, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 243-273

Genes, Evolution, and Personality

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Abstract

There is abundant evidence, some of it reviewed in this paper, that personality traits are substantially influenced by the genes. Much remains to be understood about how and why this is the case. We argue that placing the behavior genetics of personality in the context of epidemiology, evolutionary psychology, and neighboring psychological domains such as interests and attitudes should help lead to new insights. We suggest that important methodological advances, such as measuring traits from multiple viewpoints, using large samples, and analyzing data by modern multivariate techniques, have already led to major changes in our view of such perennial puzzles as the role of “unshared environment” in personality. In the long run, but not yet, approaches via molecular genetics and brain physiology may also make decisive contributions to understanding the heritability of personality traits. We conclude that the behavior genetics of personality is alive and flourishing but that there remains ample scope for new growth and that much social science research is seriously compromised if it does not incorporate genetic variation in its explanatory models.