The evolutionary psychology of personality

Scientists used to think that the human mind was a blank slate (John Locks’s famous tabula rasa) which was written on by culture. However, evolutionary psychology and increasingly genetics are disproving this idea. A lot of traits have a genetic component, e.g. how conscientious a person is, their parenting style, or whether they are night owls or early birds.
Evolutionary psychologists used to believe that everybody is a hunter-gather psychologically speaking. However, that is not true. The few thousand years since the time farming was invented did have a genetic impact. Farmers compared to hunter-gatherers needed to be more hard-working, more conscientious (cf. Daniel Nettle) and more defensive of their property. On the flip side, they have become less generous (but only to outgroup members), less egalitarian and more status-seeking (accumulated wealth allowed for status). As William von Hippel points out in his great book “The Social Leap” the highly sharing and caring hunter-gatherer attitude towards everybody in the group would have been highly disadvantageous for early farmers.  
Farming would have involved quite a lot of cognitive, personality and behavioral changes. Strong focus on work, routine and conscientiousness were among them. Hunter-gatherer, on the other hand, needed to be more flexible and vigilant. Thom Hartman argues that ADHD is a manifestation of the hunter-gatherer mind, which is easily distractible (potential dangers, etc.) but has the ability to hyperfocus. Unfortunately, in our modern world ADHD minds often become dysfunctional as a farmer mind would obviously be much more adapted to a 9-5 job or a long school day than a hunter-gatherer mind. Sleep patterns might be part of the package: hunter-gatherers needed to be flexible, whereas for farmers is was more advantageous to get a good night's sleep and rise with the sun. Night owls are therefore more likely to have inherited a hunter-gatherer mind than early risers.
Another problem for early farmers would have been parenting and teaching. As Peter Gray shows in his highly recommendable book “Free to Learn” hunter-gather children spend most of their time playing, thus learning everything they need as grown-ups through peer-learning and self-directed learning. My hunch is that the majority of kids with oppositional defiant disorder in addition to those diagnosed with ADHD and a tendency to be autodidacts in schools have inherited hunter-gatherer minds, whereas the ones who easily adapt to the school system have inherited farmer minds. For farmers it was probably highly important to formally teach their children early on so they could help with the many daily chores.
Not only children are treated in this egalitarian way, but also women are considered equal and not supposed to be submissive to their husbands. There is no concept of “pater familias” and there is less sexual dimorphism than in farmer societies, which can not only be seen in cultural artifacts (e.g. fewer and less opulent jewelry) but also physically as men don’t show typically male digit ratios.
The following table shows a list of traits typical for hunter-gatherer vs. farmer minds. All of them have been found to have a genetic component. Of course, also mixed traits occur and culture and an individual’s life trajectory might override genetic tendencies.  

High on personality trait “openness”, low on “conscientiousness”
High on personality trait “conscientiousness”, low on “openness”
Strongly (actively) egalitarian
Tendency towards out-group sociality, more accepting of diversity (e.g.  different sexuality, refugees, etc.)
Tendency towards in-group sociality (identifies more strongly with a core group, like family, religious group or sports team)
More liberal ideology
More conservative ideology
Less sexual dimorphism
More (display of) sexual dimorphism
Later onset of puberty
Earlier onset of puberty
More monogamous tendencies
Less monogamous tendencies
Tendency to wanting fewer children
Tendency to wanting more children
Relaxed child-rearing attitude
Authoritative child rearing, “helicopter parenting”
Night owls
Early risers
“Lazier” (when it comes to physical work and chores)
More hard-working
highly rebellious when feeling personal freedom and values are threatened
individualistic, but also more conformist and highly loyal to their core group
Less interest in small-talk and gossip
Higher interest in small-talk and gossip

There is a third group of personality type: pastoralists, who have mixed traits and the earliest onset of puberty. The three groups show an r/K-selection range. They are also distinguishable by facial features. 

Hunter-gatherers: rectangular face shape for hunters, heart-shaped face for gatherers (male and female patterns are often reversed in modern hunter-gatherer personalities, i.e. females can have rectangular facial shape and males the heart-shaped form. They, therefore, tend to pair in all possible varieties: hunter-gatherer, hunter-hunter and gatherer-gatherer.

San hunter (rectangular face) and gatherer (heart-shaped face) 
Richard Dawkins (hunter) and Lala Ward (gatherer) paring, two soulmates

Pastoralists have oval-shaped faces.

Datoga and Maasai pastoralists: oval faces.

Paul and Linda McCartney: oval faces, artistic personality types (ISFPs), two playmates, a turbulent but successful marriage.

Farmer types tend to be more serious and hard-working. They have typically square or round faces:

African farmers with square/round faces
Geroge W. and Laura Bush, square/round farmer faces


  1. Extremely interesting. I identify myself well with the hunter-gatherer mindset. Btw, which one do you think is the most advantageous?

  2. Well, I would have expected nothing else from an INFJ girl ;) Being INFP I am HG myself. Which one is better? Well, there are plus and minus to both sides, but HG is harder:

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    2. I'm curious, do pastoralists have strong sexual dimorphism like the farmer types? Or are they more androgynous like the hunter gatherer types? What do their digit ratios look like? I'm an ESTP with low digit ratios on both hands btw

    3. sorry for replying so late, I missed your question.
      SPs are usually the ones who show the biggest sexual dimorphism of all types (competition is high both in SP males and females, who are the most flamboyant of all).
      Genes get mixed up, however (there are limits, though) so, any combination is possible, even though a bit surprising.
      I have always wondered why Trump (supposed to be ESTP) has such a low digit ratio.

  3. I'd disagree with "Lazier." I'd characterize it as "prone to extreme efforts for short bursts of time" as opposed to "prone to prefer slow and steady effort."

    1. thank you Jeff. I agree hole-heartedly... also it depends on our passion ;)

  4. Very interesting! What type would an INTP be? I can't determine if I am more of one category or another. Some things totally apply on both sides. I find it interesting that the types of people can be recognized by their facial structure.

  5. INTPs are definitely hunter(-gatherer) types :)
    Of course you can have mixed traits, if you are an INTP, I would expect at least two thing: you are highly egalitarian and you have a rectangular face.

    1. As an intp I can confirm. I have a rectangular face, and I treat everyone as an equal. I also have adhd, and I've struggled with gender expression quite a bit because I just don't view it as essential to my identity. I often get told that I come across as incredibly masculine for a female. But I think that is more because I don't sexualise my body in a feminine way (the way that SP and SJ types do). I also wonder if being a 'hunter' specifically would encourage a more dominant, strong willed, and assertive qualities within myself that are non-stereotypical to women (due to socialization of course, I'm not insinuating that these qualities are exclusive to men..but rather, largely influenced by societal expectations)

  6. Hello, I strongly identify with the hunter-gatherer characteristics. I have been diagnosed ADHD and have high IQ for what it's worth....

    But I do query face-shape as an indicator of H-G genes. Have you heard of Weston Price? He was a dentist and anthropologist by habit if not by training. He formed the opinion that diet strongly influences face shape, i.e. it's not all genetic.

    "He was very interested in diet and its effects on growth and development. He studied groups of Inuit, Pacific Islanders, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori, Swiss Highlanders and South American Indians and he made some very astute observations. Those not exposed to the “Western” diet, what he termed " the displacing foods of commerce", as children universally had broad, attractive faces and wide dental arches with beautifully aligned teeth and no tooth decay"

    "Within one generation of the parents and children consuming white flour, sugar and other nutrient-poor foods, the faces became narrower, the dental arches irregular with crowded teeth and they began to develop tooth decay."


    1. more info:

    2. Thank you for you hint! In fact, my younger son has almost a square face, judging from his face alone I would say he is an ISTJ, but he is most certaily INTJ (even identifies himself with "Young Sheldon").

    3. Hi there! Thank you, that is highly interesting! I have noticed that some people change their face shapes throughout lives! I'll have a look into that!

  7. A most enlightening blog.
    Agree with premis that farming impacted the H/G genome as evidenced by their distinctive trait grouping. Technically I am a Conservative who finds Liberals to be hypocritical elitists. Provided the political ideologies are reversed to characterize liberal as empathetic (for the masses) and conservative as paternalistic, then my true-self aligns with H/G—the opposite of my public persona. Quite an eye-opening.

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    2. All mainstream politics is hierarchical and neoliberal; they have long since become part of the dominant political ideologies.

      As such, there are currently no "left" political parties. Even in Canada, the only group in the "green" quadrant (of the political compass) has something like 10% popularity.

    3. Thank you for you comment! There are definitly hypocrites among liberals (I know some socialist politicians who love showing off their shiny cars and possessions), but if you you thought we were all hypocrites, then you were wrong.
      There is also a hunter-gatherer side to capitalism and conservatism: freedom!

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  9. Great post. Keep it up. Thanks for advice. It is wonderful information for me.
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  10. Hi, I just came across this fascinating post after following a link on a Quora post. I usually score as an INFP, have a heart-shaped face (so they told me, after a trip to the optician, where they assess your face shape in order to recommend suitable frames for glasses!). I was extremely focused with my studies as a child, teenager and university student, so don't identify with the ADHD piece, but otherwise it seems I am a Hunter-Gatherer. When life was good, it was a contemporary approximation of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in terms of levels of activity and other factors.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I am INFP with ADD - it is a good thing that you don't have it, leads to a lot of procrastination ;)

    2. How does one go about being tested to figure the traits and quality's out?

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  12. Yeah sometimes face shapes are hard to distinguish too. honestly i feel several here are mislabeled. and for instance I (an infp that relates to the hunter gatherer) have what comes across as an odd oval face because its the long heart shape. which is distinct from oblong, oval, kite, diamond, and standard heart shape. i caution myself to get too quick to match phenotype with personality (and say that there is no variance to that possible to begin with) but regardless it is all compelling and fascinating.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I agree with you. Shapes are often hard to distingush from each other and not all phenotypes have to be the same. TBH, I am surpised that the heart-shaped face is true so often for NF types... in psychology even .3 counts a high correlation!

  13. Ok but-what should I say as an autistic with attention deficit?


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