Author Archives: Kristi Melicher

Does Genetics Play a Role in Shaping our Perception?

There are different ideas of how perception is established.  One is bottom up processing in which we start with information from the environment.  This converts into action potentials that are sent to the brain in which we react. The other is top-down processing in which we use our past experiences to guide and interpret the information coming through our senses.  These along with Gestalt’s Laws explains how our perception occurs and carves our personality.  None of these, however, explain the biological concepts of genetics.  I feel there should be another piece to perception, heredity.  How does this come to play in making who we are?  When I look at my own kids, it makes me wonder.

We knew when my daughter was very young that she was a born gymnast.  Since she was three years old, she has been at the gym working hard and competing since she was about eight.  She’s 14 now and spends 30 hours a week in the gym and aspires to be an Olympian.  Although I never did gymnastics, I was always athletic, and people tend to call her mini Kristi.  On the other hand, my older daughter plays softball, which is what I played for 20 years.  Although she is quite a good player now, she has really had to work for it.  She spent years practicing harder than most just to be able to compete.  So of course genetics has something to do with who we are, but how do we know just how much?  How do I know that my younger daughter takes after me at all, and isn’t who she is because of how we labeled her at such a young age?

Unfortunately there is no real way to know.  There is no way to make predictions in Psychology, and let’s think about the impact it would have if Psychologists did.  Currently there are some DNA tests that can be performed to find out if certain diseases are eminent.  But let’s keep in mind that since this is just a prediction, it is no way 100% accurate.  For instance, according to an article in the “Psycho-Oncology” Journal, there are DNA tests that can be performed to tell someone if they have the cancer gene.  (Psycho-Oncology )

Studies showed that people took extreme measures when they were told they had the gene, and most of the time, they never ended up with the disease.  This sometimes caused psychological issues.  Studying perception and how our perceptions shape who we are is important in helping us understand the human mind.  Genetics does aid in shaping who we are, but since we have no way of predicting which ones each person has, we should not assume a particular personality trait is inherited.  We should view our perception as information processing and reaction.  A combination of bottom-up processing, top-down processing and Gestalt’s Laws of Perception do this.


Works Cited

Vos, J., Gómez-García, E., Oosterwijk, J. C., Menko, F. H., Stoel, R. D., van Asperen, C. J., Jansen, A. M., Stiggelbout, A. M. and Tibben, A. (2012), Opening the psychological black box in genetic counseling. The psychological impact of DNA testing is predicted by the counselees’ perception, the medical impact by the pathogenic or uninformative BRCA1/2-result. Psycho-Oncology, 21: 29–42. doi: 10.1002/pon.1864