Resemblance in appearance and the equal environments assumption in twin studies of personality traits

R Plomin, L Willerman, J C Loehlin

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93 Citations (Scopus)


The equal environments hypothesis of twin methodology was examined for the variable of similarity of appearance as it affects the personality ratings of young twins. There were two separate samples, the first with 95 pairs of same-sex twins and the second with 111 pairs. The average age of the twins in both samples was 3-1/2 years. Mothers rated their twins on four personality traits and on confusability of appearance. Not surprisingly, identical twins were markedly more similar in appearance than fraternal twins. The effect of this inequality on the personality ratings of the two types of twins was examined by correlating ratings of similarity of appearance with the absolute difference on the four personality traits for each pair of twins. None of the correlations was significant for the identical twins, suggesting that greater resemblance in appearance in identical twins does not make them more similar in personality. Indeed, the data suggested a contrast effect in which identical twins who were easily mistaken in appearance tended to be rated as less similar in personality. Thus, although similarity of appearance may create unequal environments for the two types of twins, it does not appear to bias twin studies in the direction of inflated heritabilities, at least for rating studies of the personality of young twins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1976


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