social sciences

Personality: genetic factors?

Using methods such as twin studies, we can infer that personality is, at least partially, genetically determined. There is, however, also an environmental component, which is also imperative to personality formation. In these studies, the Big Five personality test is often used to look at how it develops over time.

Big Five personality traits
Using twin studies, researchers have found that there seems to be a genetic component to personality traits (Jang, Livesley, & Vemon, 1996). Twin studies are often used to study the effects of genes, identical twins and fraternal are then compared on these traits. One of the most used personality factor models is the Big Five, the five traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Instability and extraversion
Another group of researchers also looked at twin studies to find out what the genetic component is of psychosocial instability and psychosocial extraversion. They found that half of the variation in these traits could be explained by genetics (Floderus-Myrhed,  Pedersen,  & Rasmuson, 1980). Simply put,  the other half might be explained by environmental factors. So personality is partially shaped by the situations we go through in life.

Personality disorders
However, apart from regular personality traits, one can also study personality disorders. These are detrimental as they affect behavior or thinking processes in a negative manner. Which means it can influence daily functioning for an individual. These types of disorders have also found to be heritable, though most of the variance can be attributed to environmental factors (Jang,  Livesley, Vernon,  & Jackson, 1996).

Anxiety/social phobia
It has been found that fear of negative evaluation, which is one of the characteristics of anxiety or social phobia have genetic influences as well (Stein, Jang, & Livesley, 2002).

Job satisfaction
Another team of researchers looked at the genetic components that influence job satisfaction. They used the aforementioned five factor model of personality and the positive affectivity–negative affectivity personality test. The positive affectivity–negative affectivity assess what type of emotions (negative or positive) respondents tend to experience. Using these two tests, they found that both of these constructs determined job satisfaction.  The positive affectivity–negative affectivity construct explained most of the variance in job satisfaction (Ilies, & Judge, 2003).

Floderus-Myrhed, B., Pedersen, N., & Rasmuson, I. (1980). Assessment of heritability for personality, based on a short-form of the Eysenck Personality Inventory: A study of 12,898 twin pairs. Behavior genetics10(2), 153-162.

Jang, K. L., Livesley, W. J., & Vemon, P. A. (1996). Heritability of the big five personality dimensions and their facets: a twin study. Journal of personality, 64(3), 577-592.

Jang, K. L., Livesley, W. J., Vernon, P. A., & Jackson, D. N. (1996). Heritability of personality disorder traits: a twin study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica94(6), 438-444.

Ilies, R., & Judge, T. A. (2003). On the heritability of job satisfaction: The mediating role of personality. Journal of Applied psychology88(4), 750.

Stein, M. B., Jang, K. L., & Livesley, W. J. (2002). Heritability of social anxiety-related concerns and personality characteristics: a twin study. The Journal of nervous and mental disease190(4), 219-224.

social sciences

What are you like? What does your personality predict?

Psychology has created many personality tests that help predict and understand people’s behavior. However one of the most used tests seems to be the Big Five test. This test changed a lot in it’s beginning phases, at the end of the nineteenth century. But now the test includes 5 different traits, which is often abbreviated to OCEAN.

OCEAN stands for the following traits: openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism. A Big Five test includes scales measuring these five constructs. The beauty of this test is that these traits have been proven to be quite stable over a (person’s) lifetime. And these constructs have been used to measure links with other behaviors or personality traits. For instance, these have been linked to political preference, work performance, health behaviors, and even your social media behavior. (Link below to take the test!)

Big Five traits
As mentioned earlier, the test measures five different traits. The first trait, openness, is about one’s openness to new experiences. If you score high on this trait, you could be considered curious, and interested in arts or music, and you have an active imagination.
Second, there is conscientiousness, this has to do with being organized. This means you’re reliable in your work, and you do things efficiently.
Then there is extraversion, probably one of the most known traits of the Big Five. People who score high on this trait are sociable, outgoing, and not likely to be reversed or timid.
The fourth trait is agreeableness, this is your tendency to agree with others and to cooperate. If you score low on this, you are more likely to blame others, start fights, and be rude.
Lastly, there is neuroticism, people who score high on this are more likely to be emotionally unstable, worry a lot, and get nervous.

Job performance
As mentioned earlier, these traits are linked to behaviors in certain settings. In a job-related setting, in which one has to be social, you could imagine that extraversion would be beneficial for performance. This turned out to be the case according to research done by Barrick and Mount (1991), They also found that conscientiousness was beneficial for most types of jobs.

Political preferences
And in terms of political preferences, center-right voters score a bit higher on conscientiousness, whereas center-left voters scored higher on agreeableness and openness (Capara, Barbaranelli, & Zimbardo, 1999).
Openness to experience is negatively related to conservatism, this means that those who tend to score low on this trait are more likely to hold conservative views. Extraversion is linked to political participation, that is carried out through group settings, which intuitively makes sense since you will be spending time with others. Furthermore, extroverts are also more likely to engage in political discussions, however, interestingly enough do not necessarily possess more political knowledge. Those who score high on openness to experience do seem to have more of this knowledge. And lastly, highly agreeable individuals tend to avoid political discussions (Mondak & Halperin, 2008), and one could speculate that they would do so to avoid situations in which they might have to disagree, this might create an uncomfortable situation.

Health behaviors 
Conscientiousness is linked to behaviors that promote health, agreeableness is linked to behaviors that include less substance use. While both behaviors predict less risk-taking in traffic situations. The same researchers that found these links argue that knowledge of such associations can improve programs aimed to increase/promote help. For instance, they propose that those scoring low on conscientiousness might benefit more from programs that involve peers (Booth-Kewely & Vickers, 1994).

Social media behaviors
Those scoring high on openness to might be more likely to share and post intellectual information (Marshall, Lefringhausen, & Ferenczi, 2015). People who use Facebook for socializing score higher on neuroticism, whereas people who use Twitter for the same purpose score higher on openness. Individuals high in neuroticism and extraversion preferred Facebook over Twitter (Hughes, Rowe, Batey,  & Lee, 2012). The amount of Facebook friends has also been studied, neuroticism is negatively linked to this amount. This means that those high in neuroticism have fewer friends. And extraversion is positively linked, thus scoring higher on this trait means having more Facebook friends. Neurotics also engage in ‘liking’ others’ posts more and are part of more Facebook groups. The authors argue that these individuals tend to experience more negative emotions and therefore are more likely to take part in behaviors that might prompt support (Bachrach et al, 2012).

Take the Big Five test!

Inventory used to describe traits, very interesting read!

Bachrach, Y., Kosinski, M., Graepel, T., Kohli, P., & Stillwell, D. (2012). Personality and patterns of Facebook usage. In Proceedings of the 4th Annual ACM Web Science Conference (pp. 24-32). ACM.
Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta‐analysis. Personnel psychology, 44(1), 1-26.
Booth‐Kewley, S., & Vickers, R. R. (1994). Associations between major domains of personality and health behavior. Journal of personality, 62(3), 281-298.
Capara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1999). Personality profiles and political parties. Political psychology, 20(1), 175-197.
Hughes, D. J., Rowe, M., Batey, M., & Lee, A. (2012). A tale of two sites: Twitter vs. Facebook and the personality predictors of social media usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2), 561-569.
Marshall, T. C., Lefringhausen, K., & Ferenczi, N. (2015). The Big Five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics people write about in Facebook status updates. Personality and Individual Differences, 85, 35-40.
Mondak, J. J., & Halperin, K. D. (2008). A framework for the study of personality and political behaviour. British Journal of Political Science, 38(02), 335-362.