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Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2004 Nov 15;131B(1):20-32.

Genetic variants implicated in personality: a review of the more promising candidates.

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  • 1MRC/UCT Human Genetics Research Unit, Divison of Human Genetics, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.


Alleles of the serotonin transporter gene (SERT) and the dopamine 4 receptor gene (DRD4) were first associated with anxiety-related and novelty-seeking personality traits, respectively, in 1996. These early successes precipitated a flood of research into the genetic basis of personality; a quest that has yet to yield decisive answers. Here, both the theoretical and the empirical evidence implicating specific loci-in particular SERT and DRD4-in the development of personality is evaluated. Despite a paucity of statistically significant results following post-hoc analysis, and an excess of positive results derived from studies with small sample sizes, the existence of a genuine effect is argued for: a gene-personality relationship rendered periodically latent through genetic epistasis, gene-environment interactions, variation in genetic background, and the presence of other confounding variables.

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