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Annu Rev Psychol. 2014;65:515-40. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143752. Epub 2013 Sep 18.

A phenotypic null hypothesis for the genetics of personality.

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Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904; email:


We review the genetically informed literature on the genetics of personality. Over the past century, quantitative genetic studies, using identical and fraternal twins, have demonstrated that differences in human personality are substantially heritable. We focus on more contemporary questions to which that basic observation has led. We examine whether differences in the heritability of personality are replicable across different traits, samples, and studies; how the heritability of personality relates to its reliability; and how behavior genetics can be employed in studies of validity, and we discuss the stability of personality in genetic and environmental variance. The appropriate null hypothesis in behavior genetics is not that genetic or environmental influence on personality is zero. Instead, we offer a phenotypic null hypothesis, which states that genetic variance is not an independent mechanism of individual differences in personality but rather a reflection of processes that are best conceptualized at the phenotypic level.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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