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BIOLOGY &Personality

How character traits evolve+ connection to biology

(in how far) is Personality biological?



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The "Big five" describes a huge theory of five biologi cally influenced traits

Five factor Model of perssonality


A theory based on three character traits influenced by the reticular formation and limbic system

EysNeck`s three factor model


The theory of f four dimensions of temperament - link between temperaments and specific neurotransmitters

cloniger 's psychobiological model


A theory based on the idea that there are three brains systems that all respond differently to rewarding and punishing stimuli

gray's reinforcment sensitivity theory


-Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart

NEUROBIOLOGICAL NETWORKSBEHAVIORAL INHIBITION SYSTEM (BIS)BEHAVIORAL APPROACH SYSTEM (BAS)FIGHT-FLIGHT-FREEZE SYSTEM (FFFS) THEORYindividual differences in the functioning of the BIS and BAS > provide the biological foundation for complex personality traits [interindividual differences in the strength of the behavioural inhibition system/ behavioural activation system - differences in sensitivity to unfamiliarity, punishment and nonreward] reactivity and sensitivity of three distinct neurobiological networks in response to positive, negative or conflicting stimuli were proposed to account for individual differences in approach avoidance and inhibition of behavior, respectively SYSTEMS: proposed to work in conjunction to orchestrate human behaviour in response to varous stimuli

  • mediates the emotion of anxiety and cautious risk-assessment behavior when entering dangerous situations due to conflicting goals.
  • personality traits: worry-proneness and anxiety.
  • thought to be activated: threatening stimulus must be approached, or when mixed signals of reward an punishment are present
  • unfamiliar stimuli / stimuli that signal punishment / non - reward --> system elicits behavioural inhibition as well as an increase in limbic arousal and attention
  • more reactive BIS - personality traits:
    • fear-proneness; avoidance (threat / punishment)
    • associated with worrying and rumination
    • difficulties making decisions (two equally attractive / unattractive options - one option needs to be chosen)
    • uncertainty, including hesitation, risk assessment or wary behavior
  • LINK TO INTROVERSION; ANXIOUSNESS (more sensitive to punishment signals)
  • mediates the emotion of anticipatory pleasure resulting from reactions to desirable stimuli
  • personality traits: optimism, reward-oreintation and impulsivity
  • anchored in mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways * (mesolimbic dopamine function - underpin energized approach behaviour toward appetitive stimuli)
  • stronger dopaminergic firing - characerized as full of energy, having a tendency toward outgoing explorative behaviour , more motivated to pursue rewards
  • high BAS values mean sensitivity to reward stimuli and correlated with extraversion --> "Go get it !" system
  • BAS responds to conditioned reward and non - punishing stimuli with positive emotions (hope, enthusiasm, relief, happiness - comparable to being high like when using drugs)
  • differences in sensitivity to reward - different behavior in reaction to reward, non punishment etc.
  • more sensitive BAS system leads to more approach behavior (approach and goal-directed behavior)
  • high BAS individuals are expected to more easily activate the ventral tegmental area, ventral pallidum, ventral striatum
  • LINK TO EXTRAVERSION ; IMPULSIVITY (more sensitive to reward signals)
  • mediates the emotion of fear (not anxiety) & active avoidance of dangerous situations [Sensitivity to punishment stimuli]
  • personality traits: fear-proneness; avoidance
  • responsible for the response to unconditioned danger stimuli
  • The FFFS is active when threat is avoided while the BIS is active when a threatening situation is encountered. Therefore, FFFS behavior was regarded as defensive avoidance and BIS behavior was labeled defensive approach
  • Solve conflicts: A conflicting situation is defined as a situation where BAS and FFFS are both activated (approach-avoid conflict), or when there is a conflict within either the BAS (approach-approach conflict) or FFFS (fight-flight-freeze conflict)
  • whether FFFs or BIS is activated and the specific cerebral level at which each respected system is activated --> depends on the perceived threat intensity [which brain strucutres are activated / which behavioral"program" will be executed
  • most intense threat (proximal predator): activates the periaqueductal gray (PAG), medial hypothalamus and amygdala **
  • low threat intensity (distal predator): activates the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the ventral stream of the PFC***
*The mesolimbic pathway is a dopaminergic pathway in the brain. The pathway connects the ventral tegmental area in the midbrain to the ventral striatum of the basal ganglia in the forebrain. The ventral striatum includes the nucleus acccumbens and the olfactory tubercle ** ***

Eysneck´s three factor model of personality Eysneck categorized personality into three dimensions of personality and their possible origin - all of these only are partly biological partly due to the surrounding and more, though he claims tha there´s a large biological determinant to personality. Also, Eysneck was a ‘top down theorist' referring to his working strategy of first getting data and then coming to conclusions. 1 Psychoticism - vulnerability to impulsiveness, aggressivenes, lack of empathy 2 Extraversion - extraversion-introversion (traits of sociability, impulsiveness, vitality...) 3 Neuroticism - emotional instability (regulation of emotional activation) "PEN" Especially extroversion and neuroticism were connected to how the asencending reticular activating system (ARAS), located in the brain stem and connected to other parts of the brain, works.The ARAS controls excitatory and inhibitory neural mechanisms and tries to balance them as the excitatory relates to being alert, active and aroused as the inhibatory helps relate to inactivity and lethargy (Trägheit). As the ARAS handles the information or stimulation the brain receives it has 2 functions: the reticulo-cortical circuit manages the incoming stimuli and the reticulo-limbic circuit further on is the connection between stimuli and emotional stimuli created then. Depending on these "circuits" and the general ARAS activity, sociability, anxiety, optimisms and more things that influence the three factors are changed.

The Minnesota Study of Twins rearded apart: This study has been done from 1979 to 1999 and its goal was to research in how far personality and genes are connected. For this purpose pairs of identical and fraternal twins grew up together and apart and afterwards the differences and similarities in character/ personailty were looked at in detail. result hints at a certain level of heritability of personality traits claims rather high influence of genes on character different degree of heritability depending on traits traits are not determined by one gene but sets/ combinations of many genes traits determined by epigenetic factor (in how far the gene is expressed) genetical influence of over 50% (in a person) for following traits: -leadership and obedience to authority -resistance to stress and fearfulness -sense of well-being -and more

Five factor model of personality The five factor model claims that five traits are very dependent on ???? and all about 50% inherited. Through over 100 people answering questions and undergoing brain imaging, a connection between these were made and lead to this theory that is quite known and widely experimented. The five claimed traits are 1 Openness - being open and welcoming new stimuli 2 Conscientenouss - being goal-oriented and dutiful 3 Extraversion - degree of seeking external stimuli 4 Agreeableness - will to cooperate and please others 5 Neuroticism - degree of emotional instability "OCEAN"

Conclusion - to sum up: -Personality has a biological aspect -there are many different theories and models as well as "experiments"/ studies -some traits are probably more affected than others -traits are coded by more than one gene or biological detail -personality could be influenced by genes, hormones, brain parts and more -no specific prove for the theories -people have a specific biological personality

Still have questions? check out this video (start up to 3:00) https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=personality+and+biology&&view=detail&mid=5508CF0F52AB3BC89F015508CF0F52AB3BC89F01&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dpersonality%2Band%2Bbiology%26FORM%3DHDRSC4 personality and biology - Bing videoIs your personality pre-determined? Biological Theory of...Bing

Sources: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wmopen-psychology/chapter/biological-approaches/ https://explorable.com/biology-of-personality https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_basis_of_personality#Defining_personality_in_a_biological_context https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/personality/theories-personality#:~:text=Five-Factor%20Theory%3A%20Personality%20Is%20Based%20on%20Biology%20Using,is%20largely%20determined%20by%20biological%20factors%2C%20especially%20genetics. https://exploringyourmind.com/eysencks-personality-theory/ https://www.ukessays.com/essays/psychology/hans-eysencks-trait-theory-of-personality.php


  • sensitivity to and avoidance of punishing stimuli
  • tendency: react intensively to negative stimuli
  • degree to which people are: anxious, sensitive to criticism & punishment
  • tendency toward exhilaration or excitment in response to cues of potential reward or relief of punishment
  • Tendeny: react excitedly to novelties
  • degree to which people are impulsive (also related to enthusiasm)
  • tendency to respond to positive signals (social approval and to maintain rewarded behavior)
  • react intensely to situations that might lead to a reward (social approval, affective signs or help offering)
  • degree to which people are approval seeking,
  • tendency to continue a task or activity regardless of frustration, dissatisfaction, or fatigue
  • tendency to carry on with a type of behaviour known to bring frustration and tiredness
  • the extent to which individuals are goal-oriented and ressourceful
  • It is related to the willingness, ability to control, regulate and adapt behaviour for goal achievement in a functional and effective way.
  • Index of responsibility, maturity and reliability.
  • the extent to which individuals are transpersonal, spiritual idealistic
  • It implies identification, acceptance of others, availability to help and cooperation.
  • associated to empathy, availability tolerance and supportive skills.
  • the ability to feel part of everything (nature, universe), to perceive a whole consciousness.
  • associated to creativity, altruism and spirituality.
  • Dimensions of temperament are heritable ; character influenced by environmental factors
  • novelty seeking and harm avoidance are closely related to BAS and BIS (model - Gray)
  • link between temperaments and specific neurotransmitters --> still, major character traits are said to be related to insight learning & shaped both by temperament and environmental factors
  • temperament: reflects biological features provided that lead the human being to act in specific ways ; differences among people when they need to react unexpectedly to environmental stimuli: involves basic emotional reactive patterns, activated by these stimuli, such as anger, attachment and exploration (different reations reflect biological variability), origins from inheritable biological features promoting activation, inhibition of neurobiological systems
  • exploratory excitability
  • impulsiveness
  • extravagance
  • disorderliness
  • anticipatory worry
  • fear of uncertainty
  • shyness
  • fatigability
  • sentimentality
  • openness to warm communication
  • attachment
  • dependence
  • eagerness of effort
  • work hardened
  • ambitious
  • perfectionist
  • Responsiblity
  • purposeful
  • resourcefulness
  • self-acceptance
  • enlightened second nature
  • social acceptance
  • empathy
  • helpfulness
  • compassion
  • pure-hearted conscience
  • self-forgetful
  • transpersonal identification
  • spiritual acceptance