Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 89.djvu/706

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Our Bad Tempers

What makes you angry? Why do you fly in a rage when the soup is salty? Blame it on your grandfather

By G. Davenport

��THAT bad temper is due more to an inside state than to outside condi- tions is demonstrated by the fact that the same mild stimulus causes so much more violent behavior in some individuals than in others. In other words it takes little or nothing to make some persons lose their tem- per. They lose it easily, just as children do, because they lack the braking power or abilit\' to shut off this violent reaction.



��Chart 1. The black profiles in the circles and squares represent the af- fected females and males respectively

��Liability to ou t - bursts of temper is c o n fi n e d to no stratum of intel lect or social position. The chol- eric may be ricii or puor, stupid or in- telligent. Bad temper is an emotional rather than a mental disturbance. Con- cerning the causes of this disturbance we know little. W'c know that oxer-eating and drinking, bad digestion, intestinal stagnation and exciting situations arc contributory factors. Rut what may cause an irritable state in one may not ruffle another. To account for this difference, we are brought around again t(j the matter of indi\idual constitution, i. e., to the fact of heredity. In man\- cases that have come under institution;,! observation there is not infre<|uenll\- a regular occurrence of tantrums at month- ly or more frequent intervals. It would seem as though there were an accumuh:- tion of some substance in the bo<l\-, in coiiser|uence of which the nervous system becomes so irritable that an explosion results from ihe most trivial causi'.

Bad teniiier is especially fri(|uenl in families that contain epileptic, lusterical or insane relatives. iCiiilepsy and insan- ity, however, arc not necessarily indi-


��� ��cated by outbursts of temper nor does a choleric temper invariably accomjiany these disorders; for there are mild tem- pered epileptics as well as maniacs. The paralysis of the braking mechan- ism upon which tantrums depend, seems, however, to occur most readily in those individuals whose nervous and other bofly functions arc de- fective in other ways.

This tendency to outbursts of tem[)er, whether periodic or irregular, is a return to an infantile emotional condition. Chi Idren are more given to displays of temper, on the whole, than are a d u 1 t s , just as monkeys are much more capricious, on the whole, than men. Tluis ill-tempered families ha\-e either n\erted, in this respect, to a more ])rimiti\'e condition or else they arc re- tarded in the evolution of this trait.

Whatever may be the racial histor\' of the trait, its pre.sent hereditary behavior is not obscure. We know that it is handed dowm in certain families from generation to generation without a break. That is to say, some members of each generation will jiossess this un- social trait and others Those tiiat show it, transmit it in turn; but those without it cannot do .so. Traits that do not skip a generation are known in the language of modern heredity as dominant traits. Just how complete may be the dominance will dei>end on the\' history of both parents. There is an heredit.u'v combination possible that will produce loo per cent choleric; that is when bolJi parents are ciioleric and belong to pure choleric strains. The accompanying charts illustrate


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