Humanity has always sought to understand its behavior, to explain its personality. Religions or other moral-ethical belief systems have established paradigms throughout history, which can explain certain behavioral traits of certain societies and in certain contexts, but not the individual attitudes of the people who compose them.1
What is personality?
Personality is defined as the set of relatively stable and characteristic patterns of cognition, emotion, and behavior that vary from one individual to another and are usually described in terms of specific personality traits.
The best known personality trait models today are the five-factor models, in which multiple personality traits converge into five general traits: extroversion, neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.2 These designations may vary from study to study, but it is one of the most widely recognized models of human personality traits and has given rise to numerous personality tests of various types.
First, the extroversion trait is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and a high degree of emotional expressiveness. People with a high degree of extroversion tend to acquire energy in social situations.
Neuroticism, sometimes analyzed as emotional stability, is a trait characterized by sadness, moodiness and emotional instability. High levels of this trait tend to generate mood swings, anxiety, irritability and sadness. Those with low levels of neuroticism tend to be more stable and emotionally resilient.
Openness exhibits characteristics such as imagination and insight. People who are more “open” tend to have a wide range of interests, are curious about the world and others, and are willing to learn new things and enjoy new experiences.
The defining characteristics of the conscientiousness trait (also called responsibility) include high levels of reflection, good impulse control, and goal-directed behaviors. Highly conscientious people tend to be organized and pay attention to detail. They plan ahead, think about how their behavior affects others, and are aware of deadlines.
Finally, the trait of kindness includes attributes such as trust, altruism, courtesy, affection, and other prosocial behaviors. People high in kindness tend to be more cooperative, while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive and sometimes even manipulative.3
Genetics and personality
Who hasn’t wondered at one time or another whether genetics influences personality? Almost anyone is aware of how much he or she resembles his or her father or mother, and has questioned whether that is a consequence of upbringing or genes.
Numerous scientific papers based on the study of twins and families have shown that personality traits are partially heritable and can predict various outcomes throughout life, such as impulsivity or predisposition to the development of neuroticism traits.4 So we can say that genetics and personality are two closely related concepts.
Twin studies are a key tool in genetic research. They are the most widely used methodology for separating genetic from environmental causes in family resemblance.5
In biology and genetics, inheritance is understood as the sum of the processes by which the physical, biochemical and morphological characteristics of living beings are transmitted from parents to offspring through genes. For more information on genetic inheritance, you can visit our post on Genetic inheritance and ancestry.
But what about personality, which we cannot define as a purely physical, biochemical or morphological characteristic? Is it inherited?
Understanding the possible genetic and environmental origins of different personality traits and their implications for life has long been of great interest. This question has been examined through behavioral genetics, an area of research that studies patterns of genetic and environmental influence on the development and manifestation of individual differences in psychological and behavioral characteristics.6
A specific example of how genetics influences personality is reflected in the trait of impulsivity. Impulsivity is the tendency to act unpredictably. Impulsive behavior is not always maladaptive and is advantageous in situations where it is important to respond quickly and take advantage of unexpected opportunities.7 Impulsivity is moderately heritable and several studies have associated certain genes with impulsive personalities. One of them is the DBH gene, which is involved in the synthesis of hormones such as noradrenaline or dopamine, which are essential for the correct functioning of different physiological processes in the body. In this context, recent studies have shown that individuals with certain polymorphisms in the DBH gene have a greater predisposition to develop impulsivity traits.8
Polymorphism and mutation are two terms often used synonymously to describe changes in DNA sequence, but they are not. The main difference between mutation and polymorphism is that a mutation is a change in a DNA sequence in the genome of a particular organism, whereas a polymorphism is a mutation that occurs in more than 1% of a particular population.9
Genetics and talent
Now that we know the relationship between genetics and personality, let us introduce the concept of talent. This is the special intellectual capacity or aptitude that a person has to learn things easily or to develop an activity with great skill. Certain talents, such as intelligence, creativity or cognitive ability in later life, have been associated with an important genetic influence.
For example, creativity, or the ability to develop new and useful ideas, is the key driver of scientific, technological and cultural innovation. For this reason, the identification of the genetic component that determines the development of this talent has been an important subject of research in recent decades. In this context, different scientific articles have shown that certain polymorphisms in the COMT gene are associated with higher scores in creativity tests.10
However, it is important to bear in mind that it is known that both personality traits and the different individual talents are very complex and are influenced by multiple genes that act jointly, not independently. Most of the inheritance we receive is determined by many genes located far apart on the same or different chromosomes, the effects of which are difficult to detect due to their small magnitude. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that environmental factors such as the education received, the social and family environment, culture or life experiences have an important weight in the development of our personality and talent.11
Personality and talent test 24Genetics
The definition of who we are is shaped by many interacting factors and genetics plays a fundamental role in this process. It is an essential part of our identity, of our personal development.
At 24Genetics we offer you our personality and talent test. Thanks to it you will be able to know which of your personality traits or different skills you have developed as a result of your genetics and which of them you have developed as a result of your environment and your individual circumstances.
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2. The Big Five Personality Traits [Internet]. [cited 2022 August 3]. Available from: https://www.verywellmind.com/the-big-five-personality-dimensions-2795422
3. Røysamb, E., Nes, R. B., Czajkowski, N. O. & Vassend, O. Genetics, personality and wellbeing. A twin study of traits, facets and life satisfaction. Sci. Rep. 8, 12298 (2018).
4. Sanchez-Roige, S., Gray, J. C., MacKillop, J., Chen, C.-H. & Palmer, A. A. The genetics of human personality. Genes Brain Behav. 17, e12439 (2018).
5. González Ramírez, A. E., Díaz Martínez, A. & Díaz-Anzaldúa, A. La epigenética y los estudios en gemelos en el campo de la psiquiatría. Salud Ment. 31, 229–237 (2008).
6. Montag, C., Ebstein, R. P., Jawinski, P. & Markett, S. Molecular genetics in psychology and personality neuroscience: On candidate genes, genome wide scans, and new research strategies. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 118, 163–174 (2020).
7. Hess, C. et al. A functional dopamine-β-hydroxylase gene promoter polymorphism is associated with impulsive personality styles, but not with affective disorders. J. Neural Transm. 116, 121–130 (2009).
8. Bevilacqua, L. & Goldman, D. Genetics of impulsive behaviour. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 368, 20120380 (2013).
9. Karki, R., Pandya, D., Elston, R. C. & Ferlini, C. Defining “mutation” and “polymorphism” in the era of personal genomics. BMC Med. Genomics 8, 37 (2015).
10. Han, W. et al. Genetic influences on creativity: an exploration of convergent and divergent thinking. PeerJ 6, e5403 (2018).
11. Dick, D. M. Gene-Environment Interaction in Psychological Traits and Disorders. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol. 7, 383–409 (2011).