Do you have the Extroverted Genes?
Humans have been interested in personality differences for centuries, dating back to the 18th century. Maybe you’ve heard of the famous Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or more commonly called the Myers Briggs Personality Test. The first letter in the assessment determines whether you are an extrovert (E) or introvert (I).
Being an extravert doesn’t necessary mean you are more social or have more friends than an introvert (although you might). Rather, it's an indication of where you derive energy and how you interact with the world around you. Extroverts tend to interact with people more frequently and get energy from these social interactions.
Most of us have taken a personality test at some point in time whether to learn more about ourselves or perhaps, we were asked/required to do so by an employer. However, did it ever occur to you when you sat answering questions about yourself that your genetics could be playing a role in who you are, how social you are, and where your energy comes from?
Whether being an extrovert or introvert is truly determined by biology is still up for debate, but research shows that genetics play a role in the development of an individual’s personality.
What does being extroverted say about me?
According to The Myers and Briggs Foundation, extroverts make up ~ 50% of the US population. It’s not just the MBTI that analyzes extroversion vs. introversion as an important link in overall personality. The Big Five model designed in the 1960s considers extroversion as one of the five factors that determine personality.
Are extroverted people better at being leaders or superior in sales since you get energy from being around others? Do people value your opinion more since perhaps you speak out more than an introvert? These are common questions that modern personality research attempts to answer.
For Susan Cain, an author and co-founder of the Quiet Revolution, being an extroverted person doesn’t mean you are superior in social situations or more energized by surrounding yourself with people; however, you do desire stimulation and experience more positive emotions compared to introverts.
Regardless of your extroverted or introverted personality type, the truth is most of us are in a grey area and dBeing an introvert isn’t necessarily about being shy. It has much to do with how you are energized. Extroverts may feel inspired by being around other people, but introverts are more likely to feel drained after high-energy social engagements. Introverts need solitude and low-key outings like taking a walk with a friend to re-energize. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you never enjoy large crowds, but introverts enjoy spending time alone.
A study presented at the 2011 Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference suggested there are four main domains that identify an introverted personality. They are:
- Social: Preferring to spend time in smaller groups or one-on-one
- Thinking: Preferring to spend time in your own imagination or thoughts
- Anxious: The need to spend time alone or feelings of social awkwardness
- Inhibited: More likely to act with discretion, keeping thoughts to yourself
Regardless of your extroverted or introverted personality type, the truth is most of us are in a gray area and don’t strongly relate to either side. We all have moments when we feel a bit antisocial and crave alone time, characteristics associated with introverts. We are all human and humans are social creations that like being around others at times.
How Does Our DNA Influence How Introverted We Are?
It was Carl Jung that coined the terms extrovert and introvert back in the early 1900s. But, it wasn’t until a famous psychologist with controversial views, Hans Eysenck, brought biology into the equation.
He believed the way individuals view and relate with the world defines us so much so that he labeled extroversion vs. introversion as a first-order personality trait in which other traits expand upon. Additionally, he connected personality and genetics with one’s mental state.
Several factors influence whether a person is introverted or extroverted. Some of these factors include:
- Peer experiences, especially during childhood
- Brain chemistry
Is introversion genetic? According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, 50% of personality is inherited. Dr. Marti Olsen Lany, author of the book “The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World'' concludes that this element of personality is influenced by both nature and nurture. She posits that children are born with an innate temperament that has been influenced by genetics, and parents/environment nurture that temperament.
More than 60 neurotransmitters maintain brain function. Most of those chemicals are the same in each person, but the slight differences make every individual unique. Your individual recipe of chemicals is determined by your genes.
Dopamine, one of the “feel good” chemicals, plays different roles in the brains of extroverts and introverts. Introverts do not get the same dopamine “buzz” from external rewards as extroverts do. This sensitivity to dopamine is determined by DNA.
So Is Introversion Genetic or Not? Science Says Yes
According to one study, there are five broad dimensions that summarize personality traits. A genome-wide association scan (GWA) of 3,972 test participants found that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in three genes were associated with extroversion. These genes are BDNF, CHH13, and CDH23.
Though this specific study was conducted to find a genetic tie to extroversion, logic concludes that if being an extrovert is at least partially determined by genetics, so is being an introvert.
This type of research can be complex and be similar to finding a needle in a haystack. In the study discussed above, while the sample size was large, there were a number of limitations to the research study: the population was homogeneous, it relied on one of many personality models, it did not obtain consistent results. Learn more about the study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18957941.
In many ways, genetic research is still a growing field. The popularity of at-home DNA tests is pushing genetic scientists to keep up with the demand of curious and savvy consumers. Answers to questions like “Is introversion genetic” may still be somewhat nebulous and difficult to understand, but as more non-scientists become interested in the wealth of information available through genetics, more answers are certain to follow.
What Else Can a DNA Test Tell About Personality?
Several personality traits are believed to have a genetic component. A personality DNA test uses isolated cells from your saliva to score for SNPs to reveal genetic influence on a number of traits, including:
- Openness to new experiences
- Impulse control
- Predisposition for negativity
- Predisposition to cooperation
Some of these personality traits are things you already realize about yourself, and it may seem unnecessary to go to the trouble and expense of DNA testing to confirm behaviors you’re already familiar with. However, the more you understand about your genetic makeup, the better informed you are to adopt the self-care habits that will help you live a happier, healthier life.
For example, knowing you are predisposed to feelings of negativity may encourage you to focus on the positive things in life. Understanding that introversion has a genetic component may allow you to accept yourself more fully and stop thinking you “should” be more outgoing.
Find Out What Your DNA Says
DNA testing brings a world of information to your doorstep. Whether you’re worried about inherited health issues, interested in researching your genealogy, or simply want to know more about who you are from a biological perspective, DNA has the answers.
Today’s testing kits are easy to use, affordable, and have a high accuracy rate. Once your analysis is complete, you can upload the raw DNA data to different sites for a more complete picture.
Research suggests that there is a link between personality traits such as introversion and genetics. If you are curious as to whether you are genetically predisposed to being more extroverted than introverted, upload your data to Genomelink to find out now.
To learn about more DNA upload sites, check out our article "The Best DNA Upload Sites"