20 Traits Moms Think Are Taught (But Are Actually Inherited)

When thinking about the things that ancestors passed down, jewelry and antiques usually come to mind. However, even more important than jewelry and antiques, what’s passed down from our ancestors is our genes. And when it comes to our genes, there are a plethora of different things that people are genetically predisposed to, whether for better or for worse. From whether or not you have a gift for musical instruments, to whether or not you’re athletic, to whether or not you hate cilantro, our genes play a pretty significant role in who we are.

While this might sound like a great thing if someone is lucky enough to have extremely athletic or intellectually gifted parents, it can also mean inheriting more unique traits. And while some may think that our traits are more often taught (which brings us to the whole nature vs. nurture debate) it is in fact thanks to our genetics that we have these traits. Let’s just hope that nature was kind in determining what traits were given to us. Otherwise, there’s no one to blame but good old mom and dad. So without much further ado, here are 20 traits moms think are taught but are actually inherited.

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20 Musical Ability… Or Lack Thereof

When it comes to traits that are taught, being able to play an instrument would probably come to mind. Think about it, what’s the point of ever trying to learn a musical instrument if you don’t have a knack for it. Well, it just so happens that one’s musical ability is actually inherited. I guess that means that if you have no musical talent whatsoever, there really isn’t anyone to blame but your parents. However, this works both ways.

So if you do happen to be musically gifted, mom and dad are owed a big thanks.

Ultimately, there are actually several different genetic traits that can affect your ability to play an instrument or sing.

19 Picky Eating Habits

Wait just a minute. Are you trying to tell me that as a kid, when my parents kept trying to force me to eat all my vegetables and I really didn’t like them, that there was actually a good reason behind it? If you happen to be a picky eater like me, this one is for you. It turns out that there is a certain gene that is responsible for different taste receptors. And these taste receptors can be extra sensitive to sweet or bitter foods. Maybe this would explain why I ate that entire sleeve of Oreos earlier.

18 Whether Or Not You’re Athletic

Ugh, I have to admit, this one is rough. I’m sorry I have to break it to you, but it turns out that when it comes to whether or not you’re athletic, it’s all about the genes. And yes, hard work and laziness still do play a role in the big picture, but some people just so happen to be more athletic than others.

This is most likely the reason why these star athletes more often than not come from athletic parents who were star athletes themselves.

I don’t know about you, but this one was pretty upsetting to hear.

17 Your Level Of Self Control

WHAT DO YOU MEAN I DON’T HAVE ANY SELF CONTROL?! Sorry about that. It turns out that some people are just more likely to lose it than others, while others are graced with the patience of a monk. Nevertheless, while a large amount of self-control is indeed learned, many scientists do believe that some of it comes down to genetics. While the level at which genetics affects self-control is still debated, many agree that genes do play an important role. This could ultimately explain why some people are better than others at things that require self-control, such as balance and meditation.

16 Whether Or Not You’re Popular

I must say, I was really not expecting something such as whether or not you’re popular to be something that isn’t taught, but rather an inherited trait. So let’s just get into it. Genetics do in fact play a role in determining your popularity.

According to one study, popular and very sociable people often share a specific gene.

How is this fair? Can someone please explain that to me? Also, if that wasn’t bad enough, it also turns out that this specific gene is also linked to rule breaking. Is that why the popular kids were always the ones sneaking out of the house?

15 Your Intelligence Levels

It just keeps getting worse and worse. Just when I find out that whether or not you’re popular was an inherited trait, it turns out that your intelligence levels are also inherited. That’s right folks. Your intelligence may very well be dependent on your genes that are inherited from your parents. This must be why people who have little to no formal schooling can turn out to be complete geniuses. A great example for how this works is that with twins, even if they were raised in separate households, they usually have about the same IQ levels. It’s just not fair.

14 How Nice You Are

What?! Are you kidding me? Being nice is an inherited trait? It’s not something that you’re taught? What is going on? Unfortunately, it seems that I have to be the bearer of bad news once again. Your capacity for empathy and kindness is actually predetermined by your DNA. There is a certain gene that produces a receptor for oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone.”

This receptor is the one that determines how much compassion you’re inclined to show toward others.

I guess there is no longer a need for parents to teach their kids how to be kind and nice anymore.

13 Your Driving Skills

As much as I have been upset to hear about some of these traits being inherited, I was even more stunned to learn about this next one. Thanks to a study done by neuroscientists at the University of California-Irvine, scientists were able to find that people with a certain gene variant are worse drivers than those with the “normal” gene. I guess that means that the next time you’re pulled over, just explain that it’s due to your genetics. Maybe the DMV should no longer be giving driving tests and instead give people DNA tests to determine how good of a driver they are.

12 How Lazy You Are

To be very honest and upfront with all of you, I am quite pleased to know that how lazy you are is determined by your genetics. Finally, an inherited trait that I can get behind.

If you have never understood how some people are able to go to the gym every single morning, while getting up from the couch can feel like a strain, then you probably inherited your laziness.

Research suggests that our DNA determines just how physically active we may be. I guess this means that you no longer have to worry about trying to get the kids to put down the phones and go outside.

11 Whom You're Attracted To

Do you know how parents will sometimes tell their kids that they don’t want them dating so and so… Well, it would appear that when it comes to whom we’re attracted to, there’s just no getting in the way of it. Moreover, studies have shown that people choose partners with very different sets of genes than their own. I guess that means there’s a lot more merit to the saying of “opposites attract.” Side note: varying genes in a relationship actually adds more genetic diversity to their offspring, which in turn makes it more likely for their children to be healthy.

10 Phobias

This next inherited trait is what I was afraid of. Do you see the irony in this? My worst fears have come true when I learned that fears can be inherited. You’re probably asking yourselves, how is that even possible? How can you be afraid of something if you’re not taught to be afraid of it in the first place? I’m glad you asked.

The reason behind this is that these fears today could have once been very real for a few of your previous generations, having been passed down through your bloodline.

If that’s the case, this must mean that my great, great ancestors must have had a very real fear of snakes and the bowling ball return machine.

9 Music Taste

I have to admit, I was not expecting to hear this next one. Do you know how parents are always criticizing their kids' generation’s style of music? It’s always the younger generation’s music that is not ever good, right? It turns out that our genetics plays an important role in our taste in music. A recent study out of London showed that there is a strong argument for genetics being just as responsible for our taste in music as our environment is. Nevertheless, once you reach the age of 50, your environment begins to play a much bigger role in your taste in music.

8 Distinctive Facial Expressions

Have you ever noticed how you and your mother share that exact same “serious” look? You probably think that it’s from spending so much time with them that you start to subconsciously copy their expressions and mannerisms. Well, you would be wrong.

A study of blind subjects and their sighted relatives was able to reveal that they shared very similar facial expressions.

This was also the case for relatives who were separated at birth and had not met until years later. So the next time your kid gives you a look, just remember that they inherited it from you.

7 Whether You’re a Night Owl Or A Morning Person

The early bird gets the worm. I’m sure everyone knows that saying and it makes sense, but not if your genes are working against you. It just so happens that people may be genetically predisposed to being morning people or night people. Not to get too scientific here, but it was discovered that there are 15 areas of the human genome that are linked to being a happy morning person, and having even one of those genomes increases the chances of you being one by up to 25 percent. So much for me trying to get up extra early anymore.

6 How Trusting You Are

Do you ever believe people when they give you an excuse for cancelling plans? It seems that the answer to that question may have a little something to do with your genetics. Who would’ve thought?

After studying twins, researchers were able to find that trust is actually 30 percent heritable.

But what happens if you’re actually more suspicious? It turns out that has a lot to do with your prior experiences. Distrust, unlike trust, isn’t an inherited trait. Distrust appears to be something that is primarily socialized. So you can blame your friends and family for your lack of trust.

5 Your Sweet Tooth

Sure, chocolate chip cookies taste great, but they may taste even better to you or your child. Why? Well, according to a study, it was found that nearly 80 percent of preschoolers carried the necessary genotypes that makes them want to snack on their sweets instead of veggies. Furthermore, there was another study that examined a variation on a taste-receptor gene, which causes vegetables to taste more bitter to certain people. They found that those who didn’t experience the bitter taste ate 200 more servings of veggies a year. To be totally honest, these scientists didn’t have to go through all of that. I could have told them that kids prefer chocolate over broccoli.

4 Whether You See The Glass As Half Empty Or Half Full


This next one goes out to everyone who has a hard time looking on the bright side. I’m not singling you guys out, I’m included in it.

It’s turns out that it’s not because life has gotten us down, it actually has to do with our OXTR gene, which affects the receptor for the love and bonding hormone, oxytocin.

People with a certain variation on the OXTR gene had lower self-esteem and felt less optimistic than people with a different variation. But don’t get too down on that because while inherited optimism may influence your outlook, it’s not the only determining factor.

3 Your Levels Of Aggression

In case you haven’t realized it, aggression is one of the traits that are indeed inherited. You may have thought that there are some people that have a genetic predisposition towards aggression, but there’s actually a lot more to it. It’s been found that genetic aggression dates back thousands of years, all the way to when humans were hunter/gatherers. Can you believe that this gene was able to survive for this long? It still exists today and makes some people, usually men (sorry dads), more inclined to high levels of aggression. Don’t ask me to explain it again or I’ll get very angry. And you won’t like me when I’m angry.

2 Sneezing At A Bright Light

Just go with me on this next one. Sure, it might be strange, but there are some people who are much more likely to sneeze at the sun due to their genetics. You’re probably wondering how something like this was even found out in the first place. And the reason is… I have no idea. I am wondering the same thing too. But it turns out that it’s a lot more common than you think.

About 10 to 35 percent of people sneeze when exposed to bright lights.

It’s a photic sneeze reflex, also called Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-ophthalmic Outburst, or simply “Achoo”.

1 Whether You Like Or Dislike Cilantro

I don’t know what’s more unexpected- the fact that there's a genetic predisposition to finding the smell of it unpleasant or the fact that there are actually people who are turned off by the smell of cilantro. I don’t think I have ever met someone who disliked cilantro. Nevertheless, there are people out there who are. These people have a genetic predisposition to find a specific chemical in cilantro unpleasant. Worry not! For those who love the taste of cilantro but can’t stand the smell, crushing cilantro leaves often gets rid of the odor while not altering the taste.

Sources: prevention.comtheconversation.comhealthland.time.com,

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