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Numerous models of emotional intelligence (EI) have proposed the existence of hitherto undiscovered mental abilities, competencies, and skills. The theory of trait emotional intelligence suggests that the content domains of these models invariably contain permutations of personality traits. The two studies in this article examine the heritability of trait EI scores with a view to demonstrating empirically that the construct has a similar level of genetic influence as other personality traits. Study 1 was a family design of 133 high-school students and their parents. Regressions of offspring on midparent scores suggested median upper-limit heritability estimates of .18 at facet level, .25 at factor level, and .32 at the global trait EI level. Study 2 was a twin design (213 pairs of monozygotic [MZ] twins and 103 pairs of dizygotic [DZ] twins). It yielded median heritabilities of .42 for the facets, .44 for the factors, and .42 for global trait EI. Overall, our findings are in accordance with studies of the major personality dimensions and provide further empirical support for the conceptualization of EI as a personality trait.
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A Behavioral Genetic Study of Trait Emotional Intelligence
Philip A. Vernon
University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
K. V. Petrides
University College London, London, UK
Denis Bratko
University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
Julie Aitken Schermer
Management and Organizational Studies, University of Western
Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
Numerous models of emotional intelligence (EI) have proposed the existence of hitherto undiscovered
mental abilities, competencies, and skills. The theory of trait emotional intelligence suggests that the
content domains of these models invariably contain permutations of personality traits. The two studies
in this article examine the heritability of trait EI scores with a view to demonstrating empirically that the
construct has a similar level of genetic influence as other personality traits. Study 1 was a family design
of 133 high-school students and their parents. Regressions of offspring on midparent scores suggested
median upper-limit heritability estimates of .18 at facet level, .25 at factor level, and .32 at the global trait
EI level. Study 2 was a twin design (213 pairs of monozygotic [MZ] twins and 103 pairs of dizygotic
[DZ] twins). It yielded median heritabilities of .42 for the facets, .44 for the factors, and .42 for global
trait EI. Overall, our findings are in accordance with studies of the major personality dimensions and
provide further empirical support for the conceptualization of EI as a personality trait.
Keywords: trait emotional self-efficacy, family studies, heritability, personality, TEIQue
Trait emotional intelligence (trait EI or trait emotional self-
efficacy) is a constellation of emotion-related self-perceptions and
dispositions located at the lower levels of personality hierarchies
(Petrides, Pita, & Kokkinaki, 2007). Its roots lie in the distinction
between two EI constructs, namely, trait EI and ability EI (e.g.,
Petrides & Furnham, 2003; see also Amelang & Steinmayr, 2006;
Austin, 2004; Austin, Parker, Petrides, & Saklofske, 2008; Austin,
Saklofske, & Egan, 2005; Malterer, Glass, & Newman, 2008; Miko-
lajczak, Menil, & Luminet, 2007; Mikolajczak, Nelis, Hansenne, &
Quoidbach, 2008; Tett & Fox, 2006; Warwick & Nettelbeck, 2004).
The conceptualization of EI as a personality trait leads to a con-
struct that lies wholly outside the taxonomy of human cognitive
ability (Carroll, 1993).
A large number of alleged intelligences have been proposed
over the years (creative, emotional, intrapersonal, interpersonal,
practical, social, etc.), generally characterized by conceptual in-
consistencies, questionable operationalizations (with most prob-
lems revolving around their subjective content and nature), and
patchy nomological networks (Brody, 2004; Eysenck, 1998; Got-
tfredson, 2003; Jensen, 1998; Waterhouse, 2006). In its extended
form, trait EI theory maintains that alleged intelligences essentially
describe well-established personality traits (Petrides, Furnham, &
Mavroveli, 2007).
Much trait EI research has sought to build a wide nomological
network for the construct and to examine the conditions under
which it can predict variance over and above the Big Five and
other related variables (Kluemper, 2008; Mikolajczak, Luminet, &
Menil, 2006; Petrides, Pe´rez-Gonza´lez, & Furnham, 2007; Sak-
lofske, Austin, & Minski, 2003; Van der Zee & Wabeke, 2004).
Other studies have focused on the psychometric integration of the
construct into mainstream personality hierarchies (Petrides, Pita et
al., 2007). The main conclusion of the latter studies is that trait EI
is a distinct (because it can be isolated in personality space),
compound (because it is partially determined by several personal-
ity dimensions) construct that lies at the lower levels of personality
hierarchies (because the trait EI factor in joint factor analyses is
oblique, rather than orthogonal to the Giant Three and the Big
Five). A major advantage of this conclusion is that it connects the
trait emotional self-efficacy conceptualization of EI to the differ-
ential psychology literature. Collectively, this research has pro-
vided strong support for trait EI theory and the proposition that
alleged intelligences can (and should) be incorporated into existing
taxonomies of personality.
In addition to empirical evidence of criterion and predictive
validity, there are two types of methodological investigation that
will be especially informative for trait EI theory. The first type
concerns longitudinal designs that can shed light on the develop-
mental trajectories of the construct; the second concerns behav-
ioral genetic studies that can shed light on the degree to which
variability in test scores is due to genetic and environmental
Philip A. Vernon, Department of Psychology, University of Western
Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; K. V. Petrides, Department of Psychol-
ogy, University College London, London, UK; Denis Bratko, Department
of Psychology, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia; and Julie Aitken
Schermer, Management and Organizational Studies, University of
Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
This research was partially supported by grant SG-42593 from the
British Academy to K. V. Petrides.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Philip A.
Vernon, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, Lon-
don, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2. E-mail: vernon@uwo.ca
Emotion Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association
2008, Vol. 8, No. 5, 635–642 1528-3542/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0013439
635
influences. In both cases, we would expect trait EI to yield findings
analogous to those of broad-bandwidth personality traits because it
is itself conceptualized as a broad-bandwidth personality trait. This
article concentrates on the behavioral genetics of trait EI.
Heritability studies of personality have consistently demon-
strated that individual differences in a wide variety of normal and
abnormal personality traits are substantially attributable to genetic
factors (Plomin, DeFries, McClearn, & McGuffin, 2001). A recent
review by Johnson, Vernon, and Feiler (in press) summarized the
results of 145 behavioral genetic studies conducted between 1955
and 2007, reporting twin and other kinship correlations as well as
heritability and environmental estimates for the Big Five and
related traits, based on a total of 240,000 pairs of participants. The
evidence summarized by Johnson et al. (in press) overwhelmingly
supports the conclusion that genetic and nonshared environmental
factors account for the great majority of the variance, with herita-
bilities averaging about .45.
Study 1
The first investigation in this article sought to obtain upper-limit
heritability estimates for trait EI by means of a family study.
Family studies are based on behavioral genetic designs that are less
powerful than twin designs. This is because the phenotypic simi-
larity of the members of a nuclear family living together can be
viewed as being only compatible with, but not as proof of, the
genetic hypothesis.
1
Owing to the fact that biological parents share
the same environment as well as the same genes with their off-
spring, familial resemblance cannot be decomposed into separate
genetic and shared environmental variance components in family
designs.
Nevertheless, it has now been established that environmental
influences operate primarily within the family, thus making indi-
viduals who are living together different (e.g., Loehlin, 1992;
Plomin & Daniels, 1987). Therefore, exploring if a particular trait
“runs in the family” is a useful source of genetic information that
can complement data from other sources. Classical twin designs
include monozygotic (MZ) twins reared together (who share 100%
genetic and 100% shared or common environment influences) and
dizygotic (DZ) twins reared together (who share 50% additive
genetic, 25% [or less] nonadditive genetic, and 100% shared or
common environment influences). In contrast, family designs in-
clude parents and offspring (who share only 50% of additive
genetic influences). Therefore, family designs aggregate different
quantitative genetic parameters from twin designs, since they do
not include nonadditive genetic effects in their estimates.
Most family studies of personality have yielded relatively low
parent–offspring correlations (Ahern, Johnson, Wilson, McClearn, &
Vandeberg, 1982; Bratko & Butkovic´, 2007; Bratko & Maruîsic´,
1997; Carmichael & McGue, 1994; Loehlin, Willerman & Horn,
1985; Price, Vandeberg, Iyer, & Williams, 1982; Tambs, Sundet,
Eaves, Solaas, & Berg, 1991). For example, biological parents and
their adolescent offspring correlate only .16 and .13 for Extraver-
sion and Neuroticism, respectively (Ahern et al., 1982). Car-
michael and McGue (1994) summarized studies of Extraversion
and Neuroticism and reported average parent– offspring correla-
tions of .12 and .13, suggesting that the familial aggregation of
these traits is in the neighborhood of 25%.
2
Familial aggregation
represents the combination of additive genetic and shared or com-
mon environmental variance, and as such, it places an upper limit
on narrow-sense heritability, which is heritability that includes
only additive genetic effects (for a further explanation of termi-
nology, see Plomin et al., 2001).
Loehlin (2005, p. 205) classified the personality scales used in
29 independent studies according to the Big Five scheme and
reported the following familial aggregation estimates: .28 (Extra-
version [E]), .22 (Agreeableness [A]), .18 Conscientiousness ([C]),
.26 (Neuroticism [N]), and .34 Openness to Experience ([O]),
giving an average of .26. In contrast, twin studies typically yield
higher heritability estimates. For example, Riemann, Angleitner,
and Strelau (1997) reported the following values for the Big Five
factors assessed through self-report: .52 (N), .56 (E), .53 (O), .42
(A), and .53 (C), giving an average of .51.
Method
Participants
The sample consisted of 133 high-school students (99 girls and
34 boys), 122 mothers, and 70 fathers. Data were collected from
only 1 child per family, and for 59 children data were available for
both parents. Age of offspring varied between 15 to 19 years (M!
16.90, SD !.99). Age of fathers ranged from 38 to 62 years (M!
47.50, SD !5.78), and age of mothers ranged from 35 to 56 years
(M!43.10, SD !4.91). All participants in this study were
Croatian.
Measure
The Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue) con-
sists of 153 items predicated on trait EI theory and covering the
sampling domain of trait EI comprehensively (Petrides, in press).
It yields scores on 15 distinct facets, four factors, and global trait
EI. An independent psychometric analysis of the inventory is
presented by Mikolajczak, Luminet, Leroy, and Roy (2007). Par-
ticipants respond on a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from com-
pletely disagree to completely agree. The TEIQue is an open-
access inventory available in over 20 languages. It was adapted
into Croatian by a team of students led by Denis Bratko. The team
included four students, two of whom studied psychology and two
English language and literature. One pair, comprising a psychol-
ogy student and an English language student, independently trans-
lated the instrument and discussed and settled differences. Subse-
quently, the second pair back-translated the instrument, compared
it with the original, and resolved any remaining issues.
Procedure
The adolescents completed the TEIQue at school in small
groups (ranging from 9 to 30). They were also asked to deliver
the inventories to their parents and return them within a few
days to their school psychologist. Parents were asked to fill in the
1
The genetic hypothesis stipulates that genetic variability contributes to
the phenotypic variability in a trait.
2
Estimates of familial aggregation are obtained by doubling the parent–
offspring correlations, since each parent shares, on average, 50% of their
genes with their offspring.
636 VERNON, PETRIDES, BRATKO, AND SCHERMER
inventory individually at home. Inventories were matched through
a personal code.
Results
Exploratory data analyses were performed, focusing on the
distributions, sex differences, and internal consistencies of the
Croatian TEIQue. Distributions were examined for deviations
from normality, separately in the three samples (father, mother,
and offspring). A series of Kolmogorov–Smirnov tests yielded
nonsignificant zvalues ( p".5) for all scores, except Happiness in
the offspring sample (z!1.39, p#.05). However, the skewness
and kurtosis values for this distribution ($1.13 and 1.15, respec-
tively) indicated that the deviation from normality was marginal.
There were sex as well as generational (parents vs. offspring)
differences on various TEIQue variables (primarily at the facet
level). The internal consistencies of TEIQue scores are presented
separately for the mother, father, and offspring samples (see Table 1).
As can be seen in Table 1, with few exceptions, the alphas were
consistently high. Factor and global trait EI reliabilities were
satisfactory throughout.
The main statistical analysis involved the calculation of three
types of correlation coefficients: father– offspring correlations,
mother– offspring correlations, and regressions of offspring on
midparent scores. The latter of the three methods is thought to
yield the best upper-limit estimate of narrow-sense heritability that
can be derived in nontwin family studies.
The facet, factor, and global trait EI scores were correlated with
sex in the offspring sample. At the facet level, sex (boys coded as
1 and girls as 2) was significantly associated with three scales:
Empathy (r!$.34, p#.01), Emotion management (r!.21, p#
.05), and Relationships (r!.37, p#.01). At the factor and global
levels, sex was associated with Emotionality (r!.32, p#.01),
Sociability (r!.20, p#.05), and global trait EI (r!.20, p#
.05). Measures of parent– offspring resemblance (i.e., father–
offspring and mother– offspring correlations and regressions of
offspring on midparent scores) were calculated jointly for sons and
daughters. Consequently, we removed, via standard regression, the
linear component of sex from all TEIQue variables in the offspring
sample in order to control for any potential bias in the parent–
offspring resemblance estimates, which could have been intro-
duced as a result of mean sex differences.
All scores in the three samples (father, mother, and sex-adjusted
offspring) were standardized to have unit variances. Thus, the
family resemblance analyses are based on standardized scores,
corrected for sex differences in the offspring sample. The results of
these analyses are presented in Table 2. At the facet level, the
median father– offspring and mother–offspring correlations were
.09 and .16, respectively, suggesting a familial aggregation be-
tween .18 and .32. The median regression of offspring on midpar-
ent scores was .18.
The correlations for factor and global trait EI scores were
somewhat stronger, possibly due to higher internal consistencies.
Thus, the median father– offspring and mother–offspring correla-
tions for the four factors were .145 and .195, respectively, indi-
cating an upper limit of heritability between .29 and .39. The
median regression of offspring on midparent scores was .25. The
corresponding correlations for global trait EI scores were .14 and
.22 (suggesting an upper limit of heritability between .28 and .44),
while the regression of offspring on midparent scores was .32.
As one reviewer noted, doubling the single parent– offspring
correlation to estimate upper-limit heritability assumes that spouse
correlations are negligible. High mother–father correlations on the
trait EI facets would be problematic because they could lead to
inflated estimates. In order to rule out this possibility, we calcu-
lated the father–mother correlations, which are given in Table 2.
As can be seen, there were only three statistically significant
values at the facet level (Emotion management !.33, Self-
esteem !.35, and Happiness !.41) and one at the factor level
(Well-being !.30; see Smith, Heaven, & Ciarrochi, 2008, for
relevant results). While these correlations suggest the possibility of
a small assortative mating effect, the familial aggregation esti-
mates for these four variables did not depart from the general trend
in Table 2. It should also be remembered that the regressions of
offspring on midparent scores control for any assortative mating
effects because the parental means do not carry information about
the father–mother correlations.
Discussion
It is clear from the findings of this study that a substantial
proportion of individual differences in trait EI can be directly
attributed to genetic variation in the population. Furthermore, the
familial aggregation estimates for the trait EI variables are similar
to those for the Big Five, which supports the conceptualization of
emotional intelligence as a personality trait (Petrides, Furnham, et
al., 2007). As is the case with the higher-order dimensions, this
family study suggests that about a third of the trait EI variance can
be directly attributed to additive genetic effects. Keeping in mind
Table 1
TEIQue Internal Consistencies in Mothers (N!123), Fathers
(N!70), and Offspring (N!133) in Study 1
TEIQue Items Mothers Fathers Offspring
Facet
Adaptability 9 .72 .65 .78
Assertiveness 9 .57 .57 .63
Emotion expression 10 .78 .70 .79
Emotion management 9 .50 .54 .74
Emotion perception 10 .64 .65 .67
Emotion regulation 12 .70 .70 .70
Impulsiveness (low) 9 .73 .70 .69
Relationships 9 .55 .60 .56
Stress management 10 .64 .65 .59
Self-esteem 11 .72 .62 .80
Self-motivation 10 .65 .52 .70
Social awareness 11 .72 .65 .78
Trait empathy 9 .50 .62 .64
Trait happiness 8 .81 .78 .89
Trait optimism 8 .70 .62 .80
Factor
Emotionality 4 facets .85 .85 .83
Self-control 3 facets .81 .81 .80
Sociability 4 facets .81 .75 .87
Well-being 3 facets .87 .85 .92
Global score
Trait EI .94 .93 .94
Note. TEIQue !Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire; EI !emo-
tional intelligence.
637
BEHAVIORAL GENETICS OF TRAIT EI
the limitations of the present study, the results indicate that any
serious consideration of the developmental trajectories of trait EI
will be far removed from the homespun accounts currently pre-
vailing in the literature and will have to pay full heed to genetic
explanations.
Trait EI facets and factors seem to be differentially influenced
by genes and environment, as can be seen in Table 2 (e.g.,
regressions of offspring on midparent scores ranged from .00 for
Relationships to .31 for Assertiveness). If confirmed, this pattern
of correlations would mirror that of higher-order personality traits,
whose facets are also differentially susceptible to genetic influ-
ences (Jang, McCrae, Angleitner, Riemann, & Livesley, 1998;
Loehlin, McCrae, Costa, & John, 1998). Thorough investigations
of the behavioral genetics of trait EI will always require looking
beyond the global score into the factors and, ultimately, the facets.
While heritability does not imply immutability, psychological
dimensions with salient genetic components are not known for
being malleable (see Jensen, 1998, for the case of cognitive abil-
ity). In fact, heritability contributes substantially to developmental
stability across the life span (Bratko & Butkovic´, 2007; McGue,
Bacon, & Lykken, 1993). One implication of this is that if EI is
conceptualized as a personality trait, which at present is the only
scientifically viable conceptualization of the construct, then it will
be necessary to adjust our expectations of what can be delivered by
short-term training courses and interventions.
The findings of Study 1 should be interpreted with some cau-
tion, especially where they concern genetic effect estimates, due to
the aforementioned limitations of family designs. Study 2 is based
on a sample of MZ and DZ twins and was carried out to comple-
ment the conclusions of the first investigation.
Study 2
Twin studies provide the means to disentangle the relative
influences of genetic and environmental factors on individual
differences. The logic behind twin studies rests on the fact that MZ
twins share 100% of their genes and 100% of their common
environment, whereas DZ twins share only approximately 50% of
their genes and 100% of their common environment. Thus, if the
DZ correlation on some trait is subtracted from the MZ correlation,
this leaves 50% of the genetic influence, so doubling the MZ $DZ
correlation estimates all of the genetic influence and provides an
index of heritability. By the same logic, subtracting the heritability
coefficient (h
2
) from the MZ correlation yields an estimate of the
influence of the common environment (c
2
), and subtracting (h
2
%c
2
)
from 1 estimates the influence of the nonshared or unique environ-
ment (e
2
). These days, more sophisticated model-fitting procedures
are typically used to estimate h
2
,c
2
, and e
2
, but the underlying
logic is the same.
A recent review of over 50 years of behavioral genetic research
on the Big Five and related personality traits (Johnson et al., in
press) identified 145 studies that reported twin and other kinship
correlations as well as heritability and environmentality coeffi-
cients estimated by the above formulas or via model fitting. In
total, these studies were based on data collected from 85,640 pairs
of MZ twins, 106,644 pairs of DZ twins, and 46,215 pairs of other
nontwin kinships, such as parents and their children and nontwin
siblings. Across all studies, the results showed that individual
differences in the Big Five were predominantly and approximately
equally attributable to genetic and nonshared environmental fac-
tors; the influence of the shared environment was essentially
nonexistent. The main goal of the second study was to complement
the findings of Study 1 by confirming, through the twin method,
the significant level of genetic influence in the variability of trait
EI scores.
Method
Participants
The sample consisted of a total of 632 adult twins residing in
Canada and the United States. These twins comprised 213 pairs of
identical or monozygotic (MZ) twins [174 female pairs and 39
male pairs] and 103 pairs of same-sex fraternal or dizygotic (DZ)
twins [95 female pairs and 8 male pairs]. Participants ranged
between 18 and 82 years of age (M!38.4, SD !15.23). Despite
the preponderance of women, especially among the DZ twins, the
sample represented a wide cross-section, and we believe it unlikely
that selection on personality traits will have biased our results.
Measures
Participants completed the English version of the TEIQue (see
Study 1). They also completed a zygosity questionnaire (Nichols &
Bilbro, 1966) asking questions about the twins’ physical similarity
(e.g., height, eye color, and general appearance) and the frequency
with which they are mistaken for one another by other family
Table 2
TEIQue Father–Mother Correlations, Father–Offspring
Correlations, Mother–Offspring Correlations, and Regressions
of Offspring on Midparent Scores in Study 1
TEIQue F-M r F-O r M-O r MIDPAR-O r
Facet
Adaptability .08 .12 .16
!
.26
!
Assertiveness .10 .18 .34
!!
.31
!!
Emotion expression .03 .02 .11 .22
!
Emotion management .33
!
.00 .08 .08
Emotion perception .01 .18 .10 .15
Emotion regulation $.05 .05 $.04 .10
Impulsiveness (low) .03 .09 .19
!
.13
Relationships .18 $.02 $.07 .00
Stress management .02 $.03 .18
!
.18
Self-esteem .35
!!
.16 .21
!!
.28
!
Self-motivation .08 .18 .07 .19
Social awareness $.01 .02 .23
!
.28
!
Trait empathy $.12 .08 .09 .13
Trait happiness .41
!!
.11 .20
!
.18
Trait optimism $.11 .20
!
.19
!
.20
Factor
Emotionality .04 $.03 .04 .14
Self-control $.07 .17 .18
!
.29
!!
Sociability .09 .15 .29
!!
.28
!!
Well-being .30
!
.14 .21
!!
.22
!
Global score
Trait EI .09 .14 .22
!!
.32
!!
Note. TEIQue !Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire; F-M r !
father–mother correlations; F-O r !father– offspring correlations; M-O
r!mother– offspring correlations; MIDPAR-O r !regressions of off-
spring on midparent scores; EI !emotional intelligence.
!
p#.05.
!!
p#.01.
638 VERNON, PETRIDES, BRATKO, AND SCHERMER
members and friends. This questionnaire has been shown to be at
least 93% as accurate as red blood cell polymorphism analyses for
determining zygosity (Kasriel & Eaves, 1976).
Procedure
Participants responded to advertisements placed in newspapers
in a number of large cities in Canada and the United States. At the
time of their first contact, participants were provided with infor-
mation about the nature of the study and what their participation
would entail. If they agreed to take part, they were mailed the
TEIQue and the zygosity questionnaire and were asked to com-
plete them on their own and then return them in a stamped,
self-addressed envelope. Upon receipt of their completed question-
naires, each subject was sent $25.00 to compensate them for their
time, and their names were entered into a drawing for one of ten
$100.00 prizes.
Results
The internal consistencies of the 20 TEIQue variables were
calculated separately for the MZ and DZ samples. This was nec-
essary in order to ensure equivalence of the MZ and DZ datasets
prior to the estimation of the genetic correlations. As can be seen
in Table 3, the values were consistently similar.
Shown in Table 4 are the MZ and DZ twin correlations for the
TEIQue facet scales, factors, and global score, along with the
genetic and environmental parameter estimates derived from uni-
variate behavioral genetic model-fitting analyses. In this table, d
2
and a
2
represent the proportion of the variance in each variable
attributable to nonadditive and additive genetic effects, respec-
tively, while c
2
and e
2
represent the proportion of the variance
attributable to shared and nonshared environmental factors, respec-
tively. Nonadditive genetic effects are suggested whenever MZ
twin correlations are more than twice as large as DZ correlations,
as is evident for several of the variables in Table 4. Dominant (i.e.,
nonadditive) genetic variance represents genetic influences that do
not “breed true” and that contribute to differences between chil-
dren and their parents. Additive genetic variance, in contrast,
contributes to similarities between children and their parents.
The MZ correlations were found to be larger than the DZ
correlations for all variables, and the model-fitting results indicate
that the variance is entirely attributable to genetic and nonshared
environmental factors, with heritabilities ranging from .24 to .53.
Confidence intervals at 95% are given for all parameter estimates,
and the fact that none of these includes zero indicates that all
heritability and environmental coefficients are statistically signif-
icant beyond the .05 level. As was noted in several cases, MZ
correlations were more than twice as large as DZ correlations,
suggesting the presence of nonadditive genetic effects. In these
cases, models estimating a
2
and e
2
were compared to models
estimating d
2
and e
2
, and the models with the best fit were retained
and are reported in Table 4. As can be seen, nonadditive genetic
effects were found for the majority of the TEIQue facets and
factors.
In supplementary analyses available from Philip A. Vernon, we
decomposed the phenotypic correlations among the TEIQue facets
and found that they were entirely attributable to correlated genetic
and correlated nonshared environmental factors. These results
mirror findings with the Big Five and cognate variables and are
consistent with the conceptualization of EI as a personality trait.
Discussion
In line with the results of Study 1, the twin data collected in
Study 2 reveal that individual differences in all of the dimensions
tapped by the TEIQue have moderate to large genetic influences.
The results are also in line with many behavioral genetic studies of
personality traits, which have shown that the variance in these
traits is largely, if not entirely, attributable to genetic and non-
shared environmental factors. In contrast, shared environmental
factors, such as those experienced in common by siblings or
parents and their offspring, contribute negligibly.
Despite some variability (heritability estimates for the TEIQue
facets ranged from .24 for Emotion perception to .53 for Social
awareness, and heritability estimates for the factors ranged be-
tween .35 for Emotionality to .50 for Sociability), the contribution
of genetic and nonshared environmental factors to individual dif-
ferences in most TEIQue variables are remarkably consistent. In
Johnson et al.’s (in press) review of behavioral genetic studies of
the Big Five, there was some indication that Extraversion was
more highly heritable than was Agreeableness, but there too, the
differences between the heritabilities of the traits were not large.
With reference to the Big Five, Vernon, Villani, Schermer, and
Petrides (in press) found that Emotion perception and Emotionality
both correlate more highly with the less heritable Agreeableness
factor than do Social awareness and Sociability, which, in turn,
correlate more highly with the more heritable Extraversion factor.
This differential pattern of correlations between the TEIQue vari-
Table 3
TEIQue Internal Consistencies in MZ (N!426) and DZ (N!
206) Twins in Study 2
TEIQue MZ DZ
Facet
Adaptability .73 .77
Assertiveness .74 .75
Emotion expression .90 .90
Emotion management .67 .66
Emotion perception .76 .79
Emotion regulation .79 .80
Impulsiveness (low) .76 .77
Relationships .65 .73
Stress management .79 .83
Self-esteem .78 .82
Self-motivation .69 .74
Social awareness .80 .83
Trait empathy .70 .74
Trait happiness .90 .89
Trait optimism .82 .81
Factor
Emotionality .81 .81
Self-control .76 .79
Sociability .78 .77
Well-being .83 .85
Global score
Trait EI .89 .91
Note. TEIQue !Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire; MZ !
monozygotic; DZ !dizygotic; EI !emotional intelligence.
639
BEHAVIORAL GENETICS OF TRAIT EI
ables and the Big Five factors may also contribute to the different
magnitudes of their heritabilities.
General Discussion
The familial aggregation estimates from Study 1 (which aggre-
gate additive genetic and shared environmental influences) were
lower than the corresponding heritability estimates from Study 2.
This result is in accordance with Plomin, Chipuer, and Loehlin’s
(1990) observation that upper-limit heritability estimates from
family and adoption studies are typically lower than the corre-
sponding estimates from twin studies, at least in the personality
domain.
One common explanation for the low parent– offspring correla-
tions focuses on the role of nonadditive genetic effects, that is,
genetic effects that do not run in families. As was noted in Study
2, MZ twin correlations were more than twice as large as DZ twin
correlations for many TEIQue variables, and models with nonad-
diitive genetic effects typically provided the best fit for these
variables. Thus, nonadditive genetic influences may be one factor
contributing to low parent– offspring correlations. Another possi-
bility is that the variable impact of genetic and environmental
effects during development attenuated the resemblance estimates
because parents and offspring were assessed at very different time
points in their development (Plomin, 1986). However, the parent–
offspring correlations in Study 1 were not substantially lower than
the DZ twin correlations in Study 2, even though fraternal twins
have the same degree of genetic overlap and were measured at the
same time point in development.
The combined strength of the family and twin designs allows us
to draw several conclusions. First, there are considerable genetic
influences on trait EI, predisposing individuals to higher or lower
scores. Nevertheless, as is the case for the Big Five, most of the
phenotypic trait EI variance (which includes measurement error) is
accounted for by nonshared environmental effects (e.g., experi-
ences outside the family). The impact of nonshared environment
on global trait EI ranges between 58% and 68%, according to the
twin and family design, respectively. Second, the fact that the
family aggregation estimates were lower than the heritability es-
timates supports the view that the similarity of family members is
mediated genetically and not environmentally. On the whole, these
results are consistent with the hypothesis of negligible shared
environmental influence on the trait EI population variance.
With respect to trait EI theory, the finding that a substantial
proportion of the construct’s variance is heritable has two impor-
tant implications. First, speculation about the determinants of
emotional “intelligence” will now have to take into account the
fact that one of the strongest predictors of adolescent trait EI is
actually parental trait EI. In combination with the temporal stabil-
ity that the construct shows even in children (Mavroveli, Petrides,
Shove, & Whitehead, in press), this suggests that training and
intervention programs, currently popular in educational and busi-
ness settings, are unlikely to be more successful in changing trait
EI than they have been in changing personality more generally
(Costa & McCrae, 1986; Norlander, Bergman & Archer, 2002).
Second, the results are in line with the conceptualization of
emotional intelligence as a personality trait. The heritable propor-
Table 4
Twin Correlations and Model-Fitting Results for the TEIQue in Study 2
TEIQue MZr DZr d
2
(95% CI) a
2
(95% CI) c
2
(95% CI) e
2
(95% CI)
Facet
Adaptability .38 .14 .40 (.28 to .50) .60 (.50 to .72)
Assertiveness .41 .13 .41 (.29 to .51) .59 (.49 to .71)
Emotion expression .41 .17 .40 (.29 to .50) .60 (.50 to .71)
Emotion management .44 .17 .42 (.31 to .52) .58 (.48 to .69)
Emotion perception .23 .15 .24 (.11 to .36) .76 (.64 to .88)
Emotion regulation .46 .08 .45 (.34 to .55) .55 (.45 to .66)
Impulsiveness (low) .41 .14 .42 (.30 to .52) .58 (.48 to .70)
Relationships .31 .13 .34 (.21 to .46) .66 (.54 to .79)
Stress management .43 .06 .44 (.32 to .54) .56 (.46 to .68)
Self-esteem .42 .18 .44 (.33 to .54) .56 (.46 to .67)
Self-motivation .43 .33 .46 (.36 to .56) .54 (.44 to .64)
Social awareness .51 .07 .53 (.42 to .62) .47 (.38 to .58)
Trait empathy .23 .18 .25 (.13 to .37) .75 (.63 to .87)
Trait happiness .43 .02 .44 (.32 to .54) .56 (.46 to .68)
Trait optimism .40 $.01 .39 (.28 to .50) .61 (.50 to .72)
Factor
Emotionality .35 .13 .35 (.23 to .46) .65 (.54 to .77)
Self-control .48 .02 .48 (.37 to .58) .52 (.42 to .63)
Sociability .50 .12 .50 (.40 to .59) .50 (.41 to .60)
Well-being .40 .03 .41 (.29 to .52) .59 (.48 to .71)
Global score
Trait EI .41 .05 .42 (.30 to .53) .58 (.47 to .70)
Note. TEIQue !Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire; MZr !monozygotic correlation; DZr !dizygotic correlation; d
2
!dominant genetic
effects; a
2
!additive genetic effects; c
2
!common environmental effects; e
2
!unique environmental effects; 95% CI !95% confidence interval; EI !
emotional intelligence.
640 VERNON, PETRIDES, BRATKO, AND SCHERMER
tion of about 40% is higher than that of nonpersonality constructs
(e.g., job satisfaction; Arvey, Bouchard, Segal, & Abraham, 1989)
but lower than the heritability of most cognitive abilities (Jensen,
1998). In fact, this heritability estimate is very similar to the
estimates obtained for broad-bandwidth personality traits, which is
evidence that the characteristics routinely described as EI are
personality traits. Of course, the main shortcoming of this argu-
ment is the absence of an established personality inventory from
the research design, which prevents us from examining the phe-
notypic and genetic correlations that are key to deciding this issue
(but see Vernon et al., in press).
The present studies contribute previously unavailable data that
should be considered, not in isolation, but with reference to an
expanding literature pointing out that alleged new intelligences
require reconceptualization as personality traits. For example,
Brody (2004) and O’Sullivan and Ekman (2004) highlighted some
of the fundamental problems in the scoring procedures used in
ability EI tests (see also Cronbach, 1955), Eysenck (1998) dis-
cussed inconsistencies in the conceptualization of EI as a novel
mental ability, and Petrides, Pita, et al. (2007) demonstrated em-
pirically how the construct can be integrated into the existing
theories of personality.
To the foregoing body of evidence, the present article contrib-
utes original data showing that trait EI has heritability and envi-
ronmental coefficients very similar to those of other broad-
bandwidth personality dimensions. This leads us to conclude that,
when the evidence is considered in its totality, it seems clear that
alleged intelligences, such as emotional, social, personal and the
like, should be reconceptualized as traits at the lower levels of
mainstream personality hierarchies.
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Received October 4, 2007
Revision received June 2, 2008
Accepted June 24, 2008 !
642 VERNON, PETRIDES, BRATKO, AND SCHERMER
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