How do genetics and luck mix to determine life’s winners and losers?

1-13-2019 lead art draft
Image credit: Christina Animashaun/Vox

Let’s begin with a question: Why do some people succeed in life while others fail? Is it because they are naturally smarter and harder working, or is it because they were raised to be ambitious and disciplined, or could it be that they were simply lucky along the way and got all the good breaks?

In my 2011 book The Believing Brain, I sought a non-political perspective and presented evidence for a “Realistic Vision” that human nature is relatively constrained by our heredity and biology, along with the constraints from our families, communities, culture, and society. How lives turn out very much depends on both heredity and environment, genes and culture, our evolutionary history and our life trajectory, and how they all interact. People are not blank slates so malleable and responsive to social programs that governments can engineer their lives into a great society of its design, yet we are not so biologically programmed that there is nothing for anyone to do to help those who cannot help themselves.

Related article:  Psychotherapy revival: Can “talk” therapy change our brains and genes?


In the end, if the cosmic dice rolled in your favor, how should you feel? Modest pride in one’s hard work is no vice, but boastful arrogance at one’s good fortune is no virtue. Cultivate gratitude.

Read full, original post: Genes, Environment, and Luck: What We Can and Cannot Control

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