Looking Forward

There are two fronts on which biopersonality can make foreseeable advances: molecular genetics and brain imaging. The identification of specific genes with major effects related to personality, and the discovery of their roles in the intermediate biological mechanisms, will bring "consilience" between levels of biosocial phenomena. There have been some real problems in replicating the few gene-trait relationships found, but larger samples and better techniques may resolve these problems. Perhaps in the future we will even be able to identify genes of smaller effects. At present our best bet is to use "candidate" genes, identified as such through neurochemical theories or data on the physiological bases of the traits. Gene interactions are already being reported, and any study should investigate several genes putatively involved in order to investigate their interactions.

New methods of brain imaging can use experimental treatments, such as exposure to emotionally provoking stimuli, to examine differences in brain reactions in specific brain areas and assess the activations of specific neuro-transmitter systems. These methods have so far been largely limited to studies of psychopathology and cognitive function. There is no reason why personality variables cannot be used in normal control groups in psychopathology studies and studies of cognitive functions in persons without psychopatholo-gy.

Of course, it would be preferable if personality brain imaging studies could be conducted on large, randomly selected samples. One could reduce the necessary sample size by selecting groups with extreme scores on a single personality variable. But given the present state of knowledge, it would be foolish to put all of our eggs in the one trait basket. There are likely to be interactions of traits related to genes, as well as interactions of genes involved in traits. The best strategy is to use personality tests that assess the major dimensions of personality—whether there are three, four, five, or more of these. There is now too much reliance on the "Big Five" trait model. This particular model was developed from a lexical analysis of human language rather than an analysis of temperament or biobehavioral traits. At least, representative scales from several methods should be used to assess basic traits. A number of psychometric analyses have identified factors common to several major tests. Group testing is not expensive and is a worthwhile addition to any bio-behavioral study.


I acknowledge an intellectual debt to colleagues and friends who were sources of theoretical insights and research on sensation seeking in humans or animal models of this trait or related ones. On the theoretical side, I owe much to the late Hans Eysenck and Jeffrey Gray. Hans got me started on the idea of biological explanations of personality using genetic and psychophysiological methods. Jeffrey introduced me to the more fundamental neuropsychology of personality from a "bottom-up" viewpoint.

My colleague and friend at the University of Delaware, Jerome Siegel, extended the EP A-R paradigm from humans to cats and then rats, providing an important comparative dimension to the trait of sensation seeking. His last study on rats indicated genetic origins of differences in behavior and psychopharmacology of rat models for high and low sensation seeking. Another colleague and friend at the university, Michael Kuhlman, was an essential collaborator in the development of the alternative five-factor model and the questionnaire embodying it (the ZKPQ).

The biosocial research on sensation seeking and related constructs has been done by colleagues from both Europe and America, including Alois Angleitner, Burkhard Brocke, Juergen Hennig, Petra Netter, Thomas Rammsayer, and Paul Schmitz (Germany); Britt af Klinteberg, Lars Von Knorring, Lars Oreland, and the late Daisy Schalling (Sweden); Sybil Eysenck, Adrian Furnham, and Alan Pickering (United Kingdom); Jan Strelau (Poland); Vilfredo De Pascalis (Italy); Andrew Johnson, Robert Stelmack, and P. Vernon (Canada); and Samuel Ball, Michael Bardo, Ernest Barratt, Lewis Donohew, Richard Haier, Jeffrey Joireman, Gerald Matthews, and Rick Zimmerman (United States).

Chapters written by all of these scientists, describing their work, may be found in the recent festschrift edited by Robert Stelmack (2004). Others who have contributed significant biobehavioral research include D. Boomsma, Jan Feij, and J. Orlebeke (The Netherlands), and F. Dellu, P. V. Piazza, W. Mayo, M. Le Moal, and H. Simon (France). The last-named group from France developed a new biobehavioral animal model for sensation seeking.


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