The genetics of human personality

Genes Brain Behav. 2018 Mar;17(3):e12439. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12439. Epub 2017 Dec 29.


Personality traits are the relatively enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that reflect the tendency to respond in certain ways under certain circumstances. Twin and family studies have showed that personality traits are moderately heritable, and can predict various lifetime outcomes, including psychopathology. The Research Domain Criteria characterizes psychiatric diseases as extremes of normal tendencies, including specific personality traits. This implies that heritable variation in personality traits, such as neuroticism, would share a common genetic basis with psychiatric diseases, such as major depressive disorder. Despite considerable efforts over the past several decades, the genetic variants that influence personality are only beginning to be identified. We review these recent and increasingly rapid developments, which focus on the assessment of personality via several commonly used personality questionnaires in healthy human subjects. Study designs covered include twin, linkage, candidate gene association studies, genome-wide association studies and polygenic analyses. Findings from genetic studies of personality have furthered our understanding about the genetic etiology of personality, which, like neuropsychiatric diseases themselves, is highly polygenic. Polygenic analyses have showed genetic correlations between personality and psychopathology, confirming that genetic studies of personality can help to elucidate the etiology of several neuropsychiatric diseases.

Keywords: EPQ; GWAS; NEO; TPQ; agreeableness; conscientiousness; extraversion; gene; neuroticism; openness; personality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Family / psychology
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Humans
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics*
  • Personality / genetics*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transcriptome / genetics
  • Twins / genetics