Different regions of our brains are responsible for different functions in our lives but which one is responsible for determining personality?
Our brains can be divided into three main regions: hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain. One of the regions that makes up the hindbrain section is the brainstem, the oldest part of our brains, responsible for our heartbeats and breathing.
The corpus callosum (technically part of the midbrain) connects the two hemispheres of the brains. The brainstem is the crossover point from the left side of the body to the right hemisphere of the brain and vice versa. The midbrain is responsible for our alertness. The upper part of the brainstem makes up the midbrain.
The forebrain is responsible for higher thinking. This is the upper part of our brains. The forebrain is what sets humans apart from other organisms and makes us the complex beings we are. So, our personalities should be related to the forebrain section of our brains.
Phineas Gage was a railroad worker who was one day using a tamping iron to pack gunpowder into a rock. Suddenly, there was a spark. This ignited the gunpowder and boom, there was now a rod through Gage’s left cheek and out the top of his skull. Gage was able to sit up and speak immediately after the injury and once his wound had healed, he was able to return to work. But all was not well because some of his friends were frustrated about how, after the injury, Gage was now irritable, profane and dishonest. He was, as his friends said, “no longer Gage.” His injury had damaged his prefrontal cortex, the region closest to our foreheads. Phineas Gage helped us figure out that the prefrontal cortex dictated personality.
Personality is defined as a person’s characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling and acting.
There are many theories about why our personalities are the way they are. Early philosophy said that our personalities are based off how much yellow bile (bile is puke and yellow bile is related to grumpiness), black bile (related to melancholiness), phlegm (phlegm is mucus and it is related to calmness), and blood (related to cherriness) we had. Since then, there have been other theories such as the argument that our personalities are dictated from our birth. But, since our brains don’t stop developing until we’re in our mid-20s to early-30s, technically that can’t be the complete truth. This argument that we’re born with the personalities we will have our whole lives places a huge emphasis on the nature part of the nature vs nurture argument in which nature argues that humans are born with their behaviors/personalities and nurture argues that behavior/personality is influenced by environmental factors.
Scientists have long accepted that nature and nurture both influence our behaviors and personalities. One example of nurture that influences our personalities is culture and language. For example, my family is from India, where people are taught from a young age to always respect their elders. In fact, in Hindi (the language my family speaks at home), when you’re talking to someone younger than you, you say, “thuum,” which is the informal “you” and when you’re talking to someone older than you, you say, “aap.”
Another example is when you’re driving and some idiot cuts you off on a turn. If you’re really angry, you might raise your middle finger at the person who decided to ruin your Monday. This specific action might mean nothing to the person if they don’t understand the cultural connotation of it. People from different cultures sometimes have different values. If they are from an individualist culture (North American, European and Australian), they will probably value independence and personal achievement. If they are from a collective culture (Asian, African, and South American), they will probably value respectfulness and group needs being prioritized over individual needs. After all, our personality traits are also based on our values.
We are one in a million. People are like snowflakes in which no two of them are alike. Are these things true? Well, there are about nine billion of us on Earth and there are some small snow crystals that look alike. But, our beautifully complex brains might just give us the ability to be truly unique.
Vaageesha Das is a junior at Morgantown High School.
Today’s information comes from:
- Boundless. (n.d.). Boundless Psychology. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-psychology/chapter/introduction-to-personality/;
- Dahlitz, M. (2017, January 4). Prefrontal Cortex. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.thescienceofpsychotherapy.com/prefrontal-cortex/;
- Is it really true that no two snowflakes are alike? (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/alike/alike.htm;
- Seif, M., & Winston, S. (n.d.). Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/unwanted-intrusive-thoughts