22 October 2011

Is there a genetic origin to national stereotypes?

A post "What European DNA Can Say About Ancestry, Disease Risk, and Cultural Traits" on The Spittoon, 23andMe.com's blog, tends to reinforce national stereotypes.
"23andMe researchers found that a number of social and cultural traits were strongly associated with a person's predicted genetic ancestry of origin in Europe. A self-reported diagnosis of alcoholism was more common than average among people of predicted Irish ancestry for instance, while people with predicted Balkan ancestry were more likely to describe themselves as extraverts."
As shown by these maps from the Spittoon post, alcoholism and extraversion  showed similar northwest to southeast gradients. Could there be a genetic basis to the old joke about two Englishmen being marooned on a desert island but never speaking to each other as they hadn't been introduced? 

Unfortunately there's no link to the detail of the study.

Another map shows a distribution of the profiles analysed. None are shown for Scotland. Perhaps they're too canny to pay for a DNA analysis!


Ellen Thorne Morris said...

Inherited personality types.
In 1985 I visited my mother's 4th cousins in Warwickshire and my father's 4th cousin in Dorset. We had never met and I was amazed to find they had the same distinct personalities as my parents. My mother was extroverted, enjoyed music, was in Guilbert and Sullivan plays as a young girl. Her cousin was similar in looks and personality, outgoing and pleasant, and belonged to a Gilbert and Sullivan group.
My father was more quiet, more reserve but well liked. His cousin was a maiden lady, daughter of a professor, quiet, reserved, and reminded me of of my father's sister.
I see in my own 3 grandsons echoes not only in appearance but of distinct personalities: oldest looks just like his paternal grandfather, both are thoughful, smart, musical.
2nd one resembles his mother, and has the "strong personality" of his father. The youngest at 5, is the image of my brother, who is also very similar in appearance to our g-g-grandfather, Benjamin Thorne of Thornhill, Ont., who came from Dorset. I love to see the old photos and see the we resemble them, and so perhaps personalities are inherited also, and re-enforced by living close by.

Lynne Willoughby said...

While I do think that there probably are such traits and that they may have genetic qualities, this does not really account for the dissimilarities I have noticed in siblings within families who can be all over the map in personality types etc.

Lynda W said...

I think this discussion omits the nature vs nurture debate. If one grows up in a culture that supports drinking too much alcohol at times or in one that encourages reserve, then the likelihood of one behaving in a similar fashion is increased.