The person you are -- from what you look like to how you behave -- is a combination of genetic and environmental influences. You might get your freckles from your mom, through genetics, but you might also get your sense of humor from her, a learned trait. Or you might get your blonde hair from your dad, but you might be a great singer, while he is not. You possess a combination of inherited and learned traits, which helps to explain your similarities and differences from your family.
Inherited traits are perhaps the easiest to understand. They are usually physical characteristics that you inherit from your parents or relatives through genetics. For example, you might inherit your mother's eye shape or color, or you might inherit your grandmother's smile. Height, hair color, eye color, facial features, and more can all be inherited traits. You have no influence on what traits you inherit. There is debate about whether personality traits and behaviors can be inherited, or whether they are learned through environmental exposure.
Learned traits, like their name suggests, are behaviors that are learned through experience. Learned traits may be acquired through observation or through experimentation and effort. For example, you may learn how to cook by watching your mother do it every day, or you may learn by reading cookbooks and experimenting in the kitchen. You may pick up your sense of humor by being around your parents and hearing what they think is funny, or you may try out jokes on friends and family.
Examples of Learned Traits
Learned traits encompass most of what makes up your personality. When you open the door for someone and you say "please" and "thank you," those are learned behaviors that help you to get along with others or to make friends. When you eat a healthy diet, that is a learned trait. If you are a technically correct painter, that's a learned trait. Your mannerisms, the way you interact with others, your speech, your religious customs, your food preferences, and the activities you enjoy are all learned traits.
Not all behaviors are learned traits. Some are hereditary, such as instinctual behavior. For example, if you are in a dangerous situation, your fight or flight response will kick in, causing you to either flee from the situation or fight against the threat. In animals, instinct includes examples like bears hibernating during the winter, leatherback turtles heading for the ocean after they have been born on the shore, or hunting behaviors in a wide range of animals.
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.