The heritability of optimism, spirituality, and meaning in life
Fox E., Booth C.
Optimism, spirituality and a sense of meaning in life are all considered to be critical components of an individual’s character. In this chapter, we examine the degree to which these character traits are heritable. We begin by assessing how these three important aspects of a person’s character have been defined within psychological science and cognitive neuroscience. We then provide a comprehensive review of the empirical evidence investigating whether there might be a genetic component in operation in optimism, spirituality, and a sense of meaning in life. We will consider twin studies, genome-wide association studies as well as candidate gene studies. We discover that there are very few studies examining the constructs of optimism, spirituality and meaning in life from a genetic perspective. However, we draw what conclusions we can from this small literature and make some suggestions as to what key studies and directions of research would be optimally informative for the future. Key words: optimism, spirituality, meaning, behavioural-genetics, heritability component.