How Your Genes Affect Personality

You’re more extraverted than your sister, and you notice that you also tend to be an overall more agreeable person. Your mother is the same way, while your father is much more introverted, stubborn, and neurotic (is this where your sister gets it?). Several factors can affect an individual’s personality, aside from their genes, including the environment they grew up in, their individual choices, and their collective life experiences. As science evolves, there is an increasing amount of research to suggest exactly how much your genetics affect your personality. (thanks, mom and dad!).

As funny as it might sound, if you catch yourself asking if you get your sense of personality from either parent (or even grandparents), the truth is you might not be wrong. Our genetics affect many different aspects of our being, including food intolerances, pregnancy, and yes, even personality.

So just how are our genetics tied to our personality?

What About Nature vs. Nurture?

It’s the age-old argument: Does someone get their personality traits from their genetics, or is it a matter of the environment they grew up in? The answer may include both of these different aspects. 

“Nature” is used to refer to the concept that our personality and way of being is rooted in our genetics. Simply put, we are born this way. 

Nurture” counteracts this idea by arguing that people behave the way they do thanks to several experiences they have endured throughout their life, both good and bad.

While there are two polar opposite ways of understanding how someone’s personality and way of being is shaped, the most common belief is that it involves a combination of both nature and nurture. Three different factors ultimately lead to how someone has shaped their personality: genes, individual choices, and their environment.

Understanding Behavioural Genetics

According to Simply Psychology, “Empirical studies have consistently shown that adoptive children show greater resemblance to their biological parents, rather than their adoptive, or environmental parents.” This is an incredible piece of information that indicates the strong role genetics plays in forming a child’s personality.

Many behavioral genetic researchers also study twins to learn more about the way psychological and personality traits are passed from parents to their offspring. In identical twins, both children share 100% of their genes, while fraternal twins share 50%. Research focused on both identical and fraternal twins that has consistently supported the idea that personality traits are very much based on genetics.

So how does nature play a role in all of this?

While genetics is linked to personality traits, other factors can ultimately lead to variations in those traits. In the book, Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research, the authors point out that there are four different principles of personality traits. The first is the Maturity Principle, which states as people age and go through different life experiences, they become more agreeable and emotionally stable. While someone might be born with a genetically higher degree of agreeability, someone with a lower degree may be able to change as they go through several life experiences.

The second is the Identity Development Principle, which states that as people age and mature, they also tend to develop a stronger sense of self. Younger individuals may struggle with this a bit more, but as they move through life, their experiences will lead them to define what makes them unique and have more loyalty to these pieces of their identity.

Third, the Plasticity Principle states that even when people have a strong sense of self, nothing is ever wholly set in stone. This leaves room for people to adapt and change aspects of their personalities as they move through life. This can also happen at any stage of life.

Lastly, there is the Role Continuity Principle, where it is believed that consistency of roles plays more a part in shaping someone’s personality than their environment. 

The Genetic Link: The Big Five

Studies have shown that there are genetic links to at least five different traits. These are known as “The Big Five” and include extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. Let’s take a closer look at each of these different traits and how they are defined, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine:

  • Extraversion (versus introversion) reflects talkativeness, assertiveness, and a high activity level
  • Neuroticism (versus emotional stability) reflects negative affect, such as anxiety and depression
  • Agreeableness (versus antagonism) measures cooperativeness and compassion
  • Conscientiousness (versus undependability) indicates diligence and self-discipline

This specific study analyzed genetic variations among these five personality traits and six psychiatric disorders, using data from the following sources:

  • 23andMe
  • The Genetics of Personality Consortium
  • UK Biobank 
  • deCODE Genetics

What the researchers found was nothing short of amazing.

According to the UC San Diego News Center, “The researchers found, for example, that extraversion was associated with variants in the gene WSCD2 and near gene PCDH15; neuroticism was associated with variants on chromosome 8p23.1 and gene L3MBTL2.”

What About the Connection Between Genetics and Psychiatric Disorders?

There is also plenty of data that have illustrated that certain psychiatric disorders are also linked to genetics. Circling back to “The Big Five,” researchers also found that those who scored high on their degree of “openness” had a higher occurrence of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Extraversion was found to be highly correlated to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

If you find that you are often anxious or fall into depression easily, it could be thanks to your genetics tied to neuroticism. According to the UC San Diego study, “Neuroticism was genetically correlated with internalized psychopathologies, such as depression and anxiety.”

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has also touched on the concept that psychological disorders have been shown to have genetic roots often.

According to the NIH, “Scientists have long recognized that many psychiatric disorders tend to run in families, suggesting potential genetic roots. Such disorders include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia.”

One study found that variations in the CACNA1C and CACNB2 genes have been linked to a higher incidence of these five different disorders. A variation on chromosomes 3 and 10 have also been linked to these disorders.

Your Genetics Can Unlock Secrets About Your Personality 

If you’re interested in learning more about how your genetics affect and shape your personality, try OriginalGene’s Personality DNA Test. Some of the tested conditions include pair bonding, empathy, neuroticism, emotional resilience, and openness. 

All you have to do is purchase your testing kit and wait for it in the mail. Once it arrives, register your kit and follow the easy-to-use instructions to provide us with your saliva sample at home, and then mail it back to us! Your sample will be sent to our certified lab to be analyzed and your personal genetic profile will be created. When your results are ready, you’ll receive an email and can immediately start exploring what is written in your genes. It’s that simple!

You may be surprised to find out how your genes can affect many different aspects of your personality, such as mood, behavior, social attitude, and focus.

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