Behaviour Genetic Frameworks of Causal Reasoning for Personality Psychology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identifying causal relations from correlational data is a fundamental challenge in personality psychology. In most cases, random assignment is not feasible, leaving observational studies as the primary methodological tool. Here, we document several techniques from behaviour genetics that attempt to demonstrate causality. Although no one method is conclusive at ruling out all possible confounds, combining techniques can triangulate on causal relations. Behaviour genetic tools leverage information gained by sampling pairs of individuals with assumed genetic and environmental relatedness or by measuring genetic variants in unrelated individuals. These designs can find evidence consistent with causality, while simultaneously providing strong controls against common confounds. We conclude by discussing several potential problems that may limit the utility of these techniques when applied to personality. Ultimately, genetically informative designs can aid in drawing causal conclusions from correlational studies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-220
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 22 2018


  • Mendelian randomization
  • behaviour genetics
  • causal models
  • personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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