Evolutionary Personality Psychology

Human personality characteristics have developed over time as responses to particular environmental and societal influences rather than being the product of random genetic differences. These adaptations are thought to have improved our forebears' odds of survival and reproduction, and they still impact our behaviour and disposition today.

Our tendency for cooperation and altruism may have developed to aid us in forming strong social ties and surviving in groups. For example, if being more extroverted helped our forefathers live and pass down their DNA, we may have developed to be more outgoing and sociable.

What is Evolutionary Personality Psychology?

Personality Evolution Psychology is a subset of psychology that studies individual variations in behaviour and evolutionary theory. It seeks to comprehend how individual variations in psychological characteristics have developed over time and how these differences add to an individual's reproductive success.

Extroversion, which may have conferred advantages in social situations and mate selection, and openness to experience, which may have facilitated the acquisition of new skills and knowledge, are two behavioural traits thought to have evolved as adaptations to environmental pressures.

Psychologists also emphasise the significance of comprehending the function of society and social learning in personality formation. While hereditary factors can affect the development of behavioural traits, they do not work in a vacuum, and societal and contextual factors can significantly impact the expression and appearance of these traits. Overall, this approach to behaviour provides a distinct view of the roots and purposes of individual variations and their adaptive worth in the context of our evolutionary past.

The Influence of Society and Surroundings on Personality Evolution

Culture and surroundings have an enormous influence on an individual's identity. Our cultural heritage and surroundings can have a wide range of effects on our attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviours and help our identity evolve. Here are a couple of examples −


From an early age, culture and environment play an essential part in socialising people. The method by which people acquire the norms, values, and beliefs of their society is referred to as socialisation. This process moulds a person's personality by showing them how to engage with others, which behaviours are appropriate or unacceptable, and what is essential or unimportant.


The words we use can have an impact on our personalities. Languages have distinct structures and vocabularies, which can influence how we observe and understand our surroundings. For example, languages with many terms for feelings may encourage people to be more socially expressive, whereas languages with fewer words for emotions may encourage people to be more reserved.

Family and Society

Family and community environments can also influence our personalities. Individuals raised in a collectivist culture, emphasising group harmony and cooperation, may value social relationships and avoid conflict. In contrast, those raised in an individualistic culture, emphasising personal achievement and independence, may value competition and assertiveness.

Life Events

Our life experiences can also influence our personalities. Traumatic events, such as abuse or neglect, can affect a person's personality. In contrast, good experiences, such as beneficial relationships or success, can help with personal growth and development.

Culture and environment have a significant impact on an individual's behaviour. While genetics influence some parts of behaviour, society and the environment also impact who we are and how we engage with the world around us.

Genetic Factors in the Development of Personality Traits

Genetic variables are also crucial in the formation of personality characteristics. According to studies, genetic variables account for approximately 40-60% of individual variations in behavioural characteristics. The role of genetic variables in personality formation is complicated, involving the interplay of numerous genes. Some genes may influence the development of particular characteristics like impulsivity or neuroticism, whereas others may influence more comprehensive parts of behaviour like overall emotional stability or sociability.

Furthermore, the influence of genetic variables on individuality formation is not constant or predictable. Environmental variables can also affect the manifestation of genetic characteristics, and this interplay is known as gene-environment interaction. This implies that environmental variables such as upbringing, societal situations, and life events can impact genetic characteristics.

A recent study has also revealed that specific genetic variants may be linked to certain psychological characteristics. For example, a variant in the serotonin transporter gene has been linked to neuroticism and negative affect. In contrast, changes in the dopamine receptor genes have been linked to extraversion and sensation-seeking.

It is essential to note that genetic variables do not wholly decide psychological characteristics but rather impact the likelihood of certain traits developing. Environmental variables and life events also impact an individual's behavioural patterns.

Adaptive Assessment of Heritable Qualities

Assume that all men have an evolved decision rule: When aggressiveness can be successfully deployed to attain goals, pursue an aggressive approach; when aggression cannot be successfully implemented, adopt a cooperative strategy. Decision rules that have evolved are certainly more sophisticated than this. Given this simplified rule, people with a mesomorphic (muscular) body type can carry out an aggressive approach more successfully than those with an ectomorphic (thin) or endomorphic body type. (rotund).

Individual variations in body composition give input into the decision rule, resulting in persistent individual variances in aggressiveness and cooperativeness. In this case, the predisposition towards violence is "reactively heritable" because it is a secondary consequence of heritable body design that gives input into species-specific systems of self-assessment and decision-making.

Tooby and Cosmides (1990) used the term "reactive heritability" to characterise evolved psychological systems that use heritable traits as input to influence strategic decisions. According to this viewpoint, selection will favour the emergence of assessment systems if such evaluations assist a person in adopting intelligent tactics. In this approach, evolved mechanisms are not just sensitive to recurring elements of the external environment, such as the dependability of parental provisioning, but can also be attuned to self-evaluation.


Personality is a complicated construct impacted by genetic and external variables, and it is essential in adaptation, variety, social harmony, personal growth and development, and mental health. The interplay of hereditary and external variables influences individual variations in behavioural patterns, and these differences are essential for understanding how individuals differ in their ideas, emotions, and behaviours.

Updated on: 19-Apr-2023


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