The Genetics of Psychological Types

Is there a genetic basis to psychological types? There is a lot of modern evidence that psychological types have a biological basis, and that introversion and extraversion are at least, in part, inherited. But specifics are lacking. What we would like to do is go out on a limb and describe an insight that was born out of many years of working with psychological types that we feel warrants further exploration and discussion. The insight in a nutshell is that the children appear to have the psychological attitude, that is, the introversion or extraversion, of the parent of the opposite sex.

If both parents are extraverted, the children appear extraverted, and if both parents are introverted, they appear introverted. But when the parents have different psychological attitudes, that is, one is introverted and the other is extraverted, the children appear to follow the attitude of the parent of the opposite sex, so if the mother is introverted, the boys will be introverted, and if the father is extraverted, the girls will be extraverted. It is like the old saying, like fathers like daughters, like mothers like sons. (Although we have heard that saying turned around.)

Now anyone who has spent any amount of time trying to determine people's psychological types will realize how fraught with difficulties this process is. But let's suppose for a moment that there is a grain of truth to our observation. That would imply that one of the genes for introversion and extraversion is on the X-chromosome. In the associated reading we go much further out on a limb and pursue some of the evidence and implications for this theory of the genetic basis of introversion and extraversion.

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Curious about type and genetic introversion/extroversion. How would it be explained in a family with four children, only one is introverted? The parents both seem extroverted, but I can't tell for sure. They are always giving parties and the wife can't stand to be alone for a minute. Three kids are extroverted and one is INTJ or ISTJ, the girl, second in birth order. The oldest boy is extroverted as is the youngest girl. They just had a fourth child a few months ago, a boy. Both parents appear to be ESTJ.

Both my brother and I are extreme introverts as were our parents. I'm married to an introvert. My first husband and father of my children was ESTP. My present husband is ISFJ. My daughter is ESTJ and my son is INTJ or ISTJ. I'm INFP. I've scored INFJ, INFP, INTP, and ISFP on past MBTI. I'm a freelance writer by profession and have usually worked for myself for the past 20 years. Anne

Another Response

I've always thought that type was passed down kind of like blood type or eye color. That you will probably end up some combination of your parents and that there may be dominant and recessive tendencies. I knew one family where all four members (parents and children) were ISTP's. My dad is an ENTP and my mom an ISFJ. They have three daughters - an INFJ (myself), an ENFP, and an ISTJ. So I don't particularly think the idea that you have the same introversion/extroversion as your opposite sex parent holds water. Jan

The Editor

You may be right. There is something going on in the genetics of psychological types, but it is hard to get at. I think it has something to do with the X-chromosome, and it might appear stronger in the connection between the mother's type and the son's type rather than between fathers and daughters, but all this is pretty much unexplored territory.


I think you may have something with the mother-son connection being stronger since the X-chromosome is matched with the smaller Y chromosome as opposed to the two equal X's found in daughters.

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How to contribute to this discussion

Reading: Type and Genetics