Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Does the size of different brain regions correlate with different personalities?

How might we respond, as non-materialists, to the article at, which claims that the size of different brain regions correlates with different personalities. 
This article contains many theoretical assumptions that are masquerading as facts, but which have to be substantially reinterpreted on any dualist view.

1. Bigger regions are assumed to be more powerful.
Blatant materialist assumptions
1. we … develop theories about how personality is produced by the brain
2. [we can] figure out the underlying brain mechanisms responsible for personality differences
Statements which may (possibly!) have a grain of truth (if understood properly).
1. the size of certain brain regions is related to people's personalities
2. people's personalities are likely shaped by both genetic and environmental factors
3. A connection between brain region size and personality was found for four out of the five traits (but no statistical significance given! 
4. a bigger brain region does not necessarily mean the region has better functioning
Statements which are probably true
1. many traits often go together and have grouped these traits into five overarching categories 
2. Our experience can change the brain. And as the brain changes, personality can change.

Dualist view:
We must have interactive dualism, not  minds totally decoupled from the brain (otherwise we cannot sense or act in the world!). Therefore, when the authors ask "how personality is produced by the brain?", dualists should equally ask "how is the brain influenced by the personality?". Either might give correlations as described here.
In general, therefore, it is probably true that the development of the brain contributes to the development of the mind. The body and brain provide (I claim) a permanent 'basis' or 'residence' for the mind, so our mental development must depend on the full and healthy functioning of the body and brain. 
Maybe size is important here. I suspect, however, that other functional factors are much more important than size. Connections and communications are presumably much more important than size.

Overall, dualists differ with the materialists here not about possible correlations, but about the nature and direction of the causation that is responsible for those causations.


  1. This is off the subject, Ian, but I just discovered your blog. And I have a question about many worlds theory. Who more perfect than you to ask?

    I am drawn to that theory. All the possibilities in each moment that could exist, do exist. All the paths exist. But our consciousness only travels along one path.

    When I heard the reading Sunday (the parable of the sower) I thought "oh, it's the many worlds theory!" I think it's a combo of Swedenborg, physics, and my desire to have all things turn out well for everyone. Don't you think that is how things really are?

    That's my question. But I'll also say: please post more often!

    And also, you have too many "c"s in "introduce" up there in the title of your blog.

  2. This is the parable I mean:

    He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
    While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
    When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
    The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?'
    He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
    He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.
    Let them grow together until harvest; 11 then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

  3. Dear Susan,
    Yes: it certainly looks like God sows many possibilities, many people, and even (perhaps) many worlds. Religion can neutral whether all the people exist in one world, or in several worlds that are not connected to each other.

    However, we should think that God should only actualize those possibilities which are good, and have a prospect of becoming very good. This is an answer based on religion rather than science: I fail to see the use of possibilities that have no use for any consciousness. If, as you say, consciousness travels along only one path, then the others should be regarded not as equally real, but only as 'unactualized possibilities'. In that case, they are not real worlds at all, only unused possibilities.

    Also: I fixed my spelling. And: I do intend to blog more often, especially when I get my new book accepted by a publisher.

  4. If you need a proof reader for your book keep me in mind. I'll do for free. And don't laugh. I'm great at grammar and I'm great at realizing whether things are written in understandable wording or not.

    God wants only the good paths realized. His enemy lured our consciousness down the bad paths. But all the paths exist equally. It's our consciousness that lights one up or not. And when He uproots those weeds at the end, it will be the paths that get uprooted and not the people. Anyway ... that's my theory. Maybe it should be called the many words theory because I have trouble explaining it!

  5. It is not just our consciousness which follows a particular path, but our love. And love in our will must lead to action, for it to exist fully. See for example

    So we must avoiding loving/willing/thinking/doing the bad paths. The options are there, though, should we want them!

  6. Thanks - nice timely quote from hdquotes. You don't agree with me but you do understand what I'm saying which is so rare.

    As for the brain size article, another questionable thing the researchers did was this:
    "Since everyone's brain is different, the images won't line up perfectly right off the bat. So the researchers picked one image — from a participant who scored about average for all five traits — to serve as a "reference brain." " Made me laugh because I would so do that! Which is why I'm not a scientist. And which is probably why those researchers are not real scientists either.

    The study makes me wonder about all the modern babies who spend too much time on their backs and in their carseats and develop flat heads. Will future personalities be changed? One of the five trait groups will be missing.

    And the concept of five trait groups is weird because four of the five are positive traits and one is a lame trait. The researchers need a new word for neuroticism if they want to use it in that way. They need to think of an upbeat way to say "neuroticism". Maybe "realistic".

    I do like your observation on "but which came first if there is a correlation?" Which is ironic because in the eyes of materialists (if that is what the researchers here are) dualism is less scientific. But you have out-scienced them with dualism.