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by Amram Scheinfeld
Condensed from a chapter of the book, The Human Heredity Handbook

Personality refers to all of a human individual’s behavior traits, plus all the other special qualities of mind, body, sex, and social adjustment that distinguish him as a particular person.

Second, personality refers to qualities developed by one person in relation to other persons. Strictly speaking, then, only human beings can be considered as having “personalities.” Although we might like to think that cats, dogs and other animals also have “personalities,” scientists prefer to speak of their traits as “behavior patterns.”

A distinction is that behavior traits are simpler, and can be almost directly inherited in lower animals in the form of “instincts.” It is far less certain whether any personality traits are ever directly inherited.

Infant personality. Human infants, like other little animals, come into the world with inherited behavior patterns. But from the moment they begin to be trained and influenced by their parents, older children, nurses and other human beings, they cease to be merely instinctive creatures, and any inborn tendencies become only the raw ma-terials from which the forces outside of them mold their personalities.

Physical Influences. In addition to the obvious mental and nervous disorders, a great many inherited diseases, defects, and organic weaknesses or peculiarities have characteristic effects on personality. Persons suffering from migraine headaches, for example, have been reported as tending to show “intolerance, perfectionism, sexual difficulties, etc.”

Particular personality patterns may also go with glandular disorders, allergies, vitamin deficiencies, digestive disturbances and other conditions in which heredity may play a part. Changes in the body’s chemical state or functioning by means of various drugs, and operations on the brain and nervous system, have been shown to affect personality in many ways.

One may assume, then, that any inherited differences — large or small — in the workings of the glands and other organs would account for some degree of difference in the personalities of individuals. The body’s chemical transitions at adolescence, during the menopause in women, and in aging, also have their definite effects on personality.

But very probably, beneath the outer personality layers of individuals which can be much affected by changes in health or other factors, there is always an inner core of personality which persists through life. And it is this “inner personality” which may be strongly directed by inherited tendencies.

Looks and Personality. People have always believed that certain looks go with certain personalities. From Shakespeare’s plays through to modern novels, dramas, movies, comic strips and TV shows, one will find people with given types of faces and bodies cast as characters with given personality traits . . .

Heroines: fair, slim and lovely. Heroes: tall, straight and handsome. Villains: lean and swarthy. Redheads: fiery natures. Bold men depicted with jutting jaws, weaklings with receding chins, sneaky people with warped bodies, etc.

Science has found no such connection between genes (units of heredity) for looks and genes for personality, character or temperament.

The only exceptions are in certain inherited diseases and abnormal conditions, which may together affect both outward appearance and behavior.

Otherwise almost any kind of nose, eyes, mouth, complexion, coloring or other bodily detail can go with any kind of inborn personality tendency. However, facial expressions involve something else. The way a person has used and uses his mouth and eyes may offer real clues to his personality, as may also movements of the head, body, hands, etc.

Effects of Looks. While heredity may couple any kind of feature or looks with any kind of personality trait, people themselves tend to ignore this fact. As a result, personalities can be much affected by how looks are regarded.

If a little girl is drooled over because she’s “so pretty,” she certainly won’t develop the same personality as will a homely sister.

Similarly, to the extent that people react differently to tall or short persons, slender or fat ones, blondes and brunettes, the fair-skinned or dark-skinned — or to this or that kind of mouth or nose — the individuals’ personalities will also develop differently. But it is important to remember that: Attitudes toward the very same types of looks — nose size, hip size, leg shape, skin color — may differ greatly in different groups, and when they do, so do the effects on personalities.

Fat women in the United States are made to feel inferior, and slim women to feel superior; but in some parts of the Orient and Africa the plumpest women are the glamor girls, and the slim ones are the wallflowers.

A few decades ago girls with small bosoms were most approved among Americans (as they still are among Japanese), and those with large bosoms self-consciously tried to strap them down. As need hardly be said, there’s been a change.

So, too, the small, cupid’s-bow mouth has currently yielded in desirability to the full, large mouth; and increases in stature have revised the scale by which persons are rated and feel themselves “too tall” or “too short.” The genes for looks remain the same, generation after genera-, tion, but their effects on personalities may be almost anything that people wish to make them.

Hands, Feet, Ankles. The notion that thick, large hands and ankles betoken peasant or common ancestry, and a coarse personality, whereas slim hands and ankles go with “aristocratic” or genteel ancestry and inherent refinement, has no scientific support.

It is true that people who do heavy manual work in time develop thicker hands and ankles than those who do not, but these effects cannot be passed on through inheritance; and if the descendants themselves no longer do heavy work, they may have just as slim hands or ankles as those individuals having so-called “aristocratic” blood.

Apart from the direct effects of work and living habits, the sizes, shapes or textures of hands and feet have no relationship to personality.

1 comment
  1. Stannous says: September 27, 20079:18 pm

    In the 50 years (okay, 49 yrs, 11 mos.) since this was published, numerous studies across numerous cultures have found a preference for ‘balanced’ features and various traits (color, skin tone, eye clarity, etc.) that exhibit reproductive health.
    This article seems too miss that many of the fashions of sex appeal are, in fact, based on these more base attractions.
    I love the pictures though, especially since they support what I’ve always suspected about you folks with straight hair..

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