Environmental Influences on Personality

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  • 0:03 Environment and Personality
  • 0:24 Daylight
  • 0:55 Air, Water, and Land
  • 2:01 Weather and Altitude
  • 2:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson showcases numerous examples of how our environment - and what's found in it - can influence our personality. Everything from sunlight to air pollution and altitude can do this!

Environment and Personality

Although there is definite evidence for the fact that our personalities are, at least in part, determined by genetics, there's more to it than that. In fact, our environment may shape or alter our personalities as well - not just the social environment but the natural environment around us too. Let's look at a few ways that our physical surroundings affect our personalities.


One good example of how the environment can alter an individual's personality is via daylight, or hours of sunlight. Some people live in parts of the world where fall and winter daylight hours are significantly shorter than those in the summer. As a result, they may have something known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a subtype of major depression. People affected by SAD may become more agitated than they normally do or have lower amounts of energy than usual. They may no longer be able to get along well with others and they may even become very sensitive to rejection.

Air, Water, and Land

The air we breathe may also influence our personalities. Studies have shown that poisonous compounds found in air, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) may be toxic to still-developing children. Among other things, such air pollutants may lead to anxiety, inattention, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and depression in these children later on in life.

Things found in our water can affect our personality similarly. Take, for instance, the effects of heavy metals like arsenic, which can be found in the water we drink, especially contaminated groundwater. The ingestion of arsenic has been linked to personality changes because it increases the chance of developing anxiety or depression.

Our land is likewise polluted. As an example, cows may graze on grass and other feed that has been contaminated with chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The PCBs then accumulate in the cow's meat, milk, and fat, which we then consume. Consumption of PCB-contaminated food by a pregnant mother has been linked to behavioral problems in children later on, such as the development of attention deficit disorder.

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