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Your Personality May Be Controlled By Your Immune System, Study Finds

Your Personality May Be Controlled By Your Immune System, Study Finds

Despite the social and geopolitical tensions that exist in today’s society, the human race has evolved to a point where multiculturalism and interactivity between different creeds is entirely normal. While there are many inspirational stories concerning those who have battled oppression to practice their beliefs, in general, we live in a tolerant and accepting world.

Interestingly, animals have also evolved over time and become increasingly sociable, particularly in environments where one species is dominant. The same can be said for species’ with high populations such as rats and mice, many of which are often forced to coexist in small, urban spaces.

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What recent studies have told us about the evolution of sociability

In instances such as this, however, this heightened level of interaction can increase each animal’s chances of coming into contact with pathogens and infections. Over time, this has driven the need for animals to develop stronger and more capable immune systems, with historical research suggesting that environmental changes were most likely to alter the course of their development.

While this makes perfect sense, a new generation of researchers from the University of Virginia have discovered that the immune system of some species actively controls the elements of their brain that are responsible for social behaviour. This may ultimately change the way that we think about evolution and development, as the rise in sociability may actually have occurred as a direct result of heightened immune systems (rather than the other way around).

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How your Personality is controlled by your Immune System

According to the most recent studies, mice that were bred without a specific pathogen-fighting immune molecule became anti-social over time, while also displaying other prominent social defects such as autism. Upon further examination of the subject’s brain activity during testing, it was revealed that particular brain regions in the prefrontal cortex that control social behaviour had become hyperactive, which is similar to the experiences of humans with autism.

Conversely, when these subjects were injected with the missing immune molecule, they immediately behaved in a far healthier manners without displaying any social abnormalities. In purely scientific terms, this increased the levels of a prominent neurotransmitter called GABA, which in turn alleviated the subjects’ hyperactivity and triggered a chance in their social tendencies.

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The Last Word

In summary, this fascinating discovery has changed the way that scientists think about the brain and its relationship to the immune system (in the case of both animals and humans). Whereas the brain and the adaptive immune system were once considered to be isolated from one another, it is now apparent that these two entities actually share a close and interactive connection. It is also clear that our immune system has a direct influence on our personality type, and particularly the way in which we socialise and interact with others.

In the long-term, this discovery may also impact on the way in which immune activity in the brain is observed in humans. This was once seen as a clear sign of pathology, but this is no longer the case given the recent findings meaning that diagnostics and treatments could change accordingly.

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Featured photo credit: Terry White / Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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