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Educational attainment and personality are genetically intertwined

By René Mõttus, Anu Realo, Uku Vainik, Jüri Allik, Jonathan P. Beauchamp

Posted 28 Sep 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/078014 (published DOI: 10.1177/0956797617719083)

Heritable variance in psychological traits may reflect genetic and biological processes that are not necessarily specific to these particular traits but pertain to a broader range of phenotypes. We tested the possibility that Five-Factor Model personality domains and their 30 facets, as rated by people themselves and their knowledgeable informants, reflect polygenic influences that have been previously associated with educational attainment. In a sample of over 3,000 adult Estonians, polygenic scores for educational attainment (EPS; interpretable as estimates of molecular genetic propensity for education) were correlated with various personality traits, particularly from the Neuroticism and Openness domains. The correlations of personality traits with phenotypic educational attainment closely mirrored their correlations with EPS. Moreover, EPS predicted an aggregate personality trait tailored to capture maximum amount of variance in educational attainment almost as strongly as it predicted the attainment itself. We discuss possible interpretations and implications of these findings.

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