It seems that bull-headedness is attributed to genes. A recent study has found that stubbornness and the tendency to refuse to accept to defeat may be due to a mutation in a gene.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig say that an estimated one-third of the world's population have this gene, which is nature's way of ensuring that some people keep on trying when the rest of us surrender.
They added that powerful figures such as Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill and suffragette leader Emily Pankhurst most likely had the "never say die" gene, which gave them the gritty determination to continue in times of hardship.
"Where would we be without those few individuals who refuse to accept defeat and who continue to soldier onwards when common sense tells the rest of mankind that there's no use trying?" the Scotsman quoted Dr Tilmann Klein, one of the authors of the study, as saying.
About 30 per cent of the population have the mutation, called the A1 mutation, said co-author Dr Markus Ullsperger.
The A1 mutation, the researchers say, leaves people with fewer D2 receptors in the brain that are activated when levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine drop. Dopamine is not only responsible for signalling fun and pleasure in the brain, but the neurotransmitter also helps in learning.
Klein and Ullsperger hypothesize that the lower production of dopamine means that some people simply are not satisfied when a decision or action turns out to be a mistake, and hence they keep repeating their mistakes.
People with more D2 receptors in their brains are satisfied the first time around that a mistake is a mistake, and do not feel any desire to repeat it.
For the study, the researchers studied a group of 26 men, 12 of whom had the A1 gene mutation for low numbers of D2 receptors.
As a part of the study the subjects were shown sets of two symbols on a computer screen, and were asked to select one. The choice was followed by either a smiling face or a frown flashing on the screen.
The researchers then tested to check whether the men had learnt to choose the symbol that was the most positively reinforced and avoid the one that was the most negatively reinforced.
Results showed that men with fewer D2 receptors had trouble avoiding their mistakes.
Brain imaging then was used to confirm that the region called the rostral cingulate zone was involved in learning from mistakes.
This particular region was found to be more active in the volunteers with normal D2 levels during the learning sessions, compared to those with the mutation.
"The fact that nearly 30 per cent of the population has this A1 mutation, means we can only surmise that A1 must offer some genetic advantages.
Some individuals persist even in the face of negative feedback, and doggedly persevere as long as it takes until they finally succeed," Dr Klein said.
The study is published in the journal Nature.