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UCSB anthropologist studies the evolutionary benefit of human personality traits
Date:10/21/2013

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) Bold and outgoing or shy and retiring while many people can shift from one to the other as circumstances warrant, in general they lean toward one disposition or the other. And that inclination changes little over the course of their lives.

Why this is the case and why it matters in a more traditional context are questions being addressed by anthropologists at UC Santa Barbara. Using fertility and child survivorship as their main measures of reproductive fitness, the researchers studied over 600 adult members of the Tsimane, an isolated indigenous population in central Bolivia, and discovered that more open, outgoing and less anxious personalities were associated with having more children but only among men.

Their findings appear online in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

"The idea that we're funneled into a relatively fixed way of interacting with the world is something we take for granted," said Michael Gurven, UCSB professor of anthropology and the paper's lead author. Gurven is also co-director of the University of New Mexico-based Tsimane Health and Life History Project. "Some people are outgoing and open, others are more quiet and introverted. But from an evolutionary standpoint, it doesn't really make sense that our dispositions differ so much, and are not more flexible.

"Wouldn't it be great to be more extroverted at an important party, more conscientious when you're on the clock at work, less anxious when talking to a potential date?" Gurven continued. "Differences in personality and their relative stability are not unique to humans, and have now been studied in many species, from ants to primates. How could dispositional consistency be favored by selection?"

Given the variability in personality, a question then is how that variability is maintained over time. "If personality traits, like extroversion, help you interact easily with bosses, find potential mates an
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Contact: Andrea Estrada
andrea.estrada@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-4620
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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