Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Author Item Summary Meta data
Corr I 287
Personality traits//Behavioral Genetics/Munafò: Investigation of the association between DNA variants and psychological phenotypes has the potential to determine which genes influence heritable psychological traits, such as personality (Ebstein, Benjamin and Belmaker 2000(1); Eysenck 1977)(2). Such research has a long history, beginning with the observation that behavioural phenotypes (including personality) tend to show greater similarity between pairs of individuals as genetic similarity increases.
Problems: molecular genetic studies have so far been characterized more by the inconsistency of their results than by the provision of novel biological information. Given the large number of candidate genes that can be hypothesized to influence psychological traits, the extent of DNA sequence variation and the numerous, often conflicting, methods of measuring phenotypic variation in psychological and behavioural science, the task of evaluating competing statistical hypotheses is likely to be onerous. (VsMolecular genetics, VsBehavioral genetics).
Traits/psychology: Most trait psychologists argue that a small number of factors can be used to account for individual differences in personality. For example, there is strong agreement that the dimensions of Extraversion-Introversion and Neuroticism-Stability are fundamental parts of any personality taxonomy. >Personality traits/psychological theories.
Causality: Causal theorists of personality have attempted to go further and associate known neurobiological mechanisms with personality dimensions, measured using a range of instruments. >Causality/Developmental psychology.
Behavior: Following Revelle’s typology (Revelle 1995)(3), three fundamental behavioural dimensions have been proposed to correspond to differential activity in neurotransmitter systems (Ebstein, Benjamin Benjamin and Belmaker 2000(1); Munafò, Clark, Moore et al. 2003(4)): dopamine for approach behaviours, serotonin and noradrenaline for avoidance behaviours, and serotonin, noradrenaline and GABA for aggressive or fight-flight behaviours. There is considerable consensus over the construct validity of the first two of these dimensions, but there remains equally considerable debate over the third.


1. Ebstein, R. P., Benjamin, J., Belmaker, R. H. 2000. Personality and polymorphisms of genes involved in aminergic neurotransmission, European Journal of Pharmacology 410: 205–14
2. Eysenck, H. J. 1977. National differences in personality as related to ABO blood group polymorphism, Psychology Reports 41: 1257–8
3. Revelle, W. 1995. Personality processes, Annual Review of Psychology 46: 295–328
4. Munafò, M. R., Clark, T. G., Moore, L. R., Payne, E., Walton, R. and Flint, J. 2003. Genetic polymorphisms and personality in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Molecular Psychiatry 8: 471–84


Marcus R. Munafò,“Behavioural genetics: from variance to DNA“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.)2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press

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Corr I 329
Personality traits/Behavioral Genetics: Behaviour genetic analysis has shown that the two meta-traits have genetic origins (Jang et al. 2006)(1), and evidence is accumulating that Stability (>Personality traits/neurobiology) is related to serotonin, whereas Plasticity may be related to dopamine (DeYoung 2006(2); DeYoung, Peterson and Higgins 2002;(3) Yamagata, Suzuki, Ando et al. 2006)(4). Serotonine and dopamine act as diffuse neuromodulators affecting a wide array of brain systems, and their broad influence is consistent with a role in the broadest level of personality structure.


1. Jang, K. L., Livesley, W. J., Ando, J., Yamagata, S., Suzuki, A., Angleitner, A., Ostendorf, F., Riemann, R. and Spinath, F. 2006. Behavioural genetics of the higher-order factors of the Big Five, Personality and Individual Differences 41: 261–72
2. DeYoung, C. G. 2006. Higher-order factors of the Big Five in a multi-informant sample, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91: 1138–51
3. DeYoung, C. G., Peterson, J. B. and Higgins, D. M. 2002. Higher-order factors of the Big Five predict conformity: are there neuroses of health? Personality and Individual Differences 33: 533–52
4. Yamagata, S., Suzuki, A., Ando, J., Ono, Y., Kijima, N., Yoshimura, K., Ostendorf, F., Angleitner, A., Riemann, R., Spinath, F. M., Livesley, W. J. and Jang, K. L. 2006. Is the genetic structure of human personality universal? A cross-cultural twin study from North America, Europe, and Asia, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 90: 987–98


Colin G. DeYoung and Jeremy R. Gray, „ Personality neuroscience: explaining individual differences in affect, behaviour and cognition“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Behavioral Genetics
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-07-20
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