Personality is the sum total of all the qualities, traits, and behaviors that characterize a person's individuality and by which, together with his or her physical attributes, the person is recognized as unique. As witnessed by the persistence of temperament or psychological reaction patterns from birth to adulthood, heredity plays an important role in shaping personality: Active, outgoing children and passive, inhibited children tend to retain those same characteristics in adulthood. This does not mean that the roles of environment and experience are not as important as heredity in shaping personality. The society and culture into which a child is born interact with his or her genetic predispositions in determining the kind of person the child becomes, that is, how those predispositions are molded and expressed. Like the cognitive abilities discussed in Chapter 4 and, in fact, all human characteristics, personality is the product of the dynamic interaction between genetic makeup and the physical and psychosocial environments to which the individual is exposed in growing up.
The number and variety of a person's experiences increase with age. For most children, the journey of life begins in a family setting and expands to the community, the school, and the world of work. Depending on the appearance and behavior of the individual, as well as the nature of the social situation and the people coniprising it, social encounters may be friendly or unfriendly, successful or unsuccessful. Relatives, peers, fellow students, and coworkers can be competitive or cooperative, accepting or rejecting. In general, the more socially active a person is, the more friendly and unfriendly contacts he or she has. More frequent social interaction produces sympathetic, helping behavior as well as quarrelsomeness and aggression. Throughout it all, most individuals learn that social and psychological survival depends on being able to give and take, and that happiness requires attention to the needs of others as well as oneself. Most people learn this lesson in childhood, whereas some never seem to do so.
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