Sources of Structure: Genetic, Environmental, and Artifactual Influences on the Covariation of Personality Traits



The phenotypic structure of personality traits has been well described, but it has not yet been explained causally. Behavior genetic covariance analyses can identify the underlying causes of phenotypic structure; previous behavior genetic research has suggested that the effects from both genetic and nonshared environmental influences mirror the phenotype. However, nonshared environmental effects are usually estimated as a residual term that may also include systematic bias, such as that introduced by implicit personality theory. To reduce that bias, we supplemented data from Canadian and German twin studies with cross-observer correlations on the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. The hypothesized five-factor structure was found in both the phenotypic and genetic/familial covariances. When the residual covariance was decomposed into true nonshared environmental influences and method bias, only the latter showed the five-factor structure. True nonshared environmental influences are not structured as genetic influences are, although there was some suggestion that they do affect two personality dimensions, Conscientiousness and Love. These data reaffirm the value of behavior genetic analyses for research on the underlying causes of personality traits.