Socially Aversive Traits Over Time

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Although people’s overall temperament remains constant throughout life, people become less socially aversive as they age. According to the article, “People Seem to Become Less Socially Aversive with Age,” over time, dark personality traits, which causes individuals to put themselves over others, lessen. To prove this claim, researchers followed around 500 German adults, between the ages of 18 and 65 years, over a four year period. To assess their aversive traits, such as egoism, moral disengagement, narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, self interest, and machiavellianism, participants filled out personality questionnaires.

Using their responses, researchers found evidence that, apart from psychological entitlement and sadism, people’s level of socially aversive traits decreased through the four year period. At the same time, these findings show that knowing how a person’s level in the dark core of personality develops helps predict how that person’s level in socially aversive traits develop. Thus, there is an underlying Dark Factor of Personality, which presents itself in socially aversive behavior. 

This connects to our understanding of nature vs. nurture because it shows that to some extent socially aversive traits are connected to one’s nature, while they are also impacted by one’s environment. Nature refers to one’s genes, which are the biochemical units of heredity that make up the chromosomes of DNA. Such traits are inherited from one’s parents and are passed on through generations. In contrast, nurture is a variety of factors within one’s environment, or every nongenetic influence on our behavior, from prenatal nutrition to the people and things that surround us. 

Such interaction between environmental and hereditary factors are evident in socially aversive characteristics. For instance, it is evident that the tendency to put oneself before others is part of one’s personality; such a selfish, egotistical temperament could be one’s nature. Some of these traits, like sadism, are a mix of both nature and nurture: one could be born predisposed to sadistic behavior, or one’s childhood, experiences, and traumas can contribute to this trait. Socially aversive traits may change with one’s environment because as one ages, they become more mature and may develop more supportive, nurturing relationships. As a result, people must become more responsible and can no longer prioritize their self interest.

In addition, the study found that people’s relative levels of socially aversiveness remained the same, although individually they decreased. This means that if someone was ranked with low levels of socially aversive behaviors compared to others, they were still relatively low four years later. This enhances our understanding of nature vs nurture because even though one’s environment and experiences change them over time, their overall personality and temperament is consistent. Overall, as people develop and mature, their socially aversive behaviors may lessen to a certain extent, but nurture cannot completely change one’s nature. 


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