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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Jun;74(6):1556-65.

Heritability of facet-level traits in a cross-cultural twin sample: support for a hierarchical model of personality.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


The common variance among personality traits can be summarized in the factors of the five-factor model, which are known to be heritable. This study examined heritability of the residual specific variance in facet-level traits from the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. Analyses of raw and residual facet scales across Canadian (183 monozygotic [MZ] and 175 dizogotic [DZ] pairs) and German (435 MZ and 205 DZ pairs) twin samples showed genetic and environmental influences of the same type and magnitude across the 2 samples for most facets. Additive genetic effects accounted for 25% to 65% of the reliable specific variance. Results provide strong support for hierarchical models of personality that posit a large number of narrow traits in addition to a few broader trait factors or domains. Facet-level traits are not simply exemplars of the broad factors they define; they are discrete constructs with their own heritable and thus biological basis.

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