Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Personality Influenced by Brain Structure

By Tim Hannan

Individual differences in personality have been associated with structural variation in the cortex.

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Individual differences in patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving are what makes each of us unique, and the variety of personality types has long been a field of study for psychologists. While traits have traditionally been measured using questionnaires and observations of behaviour, it may soon be possible to assess an individual’s personality through examination of patterns of brain structure and function. In a recent study, researchers have found associations between personality traits and structural aspects of the brain, such as the thickness, size of surface area and degree of folding of specific regions of the cortex.

The history of psychology is littered with theories of personality, ranging from the quasi-astrological to the rigorously scientific. From his therapeutic analysis of neurotic Viennese, Sigmund Freud proposed that human behaviour reflects the interaction of three unconscious structures: the id, ego and superego. Later approaches developed theories from statistical analyses of people’s responses to lists of words or statements.

In the 1950s, Hans Eysenck concluded that personality comprised three main factors that he termed extraversion–introversion, neuroticism–stable and psychoticism. In contrast, Raymond Cattell argued that three dimensions were insufficient to conceptualise the diversity of personality, and he developed a 16-factor...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.