Human personality is largely influenced by genetic makeup, including fundamental character traits such as extraversion and sociability. Most of the personality traits exhibited by humans (over 4500!) have significant genetic heritabilities. This blog discusses the impact of genetics on your personality and emotional wellbeing, and how you can leverage this information to build your best version.
What you will learn -
- What constitutes personality traits and understanding the Big 5 Personality model
- The relationship between genetics and temperament or your natural psychological disposition
- The profound impact of genetics on general intelligence
- The undeniable link between genetics and mental health
The perennial debate of nature vs. nurture is as fierce today as it was when humans started questioning what exactly makes us who we are. Human nature is astoundingly complex to understand, and there is no clear answer yet, but genetics answers some of the key questions about human nature.
Our personality comprises the characteristic set of behaviours, cognitions and emotional patterns that we exhibit as a result of genetic and environmental factors. In fact, all psychological traits can be attributed to genetics to varying degrees.
"There are five traits that are linked with genetics: extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness”, according to molecular geneticist Dana Brassette. These traits constitute the OCEAN traits, and can be accurately measured through the widely accepted big five personality test. Some of these traits such as general intelligence are more genetically influenced than others.
Decoding your personality traits
Before we delve into the influence of genetics on our personality, it is important to understand what ‘traits’ imply. Our personalities are an interesting mix of a large variety of psychological traits, according to Trait Theory. Psychologist Gordon Allport once listed down over 4500 distinct traits!)
According to the Big Five Personality Test, an individual’s personality is composed of five distinct dimensions. The big 5 test is used as a powerful personality assessment test to evaluate individual personalities which vary on a spectrum of high to low on each of the five core traits.
The five traits that build our personality are:
Agreeableness: trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviours
Conscientiousness: high levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control, and goal-directed behaviours
Extroversion: sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and excitability
Neuroticism: sadness, moodiness, emotional instability, worries about many different things
Openness: creative, open to trying new things, happy to think about abstract concepts
Is temperament a product of our genes?
An individual's temperament is their psychological blueprint to approach life. Our temperament includes fundamental traits such as sociability (outgoing or shy), emotionality (easy-going or quick to react), activity level (high or low energy), attention level (focused or easily distracted), and persistence (determined or easily discouraged).
Temperament naturally plays a significant role in how we perform and develop through the course of our lives. The question of whether genetics impacts our temperament or not is an important one. As observed by multiple studies, our temperament is 20 to 60 per cent influenced by our genetics.
That's a significant statistic, considering the vast influence that our personality has on almost every aspect of life. It is important to note that multiple gene variations work together to influence personality traits (polymorphism). Traits such as self-discipline, carefulness, introversion, sociability, and anxiousness all have a genetic influence. Environmental factors work cohesively with genes, and directly influence how and when these genes are activated.
Introversion, for example, is a highly heritable trait with upto 50% genetic causation. High dopamine levels have been associated with introversion as well. Introverted people tend to choose careersrs that allow them the time to plan, process and execute at their own pace whereas extroverts thrive in teams and dynamic work environments.
Genetics and Intelligence
General intelligence and cognition are also heritable traits among individuals. Twin studies suggest that the variance in IQ is linked to genetics. Genes account for 50 percent of differences in intelligence amongst individuals.
Even though genetics impacts general intelligence in individuals, the influence of the environment cannot be undermined. The rest of the 50 percent differences can be attributed to environmental conditions. If two individuals have similar levels of intelligence but come from starkly different economic backgrounds, their intelligence may be affected by their environment differently.
Genetics and Mental Health/Wellbeing
A very important application of genetic studies is in the sphere of mental health and wellness Genetics plays a pivotal role in psychopathology and tracing mental health issues that run across generations.
It is now known that we inherit around 50% of our happiness from our parents. Studies have revealed that genetic influence on different wellbeing components such as subjective happiness, life satisfaction, but also others like social support, and inversely, depression and internalising disorders.
If we know anything about human nature, it dictates that mental wellbeing is far more complicated and layered than we can imagine. An individual's environment, especially in their early childhood years plays an uncontestable part in their development.
Biology and environment come together to forge an individual's mental and emotional wellbeing. Science-based personality assessment can be the gateway to initiating one’s self-discovery journey and accelerate the development of mental and emotional wellbeing.
Studies after studies have uncovered the attention-worthy impact of genetics on our personality traits and emotional/mental wellbeing. An understanding of our genetic makeup through DNA-based personality tests has profound potential to uncover key elements of our personality. This is where powerful tools like Genleap help facilitate the process of self-discovery through the trinity of astromancy, genetics and psychometrics.