Vol. 4, No. 1, 1998 Page 7


Two hallmarks of the criminal personality are impulsivity and sensation seeking, and a new study indicates that the correlation between these traits is largely attributable to genes.

Yoon-Mi Hur and Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr., studied 57 pairs of identical twins, 49 pairs of fraternal twins, and 90 non-twins. Members of the twin pairs had been raised apart.

Study participants completed two behavioral evaluations:

-- The Control Scale of the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ). "High scorers on the scale are cautious, planful, careful, and reflective," the researchers say, while "low scorers are impulsive, reckless, careless, and spontaneous."

-- The Sensation Seeking Scale (SSS), which measures thrill and adventure seeking, experience seeking, disinhibition, and boredom susceptibility.

The researchers report that scores on the Control Scale of the MPQ strongly correlated with scores on the Sensation Seeking Scale, indicating a strong link between impulsivity and sensation seeking behavior. Furthermore, Hur and Bouchard say, this correlation could be attributed almost entirely to genetic factors.

Noting that "both sensation seeking traits and impulsivity have been found to be higher in drug abusers, delinquents, and psychopaths than in [other individuals]," Hur and Bouchard say, "our results suggest a possibility that the elevated scores of impulsivity and sensation seeking traits in those deviant groups are explained in part by the correlated genetic predisposition to impulsivity and sensation seeking traits."


"The genetic correlation between impulsivity and sensation seeking traits," Yoon-Mi Hur and Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr., Behavior Genetics, Vol. 27, No. 5, 1997, pp. 455-463. Address: Yoon-Mi Hur, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, N218 Elliott Hall, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455.

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