A genome-wide association study of Cloninger's temperament scales: Implications for the evolutionary genetics of personality

Karin J.H. Verweij, Brendan P. Zietsch, Sarah E. Medland, Scott D. Gordon, Beben Benyamin, Dale R. Nyholt, Brian P. McEvoy, Patrick F. Sullivan, Andrew C. Heath, Pamela A.F. Madden, Anjali K. Henders, Grant W. Montgomery, Nicholas G. Martin, Naomi R. Wray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Variation in personality traits is 30-60% attributed to genetic influences. Attempts to unravel these genetic influences at the molecular level have, so far, been inconclusive. We performed the first genome-wide association study of Cloninger's temperament scales in a sample of 5117 individuals, in order to identify common genetic variants underlying variation in personality. Participants' scores on Harm Avoidance, Novelty Seeking, Reward Dependence, and Persistence were tested for association with 1,252,387 genetic markers. We also performed gene-based association tests and biological pathway analyses. No genetic variants that significantly contribute to personality variation were identified, while our sample provides over 90% power to detect variants that explain only 1% of the trait variance. This indicates that individual common genetic variants of this size or greater do not contribute to personality trait variation, which has important implications regarding the genetic architecture of personality and the evolutionary mechanisms by which heritable variation is maintained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-317
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Evolution
  • Genes
  • Genome-wide association
  • Maintenance of genetic variation
  • Mutation
  • Personality
  • Selection
  • Temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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