Heritability and fitness correlates of personality in the Ache, a natural-fertility population in Paraguay

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59325. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059325. Epub 2013 Mar 19.


The current study assessed the heritability of personality in a traditional natural-fertility population, the Ache of eastern Paraguay. Self-reports (n = 110) and other-reports (n = 66) on the commonly used Big Five Personality Inventory (i.e., extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness) were collected. Self-reports did not support the Five Factor Model developed with Western samples, and did not correlate with other-reports for three of the five measured personality factors. Heritability was assessed using factors that were consistent across self- and other-reports and factors assessed using other-reports that showed reliabilities similar to those found in Western samples. Analyses of these items in combination with a multi-generation pedigree (n = 2,132) revealed heritability estimates similar to those found in most Western samples, although we were not able to separately estimate the influence of the common environment on these traits. We also assessed relations between personality and reproductive success (RS), allowing for a test of several mechanisms that might be maintaining heritable variation in personality. Phenotypic analyses, based largely on other-reports, revealed that extraverted men had higher RS than other men, but no other dimensions of personality predicted RS in either sex. Mothers with more agreeable children had more children, and parents mated assortatively on personality. Of the evolutionary processes proposed to maintain variation in personality, assortative mating, selective neutrality, and temporal variation in selection pressures received the most support. However, the current study does not rule out other processes affecting the evolution and maintenance of individual differences in human personality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ethnic Groups / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Fitness / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Models, Psychological
  • Paraguay
  • Pedigree
  • Personality / genetics*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Phenotype*
  • Regression Analysis

Grant support

The work was supported by an internal award, the “Raymond White Dissertation Year Fellowship”. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.