Personality: Evolutionary Heritage and Human Distinctiveness

Personality: Evolutionary Heritage and Human Distinctiveness

Personality: Evolutionary Heritage and Human Distinctiveness

Personality: Evolutionary Heritage and Human Distinctiveness

Synopsis

This innovative study focuses on seven inherent personality traits humans share with primates; activity, fearfulness, impulsivity, sociability, altruism, aggressiveness, and dominance. The author discusses these traits from the dual perspective of our evolutionary history and our human uniqueness.

Excerpt

The human species has descended from a long line of animal forebears all the way back to one-celled animals. It is well known that such biological mechanisms as breathing, digesting, and conserving heat have evolved over millions of years. What may not be so well known is that some of our behavioral tendencies have also evolved as adaptations to the environment. We hear in essentially the same way that mice and cats hear. Our response to infants has much in common with the way dogs react to puppies. and we manipulate objects more or less the way chimpanzees do.

Humans are of course mammals and more specifically, primates. As higher primates, we are biologically similar to the three great apes: orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees. We share with them sense organs, many modes of perception and learning, many facial expressions, and various social behaviors. It should, therefore, evince little surprise that we may also share personality traits.

Of course, we are different from other animals; notice that we study them and not the other way around. Our language, imagery, and thought processes are advanced far beyond the capabilities of other animals. We make complex tools and cannot survive without them, devise culture, and are shaped by it. We differ from other primates anatomically and psychologically, and we possess personality traits not seen in other species. As a reflection of the differences between our species and other primates and for ease of exposition, the term primate henceforth will refer only to nonhuman primates, usually the great apes.

When details about these and other aspects of the evolution of human behavior are spelled out, how might this evolutionary perspective deepen . . .

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