Got Lazy Friends? Take a Look in the Mirror

Personality traits thought to be fixed may actually be 'contagious'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2017 4:44 PM CDT
New research suggests we align some of our most basic personality traits to match those around us.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

(Newser) – Some geneticists suggest that who we are is not a question of nature versus nurture, but that genes and our environment work together to influence the people we become. New research out of France furthers this notion in its finding that even the personality traits we consider to be our most entrenched and unchanging are in fact probably socially contagious. Reporting in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, they find that a person's levels of laziness, impatience, and prudence (a preference for avoiding risk) shift rather easily after merely observing how others react to situations.

The study leans on a very small sample size of 56 healthy people and analyzes their behaviors outside of real-life settings and situations, but the ease with which people drifted from their established baseline traits suggests that there is imitation at play, reports Live Science. Whether these so-called fixed traits are actually ever-shifting behaviors requires further study. Researchers next plan to look at how the results play out among people with neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. For now, they tell TIME Health that they're not trying to dissuade people from spending time with certain types of friends, but they do encourage spending time with those whose dispositions you admire. (America could be the laziest country on the planet.)

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