Healthy Helpings

By AFM Team – August 1, 2016

A new study at The University of Texas at Austin suggests character traits– such as grit or desire to learn–have a heavy hand in academic success and are partially rooted in genetics.

Though academic achievement is dependent on cognitive abilities, such as logic and reasoning, researchers believe certain personality and character traits can motivate and drive learning. In a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, UT Austin psychology associate professor Elliot Tucker-Drob found that genetic differences (rather than parenting and schooling) among people account for about half of the differences in their character, and that the remaining variation in character was influenced by environmental factors occurring outside of the home and school environments. Using data from 811 third- to eighth-grade twins and triplets, Tucker-Drob and his colleagues examined seven educationally relevant character measures that represented work ethic, enjoyment or desire to learn, attitudes toward education, and self-appraised abilities. They also assessed how character measures were associated with the “big five” personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

In the study, genetics accounted for 69 percent of a person’s general character, with 31 percent of variance accounted for by environmental influences. Furthermore, each character measure was heavily correlated with openness and conscientiousness, which were 48 and 57 percent heritable respectively.

There are countless factors that influence your health, and recent data shows how you fight with your partner can be added to that list.

In the 1980s, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley gathered a group of heterosexual couples who had been married for at least 15 years to closely examine the physical responses that occur when spouses argue. First the spouses talked to each other for 15 minutes about their day; for the next 15 minutes, they were directed to rehash an area of ongoing contention in their relationship–which would inevitably lead to an argument.  Every five years since then, for at least twenty years, the couples have returned to the lab and repeated everything. Results showed that among husband especially, the person who seethed anger while arguing was much more likely to report symptoms of cardiac problems. The partner who took the stonewalling approach proved to be more prone to developing muscular problems, like back or neck pain.

Rather than fearing your nightmares, it may be time to embrace them, according to a Canadian study.

Researchers found that people who suffer more nightmares may be more creative than those who dream without terror. The study was performed by gathering two groups, nightmare sufferers and happy dreamers, and asking them to respond with emotionally-charged words. Those who were nightmare-free responded with predictable words, while the participants who had nightmares twice a week chose words that expressed more unconventional associations. Lead study author Michelle Carr, Ph.D. says the common link between creativity in waking life and nightmares during sleep might be heightened sensitivity. Research shows that because creative people tend to experience events on a much deeper level, they’re much more attuned to their emotions and senses. This may allow them to think and express feelings in less-ordinary ways.


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