July 22, 2019

DNA and Conscientiousness?

What is conscientiousness, and how does your DNA affect this mental health trait?
Tomohiro Takano

DNA and Conscientiousness? Really?

Yes! Your DNA can directly affect many of your personality traits. Conscientiousness is a personality trait from the big five model that describes your ability for self-discipline, organization, and generally getting things done. You may think that conscientiousness is something you learn over time, something that your parents taught you. But, in fact, it may have been something your parents passed down to within your DNA! In fact, according to a twin study,  up to 50% of your personality may be determined by genetic influences. The other 50% may be environmental factors, such as how you were raised or other individual differences.

This article discusses what conscientiousness is, and how your DNA may affect this mental health trait. Since conscientiousness directly affects your success in life and your cognitive abilities, it is important to know how your genetics may play a role in forming this trait.

Let’s dive in!

What is Conscientiousness?

Conscientiousness is one of the five-factor model of personality traits commonly measured by psychologists to approximate a person’s mental traits and attributes. Conscientiousness relates to your self-disciple, your drive and focus, your organizational skills, and generally your ability to complete your duties. It is also related to your ability to take care of others, recognize your duties within any relationship, and take care of the things and people around you.

Don’t feel conscientious? Well, that might be a problem. You should know that conscientiousness is directly related to your school performance, job performance, propensity to commit crimes, and even your success in marriage! While environmental influences and your family environment may be partially responsible, your genes definitely play a role.

How does our DNA influence how conscientious we are?

Scientists have found several genes which are directly correlated to a person’s overall conscientiousness and mental health. In fact, one study found a genetic correlation that was directly related to a person’s overall conscientiousness, using personality psychology and genome-wide association studies. This genetic research identified the KATNAL2 gene, found on the 18th chromosome. This gene controls an aspect of how proteins are made within the brain. Though the exact mechanism is not known, there is a strong correlation between having the gene variant and being a conscientious person.

Other studies have suggested that other genes may also play a role. Some of these genes are also correlated to psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder. This would make sense because the brain is an extremely complex and convoluted system. The overall genetic architecture of your DNA plays a role in everything, including your cognitive ability. Having any of these genetic variants can increase your chances of being or becoming a conscientious person. If you are trying to increase your conscientiousness, you should at least know what your genes are contributing in that area.

Common Questions

Can I defy my genetics? Can I become conscientious even if my genes say I’m not?

Absolutely! You may have a slightly harder time at it than someone disposed to a high conscientiousness, but it can still be done. The neural circuits in the mind are in no way fixed. They change daily, based on how we use them, what we think about, and the actions we take. If you start recognizing your conscientious acts, practicing them more, and focusing on being more conscientious, it will happen.

Looking Ahead

While the science behind personality traits and genetics is still developing, it has found many great insights. In the future, studies will be larger and more encompassing. The two studies presented in this article were relatively small, and based on isolated populations. Future studies will look to find not only a correlation between personality traits and genetics, but also the causation, or the actual mechanism that is causing the change. Someday, a personality assessment might be directly linked to a DNA test. Researchers might even be able to accurately predict a person’s conscientiousness, openness to experience, or any psychiatric disorders directly from blood samples!

Find out what your DNA says

Many people are looking to yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques to change their personality traits and keep them in the present, including conscientiousness. While these are great tools, wouldn’t it be great if you could know how your DNA contributes to your mental attributes?

With Genomelink, it is. Upload a raw DNA data file, for free, to learn everything that science can tell you about how your DNA may affect your personality types. You can also access a variety of other traits that have been linked to your DNA. These include other personality dimensions, as well as health and lifestyle traits, and also some genetic variants related to diseases. What do you have to lose?

To find out more DNA upload sites, check out our article "The Best DNA Upload Sites"

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO