. They experiment with new activities that promote both personal and professional growth.

Characteristics of people who are highly likely to be open include:
- High creativity
- Adventurousness
- Openness to trying new things
- Ability to take on new challenges
- Abstract thinking
- Good imagination
- Diverse interests
- Innovative thinking

Characteristics of people who are less likely to be open include:
- Avoiding change
- Traditional thinking
- Less imagination
- Uncomfortable with trying new things
- Preference for familiar experiences
- Narrow range of interests

A study published in the PLOS One journal reports that participants’ openness to experience influences their career growth. Participants who scored higher in this trait were more likely to move up into managerial and professional positions.

Another study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour showed that people with high openness to experience tend to look for change and novelty and are more prone to job-hopping and greater job instability. These individuals are likely to take up jobs with higher job status or leadership positions.

Openness influences various characteristics including
- Creativity
- Interest to learn more and gain knowledge
- Social and political attitude
- Relationships.

Genetics and Openness

The heritability of personality traits has been studied and established. Findings show that there is a significant heritability estimate for openness to experience. People of certain genetic types have a higher likelihood of being open to new experiences and may exhibit characteristics such as active imagination, tendency to prefer variety, curiosity on an intellectual level, and aesthetic sensitivity, while others may be less open to experiences.

There are several personality tests available to understand your personality better. The personality tests are questionnaires that contain several statements. People need to respond, usually on a scale of 1 to 5, based on how much they agree with the statement given. Understanding your genes can also help you understand your personality better.

The ZNF180 Gene

The ZNF180 gene carries instructions for the production of a protein called Zinc Finger Protein 180. These proteins have various functions and usually interact with nucleic acids. Variations in this gene have been found to influence personality traits.

rs644148
rs644148 is a single nucleotide polymorphism SNP in the ZNF180 gene. Individuals with the G allele of this SNP are more open to new experiences.

The FUNDC1 Gene

The FUNDC1 gene carries instructions for the production of FUN14 Domain Containing 1 protein. The exact function of this protein is not known, but variations in this gene are shown to influence the openness trait of an individual.

rs6610953
rs6610953 is an SNP in the FUNDC1 gene. Individuals carrying the G allele are more open to new experiences.

Non-Genetic Factors That Influence Openness

Both nature, referring to genetics, and nurture, referring to environmental factors, play a role in influencing personality traits. Certain non-genetic factors that influence openness include:

Age
Studies show that as people age, they tend to become less open to new experiences.

Location
People who live on the coast are found to be more open than those living in the middle of the country.

Environmental factors
Shared environmental factors are used to differentiate the general environment between different families. Gross paternal income is one such factor. Non-shared environmental factors are used to indicate differences in the same household. Differential treatment for siblings is one such example. A study reported that both these factors could influence the variations in openness among individuals.

Recommendations To Become More Open To New Experiences

Personality traits, in general, are very complex. There are no good or bad traits. Each trait has its unique strengths. Each trait is a factor that shapes your life and your personality as you go ahead. Being on a daily schedule has its advantages, but a little variety out of your comfort zone is also good and can give you a much-needed break from your schedule.

If you feel you need to improve yourself with respect to a certain personality trait because it is affecting your daily activities and relationships, there are ways to do that.
Encouragement - Challenging oneself to try out new experiences can help improve openness to experience. Parents can encourage children to try out new things and think broadly.
Cognitive training - Research shows that cognitive training can increase openness to new experiences. Cognitive training involves a program of regular activities that can maintain or improve one’s cognitive ability.

Summary

  1. Openness is one of the Big Five personality traits. People with a higher tendency for openness are more curious and move out of their comfort zone easily. They usually have a broad range of interests, are open to learning about new things, and experimenting.
  2. People who are less open to new experiences usually avoid change, prefer familiar experiences, and have a narrow range of interests.
  3. People with certain genetic types have a higher likelihood of being open to new experiences. Individuals with the G allele of SNP rs644148 found in the ZNF180 gene and SNP rs6610953 found in the FUNDC1 gene are more open to new experiences.
  4. Age, location, and environmental factors are certain non-genetic factors that influence this personality trait.
  5. There is no good or bad personality trait. You can try to improve if you feel like it is affecting your relationships and day-to-day activities. Encouragement to try out new things and cognitive training and help increase openness.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482250/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874623/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openness
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openness_to_experience
https://www.healthline.com/health/big-five-personality-traits#agreeableness

About Xcode Life's Traits and Personality Report

Reading Ability: An Introduction

Reading ability refers to the skills required to understand written text. This skill is usually developed during early schooling. Reading is not as easy as we might think it to be. Reading is a complex process that requires many skills. People develop their reading ability over a few years. As you develop these skills over time, it helps you achieve the ultimate goal of reading which is reading comprehension or understanding what is written.

Reading ability includes five main skills. These are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Comprehending or understanding what you’re reading is vital. Without comprehension, reading is usually pointless. Reading comprehension helps students develop relevant knowledge, skills, and experiences to become competent readers and use these skills later on.

What Does Research Say About Reading Ability?

Research on good reading skills shows that good readers are usually selective as they read. They tend to create a mental overview or outline of their reading goals before they start reading and note the structure and organization of the text. While reading, they understand words easily, can understand the flow of the text, and connect two sentences. They are more likely to focus on parts of the text that they feel are aligned with their reading goals. Some people are good at skimming through text also and infer what they need.

Reading can be challenging for some people due to lots of reasons. Some children struggle with reading initially. This can be rectified and improved over time using certain ways.

Importance of Reading Ability

Reading skills are always an asset because reading and understanding are a vital part of our everyday lives.
Reading ability is critical to the development of a child and is needed for better learning and education.
Reading is vital for overall attainment in school and a key to success in school and future life.
Engaging children in reading from an early age helps ensure that children are equipped with the skills necessary to understand the text and improve their reading ability.

Genetics and Reading Ability

People with certain genetic types are more likely to have a better reading ability and may exhibit characteristics such as rapid reading skills, fluency, and better recall of text.

Non-Genetic Factors That Influence Reading Ability

Several factors that influence reading ability include:
1. Vocabulary - Vocabulary skills also matter when you come across new words. Having good vocabulary skills helps you understand the text better, faster and improve comprehension skills.
2. Fluency - The ability to read fluently helps you read the text faster and spend less time understanding the meaning of words and sentences.
3. Active reading - People who read often develop their reading skills and tend to get better at reading, comprehension, and writing. Active reading also involves understanding and critically engaging with the content you’re reading. This saves time and helps you understand better.
4. Education - The quality of teaching also influences the reading ability of an individual. The quality and kind of teaching at the school level can affect a person’s reading ability.

Recommendations

There are several ways by which you can improve your reading skills and get better at reading comprehension. These include
- Start reading actively. Reading often and reading with determination helps you save time, understand the text better and relate the text with your reading goals.
- Set specific reading goals. This will help you improve your reading efficiency and identify what information is important for you. You can set goals based on how much you want to read, or what kind of content you want to read.
- You can improve your reading speed to read more within a given time frame. Concentrate on your reading and time your reading speed. You can also skim whenever needed. The main goal is to increase the number of words you read within a given time frame and single fixture of your eyes on the text.
- During the initial stages of reading, reading aloud helps you learn the language, improve fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.
- Read a variety of content* that aligns with your interests.

Summary

  1. Reading ability is the set of skills required to understand written text and is usually developed during early schooling. The set of skills include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
  2. Reading and understanding are critical to the development of a child and a vital part of our lives. It is an important part of educational and overall attainment and is needed for a child’s success in school and future life.
  3. Good readers are selective as they read, tend to create a mental overview of their reading goals, and note the structure, flow, and organization of the text.
  4. Active reading, vocabulary, fluency, education, and background knowledge are some of the non-genetic factors that influence reading ability.
  5. Engaging children in reading from an early age can help improve their reading ability. Reading actively, setting specific reading goals, improving reading speed, reading aloud initially, and reading a variety of content can help you get better at reading.

References

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042813001146
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225838366_Metacognitively_competent_reading_comprehension_is_constructively_responsive_reading_How_can_such_reading_be_developed_in_students
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/002205741619600302
https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/landing.jhtml?src=pn

Empathy As A Personality Trait

Empathy is the ability of a person to relate to and share the emotions of others. It is the mental ability to imagine what the other person experiences or feels. Empathy has become one of the most commonly researched topics in the fields of psychology.

Empathy is one of humanity’s most valuable assets. Empathy is a behavior that develops very early on.

Children as young as 12 months start understanding when people are in pain or suffering and try to comfort or help them.

Types of Empathy

Affective (emotional) Empathy

People experience emotions corresponding to someone’s mental state or situation. People with affective empathy share the emotional experience of others like it is their own. You might feel anxious thinking of another person’s state or experience fear just imagining what someone had to undergo.

Cognitive Empathy

People can identify what other people are feeling and can get their perspective. They can put themselves in their shoes easily and understand them better. Cognitive empathy usually does not make the person feel the emotions like their own but helps them react to the emotions the right way

Somatic Empathy

[This is a very interesting form of empathy where you get a physical reaction to what another person is feeling]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810456/). Such reactions are a result of the activation of the mirror neurons. When mirror neurons are activated, the body reacts the same way it sees someone else acting. Humans and other species like birds and animals have mirror neurons. (

When you find yourself blushing when watching a romantic movie, your body is going through somatic empathy.

Importance of empathy

Empathy is strongly associated with altruism. Altruism is the act of doing something that benefits other human beings or species without any selfish motives behind the act. Altruistic behaviors help larger groups like families, communities, and villages live together in mutual harmony.

According to the popular article ‘Putting the Altruism Back into Altruism: The Evolution of Empathy,’ humans are often unable to control how empathetic they feel. This is why they try and prevent situations where they might have to show empathy. People close their eyes when a sad or gruesome scene is played in a movie. This is their way of having control over the situation.

Genetic Influences On Empathy

The OXTR gene

The OXTR gene (Oxytocin Receptor gene) is associated with empathy and love. Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes love and social bonding in humans. The oxytocin receptor is controlled by the OXTR gene and can increase or decrease a person’s ability to feel empathetic.

rs53576
A particular change in this OXTR gene, rs53576, affects how people trust and empathize with others around them. The A allele of this single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP is associated with lesser trust and empathy, while the G allele is associated with more trust and better feelings of empathy .

Another SNP rs2254298 of the OXTR gene is also associated with changes in empathy levels. People with the AG genotype of this SNP showed the highest levels of empathy, while those with the GG genotype were least empathetic. People with the AA genotype showed moderate levels of empathy.

The BDNF gene

The BDNF_ gene (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene) helps produce the BDNF protein. This protein is associated with long-term memory and the ability to learn. For a very long time, the role of the BDNF gene was not associated with empathy. However, the latest studies found a direct link between changes in this gene and the ability to empathize.

rs6265
rs6265 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the BDNF gene. The A allele of this SNP is associated with lowered levels of empathy when compared to the G allele.

Non-Genetic Influences That Affect Empathy

Gender

Women have always been stereotyped as being more empathetic and nurturing than men. A lot of studies confirm this too. Women score higher than men when it comes to Emotional Quotient (EQ) and are able to feel and show out empathy better too.

Age

According to some studies, people’s ability to be empathetic reduces as they age. This is a major problem affecting adult relationships. As people grow older, the brain area that controls behaviors like empathy experiences reduced activity. This could be the reason why some older adults have lowered cognitive empathy.

Parenting Styles

A study involving 494 Chinese children tried to identify if parenting styles affect a child’s ability to empathize. The study concluded that children whose parents showed emotional warmth found it easier to show empathy and altruism when compared to children who experienced parental rejection.

Other Personality Traits

Other personality traits of a person like openness, optimism, and agreeableness can all increase or decrease the person’s ability to show empathy. A 2017 study reported that the presence or absence of the big five personality traits - openness, conscientiousness (doing one’s work consciously and thoroughly), extraversion (enjoying social interactions), agreeableness, and neuroticism (being anxious and in a negative state of mind) could affect empathy. Agreeableness, especially, is positively associated with showing empathy.

Characteristics of People with High and Low Empathy

People who are highly empathetic are called empaths, and here are few common characteristics empaths have:
- Easily overwhelmed
- Emotionally sensitive
- Socially approachable
- Active listeners
- Highly intuitive
- Can easily build relationships
- Can initiate a mass social change

On the other hand, people who score low on empathy may express traits like:Not being able to guess people’s feelings
- Acting insensitively
- Finding it difficult to maintain relationships
- Monopolizing conversations
- Critical, judgemental, and sarcastic

Recommendations to improve empathetic behavior

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is the act of listening completely and with all the senses. While actively listening, the person fully concentrates, absorbs, and remembers the communication. Active listening paves the way for empathetic listening and builds trust

Practice Agreeableness

Agreeableness is one of the big five personality traits that make a person optimistic, warm, cooperative, and kind. Agreeableness is one of the biggest behaviors that encourage a person to be empathetic too.

Improve Emotional Intelligence (EI)

EI is the ability of a person to understand one’s own emotions and the emotions of others around. It allows people to explore the thoughts and feelings of others around them and, as a result, build better relationships.

According to a 2006 article on empathy and EI, people who scored high in their EI turned out to be more empathetic (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47374425EmpathyandEmotionalintelligenceWhatisitreally_about) and, as a result, are socially approachable. Such individuals are good in professions like teaching, community outreach, and sales and administration.

Practice Gazing the Eye

Eye-gazing is the practice of looking deep into the eyes of a person for an extended period of time. Psychologists use this to read deep into the thoughts of their patients. You can increase your empathetic quotient by practicing eye-gazing.

A 2014 study made 59 healthy adults watch a sad and emotional video. The study concluded that people who gazed closely at the eyes of the actor showed more empathetic traits when compared to those who did not.

Summary

  1. Empathy is the ability of a person to relate to and share the emotions of others. This is one of the most important assets for humanity.
  2. All species of living beings show some form of empathy, and children as young as 12 months understand the emotions of others around them and respond appropriately.
  3. There are three types of empathy based on how you respond – affective (emotional), cognitive, and somatic.
  4. Empathy helps build altruism, which is important for people to live together as a family and as a community together.
  5. Certain changes in the OXTR gene decrease the production of the oxytocin hormone and can decrease a person’s ability to empathize and trust.
  6. Women are able to empathize more than men, and as people grow older, their ability to empathize slightly decreases.
  7. Parenting styles experienced by a child determine empathy levels in adulthood. Other personality traits also affect empathy levels.
  8. Practicing active listening, practicing agreeability, and improving Emotional Intelligence can all help make a person more empathetic.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513638/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30180510/
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00023/full
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy#cite_ref-38
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5248406/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844020308653
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29620401/

What is Perception?

Perception is a sensory experience that includes all the five senses; touch, smell, sound, sight, and taste. Through perception, we sense or detect stimuli around us, and then the brain processes this into meaningful experiences and makes us act accordingly.

How you recognize the face of a friend, a familiar scent is through perception. Perception includes the ability to detect changes around you and recognizing these changes and any familiarities. It allows us to experience and interpret the world around us.

What is Perceptual Speed?

Perceptual speed is a cognitive ability. It can be defined as the speed at which a person compares, scans figures or symbols, and performs simple tasks involving visual perception. It is a skill that involves rapid identification of matching items, a person’s ability to compare visual patterns or identify a visual pattern amongst a mix of different patterns. It is an automatic mental process that differs from person to person. This influences other functions, such as working memory.

Perceptual speed is also defined as the ability to compare letters, objects, or patterns quickly. This ability also includes recalling a previously seen object to compare it with the presently showcased one.

Importance of Perceptual Speed

Genetics and Perceptual Speed

Genetics has an influence on how fast or slow you perceive things and your perceptive ability. Genes that play a role in dopamine functioning influence perceptual speed also. Dopamine, popularly known as the happy hormone, plays several important roles in the brain. Changes in this hormone's receptor can influence perceptual speed and ability. They may exhibit characteristics such as being quick at recognizing patterns, spotting intricate differences, ability to focus well, and rapidly process information.

The DRD4 Gene

The DRD4 gene carries instructions for the production of a protein called Dopamine Receptor D4. The DRD4 protein is a subtype of the dopamine receptor. Dopamine receptors are necessary for neurological signaling to allow dopamine to perform its function. Changes in this gene are found to influence various behavioral traits.

rs3758653
rs3758653 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the DRD4 gene. According to a study, people with the T allele demonstrated better processing speed than C allele carriers.

Non-Genetic Factors That Influence Perceptual Speed

Perceptual Disorders
Certain disorders classified as perceptual disorders are cognitive conditions that interfere with your perception ability.
- Spatial neglect syndromes are most often caused due to a stroke or brain injury. They affect how you respond and attend to stimuli on one side of the body.
- Prosopagnosia is a disorder that creates problems with recognizing faces.
- Aphantasia results in an inability to visualize things in the mind.
- Schizophrenia is characterized by abnormal perceptions of reality.

Other personality traits, past experiences, motivation, social influences, and the environment around can affect how you perceive things and the speed at which you do.

Recommendations To Improve Your Perceptual Speed

There are certain ways by which you can improve your ability to perceive things and understand them at a faster rate.
- Try to be very attentive. Being attentive to the world around you can help you perceive it more clearly. Attention to detail is also a good skill to cultivate.
- Understanding what you perceive is important. Just the visual image without meaning won’t be very helpful, and you won’t remember it for long. Try to make sense of the world around you so you can react accordingly.
- After understanding the world around you, you need to take action. This is the final step of the perceptual process. This will help you focus on things that are important to you and understand them better.
- With practice, your speed at any skill improves.
- There are several brain exercises and activities available that can help you train your brain and make you better at these pattern recognition activities.
- Being organized and planning can make you more efficient at what you’re doing.

Summary

  1. Perception is a sensory experience that includes all the five senses; touch, smell, sound, sight, and taste. Perception includes the ability to detect and recognize changes around you.
  2. Dopamine is a hormone that plays several important roles in the brain. Genes that play a role in dopamine functioning influence perceptual speed also.
  3. Personality traits, past experiences, motivation, social influences, the environment around you, and certain disorders influence your perception ability.
  4. Paying more attention to the environment around you, understanding what you perceive, taking action, and practicing can help you improve your perceptual speed.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5630172/
https://www.verywellmind.com/perception-and-the-perceptual-process-2795839
https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3322128
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4471-2099-5_8

Angry Temperament: An Introduction

Anger is a state of mind that makes people feel hostile and aggressive and react negatively about someone or something that has triggered them. Angry temperament is the characteristic behavior of a person that makes the person hostile and aggressive by nature. In other words, it is the tendency toward quick, minimally provoked, or unprovoked anger.

The Three Types of Anger

Aggressive anger - Here, the person who is angry shows signs of aggressive behavior, including bullying, violence, self-harm, vengeance, and threats.

Passive anger - The person who is angry pretends not to care about the situation and shows signs of being unconcerned. Such individuals indulge in self-harm, obsessive behavior, and avoid conflict.

Assertive anger - People who show assertiveness in their anger retort to punishments, scolding, and disapproval when they get angry.

The Difference Between Anger and Aggression

Anger is a negative emotion or state of mind. Anger is a necessary emotion to stay away from threatening situations. Aggression is anger that pushes a person to harm someone or something. In some cases, anger is followed by aggression and leads to unpleasant outcomes.

Is Anger Always A Negative Emotion?

There was a time when having an angry temperament was considered negative and looked down upon. Right now, though, scientists and experts think differently.

Anger is a basic, normal, and natural reaction that is common for all living beings. Scientists have proven that at just 12 months of age, babies can start showing signs of anger.
Anger is, in fact, a needed emotion for survival.

Scientists believe that anger helped our ancestors fight for resources and to win over competitors. In modern humans, anger is channeled in the brain’s reward circuit. People have an expectation of how things should go about.

When this does not happen, the reward circuit sends out an alarm to the part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for controlling emotions. This part of the brain reacts to the alarm and shows out anger. Threat, frustration, disappointments, and hostility can all trigger anger.

The problem arises when a person’s angry temperament gets uncontrollable.

Genetic Influences on Angry Temperament

The FYN Gene

The FYN gene helps produce the Proto-oncogene tyrosine-protein kinase Fyn enzyme. This enzyme is responsible for cell growth, development, and signaling. It is also associated with calcium influx - entry of calcium into the cells. This gene has been studied in association with angry temperament.

rs2148710
rs2148710 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the FYN gene. It is located on chromosome 6 of the human genome. Mick et al. investigated an association between rs2148710 and the trait anger.
The study identified the T allele of this SNP is associated with increased angry temperament and aggressive behavior.

Why Is An Excessive Angry Temperament Problematic?

Anger can prevent a person from taking rational and right decisions. It also severely affects a person’s physical and mental health.

There are studies that prove negative emotions and anger increase a person’s risk for developing Coronary Heart Disease.

A 2006 study followed the lives of 11,615 non-diabetic individuals for six years. According to the study, people who showed high traits of anger temperament had a 34% higher risk for developing type II diabetes.

Another article finds a relationship between anger and bulimic tendencies (behavior that causes overeating and then vomiting or purging to not gain weight). People who show impulsive anger may develop eating disorders like bulimia easily.

This 2019 study asked people to identify the number of times they encountered some kind of road crash risk like accidents, near accidents, receiving traffic tickets, and losing concentration. The study concluded that 36% of these road crash risks happened because of emotional causes (anger, in this case), and 21% of the participants deliberately violated traffic rules because of anger.

High levels of anger and aggression are also associated with self-harm, the need for psychiatric hospitalization, and behavioral problems.

Signs of A High Angry Temperament

People with an angry temperament show certain physical and mental signs.

Physical signs
- Tightness in chest
- Increased heart rate
- Clenching the fists and jaws
- Hot flashes
- Shaking and trembling
- Sweating
- Stomach cramps
- Screaming and crying

Mental signs
- Unable to answer back
- Reacting with sarcasm
- Cravings for something comforting, like a drink or a smoke
- Closing up
- Wanting to physically attack the people around
- Irritation

Recommendations to Manage Angry Temperament

Physical activity

Physical activity is inversely associated with an angry temperament. Studies suggest that regular exercising provides a way to release built-up emotions and rage and can have a positive impact on anger management.

Identifying Anger Triggers and Practice Anger Management

Start identifying how your body and mind react when you get angry and when things go uncontrolled. This will help you identify anger triggers early on and practice one or more of the below angry management techniques:
- Relaxation - imagining relaxation visuals, situations, and phrases to control anger
- Cognitive therapy - identifying alternative ways to handle anger
- Skill development - developing skills that can prevent situations that trigger anger

Changing Your Environment

For some people, their angry temperaments may be a result of the environment they are trapped in. In such cases, finding a change of environment, even for a few minutes in a day, can help.

Summary

  1. Angry temperament is the characteristic behavior of a person that makes the person hostile and aggressive by nature. There are three kinds of anger identified – aggressive, passive, and assertive.
  2. Anger is reacting negatively to a situation, while aggression is the extreme form of anger that encourages a person to harm others around.
  3. An angry temperament is associated with a high risk of developing coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, and eating disorders.
  4. Certain variations in the FYN , IYD_ , and ABAT genes, can increase a person’s aggressiveness and angry temperament.
  5. The elderly show fewer signs of anger than younger individuals, and a person’s past trauma can also increase the risk of developing extreme cases of angry temperament.
  6. Chronic mental health conditions like Intermittent Explosive Disorder also lead to rage and anger.
  7. Regularly exercising, understanding one’s anger triggers, practicing anger management techniques, and changing your environment can all help handle an angry temperament better.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905014/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anger#Characteristics
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/anger-management/art-20045434
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5681963/

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