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Evolution and Personality: What Should a Comprehensive Theory Address and How?

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Abstract

Personality is arguably the most integrative area of psychology; yet, it is an area about which evolutionary psychologists have had comparatively little to say. This is unfortunate because evolutionary theory holds great potential as a framework that can link together the disparate aspects that make up a person. We suggest that progress in evolutionary personality psychology will be helped by clarification of precisely what an evolutionary theory of personality would need to address. To this end, we first describe and assess some extant contributions by theorists attempting to understand personality from an evolutionary perspective. Next, we endorse a working definition of what personality entails and outline three types of personality differences – character traits, goals/motives, and selves/identities – that any comprehensive evolutionary theory of personality should address. Finally, we suggest an approach forward, one where evolved species-typical motives orient people toward adaptive ends and result in the differentiation of individuals’ unique selves.

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