How does where you grow up impact who you become?

Dr. Dorsa Amir

We often hear about nature vs nurture, but did you know that science can pinpoint specific personality traits that can be traced to the environment we grew up in? How much of our adult personality has its roots in not who we were born, but where?

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What's your earliest childhood memory? For many of us the memories of our early life are a bit of a blur, but scientists are starting to prove that the environment we were in during that time has lasting effects on our personalities all the way into adulthood.

We often think about qualities like patience or risk-taking as a function of our nature: something innate about us that we're pre-disposed to before we're even born. But the work of Dr Dorsa Amir, an anthropologically-minded psychologist at UC Berkeley in the US, is suggesting something very different: that lots of the behaviours we think about as the essence of "us" are not down to who we are, but where we are.

Dorsa's research explores the impact of culture on the developing mind, and how children develop and behave across diverse societies. She's investigated these dynamics in both industrialised societies (like India, Argentina and the US) and forager societies, like the Shuar people in Amazonian Ecuador. She's joining us in The Garden to help us work out: how would we be different, if we'd grown up somewhere different?

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Talk outline


50 minutes


Anatomy & Identity

About the Fellow

Dr. Dorsa Amir

Dorsa is an anthropologically-minded psychologist, whose research explores the impact of culture on the developing mind. She's currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US.

Thank you notes from Garden members

Anatomy & Identity Collection

How we think about who we are and how that intersect with our bodies, brains and biology is the subject of discussion today. But has this always been the case? Are there blurred lines between anatomy & identity we should be exploring?