The Evolutionary Fitness of Personality Traits in a Small-Scale Subsistence Society




The maintenance of personality variation remains an unexplained puzzle in evolutionary biology. Despite evidence among non-humans that personality variation affects fitness, few data exist to assess the personality–fitness relationship in humans. Among Tsimane forager–horticulturalists (n = 632), we test whether personality traits (assessed using a 43-item Big Five Inventory administered orally in native language) predict fertility, offspring survivorship, age of first reproduction, and other fitness correlates (extramarital affairs, conflicts, social visitation, food production, and several health measures). Among men, several personality factors associate with higher fertility, more time spent producing food and social visitation. Among women, the relationship between personality and fitness varies across regions of Tsimane territory. The only case of an intermediate personality level associated with highest fitness was found for Industriousness in men. We find that personality factors positively associated with fitness do not associate with greater health costs, although greater Extraversion and Openness may lead to more conflicts among men. Factor heritability ranges from 60% for Prosociality and Extraversion to 8% for Neuroticism. We interpret our results in light of evolutionary models that explain maintenance of personality variation, including incomplete directional selection, mutation–selection balance, condition-dependent reaction norms and fluctuating selection based on sex or spatial variability in selection pressures.

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Refer to Dr. Christopher von Rueden's website for further information.

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Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. This article first appeared in Evolution and Human Behavior 35:1 (2014), 17-25.