Are Our Personality Traits Genetic?
Updated on March 18, 2024
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Are Our Personality Traits Genetic?

Key Takeaways

Are Our Personality Traits Genetic? 1

Yes, however, genetics aren’t the sole contributors to our personalities. Research (like twin studies) has shown that many traits can be inherited.

The age-old debate of nature vs. nurture has continued today. It questions whether it’s our genetics or our environment that shapes our personality traits.

However, our personalities aren’t shaped only by what we inherit. How we’re raised and our environments are also big influences on how we grow up.

Your personality results both from what you inherit from your parents and how your immediate surroundings and interactions shape you.

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What Role Does Genetics Play in Determining Personality?

Genetics is one of the biggest influences on our personalities. Traits that your parents have can be passed down and observed in you.

Research has provided valuable insights into how genetics influences our personality characteristics. For example, twin studies have been instrumental in unraveling the genetic components of personality. 

Identical twins share 100% of their genetic material. Meanwhile, fraternal twins share approximately 50% of their genes on average despite genetic differences.

Twin studies compare the similarities in personality traits between twins. This allows researchers to estimate how genetics can influence personality.

Studies on identical twins reared in different environments found interesting conclusions. They examined twins who were separated at birth and raised in different families.

Are Our Personality Traits Genetic? 2

Despite the different upbringings, these twins still shared a lot of personality traits.1 There were striking similarities found in factors such as:

  • Personal mannerisms
  • Expressive social behavior
  • Occupational interests

Twin studies suggest that genetics plays a substantial role in fundamental aspects of personality.

Adoption studies provide another angle to explore how genetics influence personality. These studies compare the personalities of adopted children with both their biological and adoptive families. 

For example, several studies showed that adopted children share more behavioral traits with their biological parents than their adoptive parents.2

This finding reinforces that genetics significantly contributes to personalities. This is true even when people are raised in different environments. Evidence from twin and adoption studies strongly supports the role of genetics in personality.

Can Genetics Influence Specific Personality Traits?

Yes, they can.

Which Personality Traits Are Most Strongly Genetically Influenced?

Some personality traits are more strongly influenced by genetics than others. One of the most notable examples is neuroticism.

Neuroticism is characterized by emotional instability and anxiety. It also tends to exhibit negative emotions. These may include anger, self-consciousness, and irritability.

Specific genes have been implicated in the heritability of neuroticism.9 These mainly include those related to the serotonin system.

Other research suggests that the following five personality traits are often inherited:10

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness

Are There Personality Traits That Are Predominantly Environmental?

Genetics certainly plays a role in all personality traits. However, some traits are more influenced by their environment. A few examples include the following:

  • Religious beliefs – A person’s religious beliefs are heavily influenced by their families and immediate environment. If their parents have certain beliefs, they will likely have the same ones.
  • Political beliefs – One’s political beliefs are often shaped by the ideologies of those closest to them or by what they’re exposed to via media or their peers.11 
  • Career choice – People’s immediate environments heavily influence career interests and choices. These include their opportunities, educational achievements, or even the careers they grow up seeing around them.
  • Hobbies and interests – Personal interests and hobbies are typically shaped through exposure and experiences. While genetics don’t always influence what you end up enjoying, they may make you more likely to like one hobby over another.12
  • Diet and lifestyle – Dietary preferences, exercise habits, and other lifestyle choices are shaped by the environment. These include cultural norms, access to resources, and personal experiences.
  • Social behavior – Social skills, interpersonal behaviors, and relationship patterns are strongly influenced by socialization and life experiences. 

Remember that traits with a significant environmental component can still have a genetic influence.

The interplay between genetics and environment is complex. Most personality traits result from a combination of both factors.

However, the degree of influence varies. Some traits are more malleable and responsive to environmental influences than others.

How Do Identical Twins Compare in Personality?

While identical twins share 100% of their DNA, they don’t share all their personality traits. However, research has found that they tend to have more similar personalities than fraternal twins.3

Numerous studies show that twins raised apart often exhibit significant personality similarities.4 These findings suggest that genetic factors can strongly influence personality characteristics.

Are Our Personality Traits Genetic? 3

However, genetics isn’t the only contributor to personality. Identical twins can still develop distinct personalities. This may happen due to unique life experiences and environmental influences.

However, even if they’re raised in the same household, they can still be very different.

The nature vs. nurture debate reminds us that it’s not so simple. The interactions of both genes and our surroundings shape our personalities. Each of us is a unique blend of our biological inheritance and life experiences.

Genetics and the Environment

The influence of genetics and environment on personality traits are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they are interrelated.

Genetic predispositions may set the stage for certain traits. However, the environment can act as a catalyst or a modifier. Our genes provide a foundation upon which our experiences build. This shapes our responses, preferences, and behaviors.

Our immediate environment can significantly impact how our genetic predispositions manifest. These factors can include:

  • Family upbringing
  • Cultural norms
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Life events

Someone who is genetically introverted but was raised in an extroverted family may adopt more extroverted behaviors. 

Similarly, genetics might cause someone to have a higher predisposition to neuroticism. However, a supportive and nurturing environment can mitigate its impact.

Can Environment Override Genetic Predispositions?

Your environment can modify or amplify genetic influences. Genetics can lay the foundation for certain traits. However, your environment can significantly influence how those traits manifest. 

Upbringing, culture, and personal experiences are key factors that influence personality traits. 


Upbringing includes parenting styles, family dynamics, and early childhood experiences.

The way we are raised can significantly impact how our personalities are developed. An introvert may become more extroverted if raised in an outgoing environment.5

Are Our Personality Traits Genetic? 4


Cultural norms and values play a substantial role in shaping personality.

Different cultures emphasize various personality traits. This can lead people to adopt certain behaviors and attitudes that align with their cultural background. This cultural influence can either enhance or suppress genetic predispositions.

Personal experiences

Life experiences include trauma, achievement, or adversity. These can have a profound impact on personality. They can trigger changes in behavior not directly linked to genetic predispositions.6

Remember that our genes aren’t the only contributors to our traits. They interact with our surroundings to shape us. Environmental influences can shape, redirect, or even override certain genetic predispositions related to personality.

What Environmental Factors Influence Personality Development?

Several environmental factors exert their influence on personality development. 

Aside from upbringing, culture, and personal experiences, the following factors can influence your personality: 

  • Peer influence Social interactions while growing up can significantly shape personality development. Friends can introduce new perspectives, values, and behaviors that may or may not align with your genetic predispositions.
  • Education Education includes school environments and the quality of education received. These can shape cognitive abilities, motivation, and certain personality traits like curiosity and conscientiousness.
  • Life events – Major life events can trigger significant personality changes. For example, the loss of a loved one can lead to increased introversion or emotional instability.7
  • Socioeconomic status Economic factors and access to resources can influence personality traits. For example, those with higher socioeconomic status can be more resilient.8

Our personalities are shaped both by our genetic makeup and the environments we navigate.

This complex interaction makes each person’s personality development a unique and multifaceted journey. With that, both nature and nurture contribute to the rich tapestry of human personality.

Common Questions About Personality Traits

Is Our Genetic Makeup Our Destiny in Terms of Personality?

Contrary to the myth of genetic determinism, our genetic makeup is not our destiny when it comes to personality. Genes play a significant role in shaping our predispositions. However, they do not rigidly dictate our personalities.

Our environment plays a crucial role in molding who we become.

Identical twins share 100% of their genes but can still have different personalities depending on their surroundings and how they’re brought up.13 Upbringing, culture, and personal experiences are all key drivers of personality. 

Moreover, many personality traits are highly influenced by people’s environments. Genetics and environment interact to create our unique traits.

How Do Fraternal Twins’ Personalities Compare to Identical Twins?

Studies have shown that fraternal twins share fewer personality traits than identical ones.14

This difference highlights the impact of shared genetic material in shaping traits. Fraternal twins may share some genetic similarities. 

However, their greater genetic diversity creates broader personality differences influenced by genetics and environment.

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Updated on March 18, 2024
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14 sources cited
Updated on March 18, 2024
  1. Twin Studies: A Unique Epidemiological Tool”. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Is Personality More Nature or More Nurture? Behavioral and Molecular Genetics”.  University of Minnesota M Libraries.
  3. Is temperament determined by genetics?”. Medline Plus.
  4. A double life”. American Psychological Association.
  5. Introvert vs Extrovert: Which personality type are you?”. MedPark Hospital.
  6. The Biological Effects of Childhood Trauma”. National Library of Medicine.
  7. Impact on personality due to loss of or separation from loved ones”. ResearchGate.
  8. The Role of Socioeconomic Status, Family Resilience, and Social Support in Predicting Psychological Resilience Among Chinese Maintenance Hemodialysis Patients”. National Library of Medicine.
  9. Association of the serotonin transporter gene, neuroticism and smoking behaviours”. Journal of Human Genetics. 
  10. Is Personality Genetic?”. Verywell Mind.
  11. Political Socialization”. University of Minnesota M Libraries.
  12. Hobbies and careers ‘are inherited’”. The Telegraph.
  13. Insights From Identical Twins”. Learn.Genetics Genetic Science Learning Center.
  14. Twin Personalities – Three Common Myths”. University of the Cumberlands. 
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.