Affective Personality and Primary Emotion Systems

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12th Sep 2017 Psychology Reference this

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Affect is the subjective experiential-feeling component that accompanies bodily stimulation found in physiological aspects such as: the homeostatic drive of hunger and thirst, the external stimulation of taste and touch and the emotional stimulation of environmental events. All are compound central functions of the brain, which are triggered by perceptions, becoming experientially refined. Such affective experiences are typically conceptualized in terms of: valence, such as positive and negative feelings. Arousal; which refers to the intensity of the feeling and also power, concerning the effect of the feeling on the mental state (Panksepp, 2005). There exists a large number of affective states each representing different neuro-dynamics within the brain. Such brain systems operate as an evolutionary adaption situated in subcortical networks and lower brain regions which produce these basic affects, with learning and higher brain functions considered secondary and tertiary processes (Davis & Panksepp, 2011). Such systems are located in ancient brain regions and are predominantly homologous in all mammals. These brain systems generate instinctual behavioural responses that are closely linked to the primitive affects that accompany such activity. (Panksepp, 1998a). Panksepp’s theory of affective personality (Panksepp, 1998a) suggests that such affective states modulated by these systems when induced by emotional stimuli act as the basis for personality. By employing techniques such as deep (subcortical) electrical stimulation (DBS) and pharmacological manipulation, the construction of six distinct primary emotion systems (SEEK, CARE, PLAY, FEAR, ANGER and SADNESS), anchored in phylogenetically old brain areas, have been developed (Panksepp, 1998a) (Primary emotional systems are printed in capital letters, as a formal designation for primal systems in all mammalian brains and to distinguish them from the vernacular emotional terms traditionally used in emotional and personality research). The affective personality model suggests that Individual differences in these emotional systems promote varying affective states, acting as the basis for individual differences in personality. Each system influences different affective activity which can correspond to a different fundamental personality trait. The six emotional systems are divided into two categories in correspondence to their associated valence. The positive system encompasses SEEK, CARE and PLAY while FEAR, ANGER and SADNESS fall into the negative system.

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The first of the three ‘positive’ systems can be classed as ‘SEEK’. This precipitates behaviours such as enthusiasm, curiosity and learning. It produces motivation to search for things the organism needs, craves and desires. The system is proposed to correspond with the medial forebrain bundle or the ‘brain reward system’. It has been found to be largely driven by dopamine activity following a neural circuit surrounding the ventral-tegmental area of the midbrain and medial frontal cortex (Panksepp, 2010). For instance, it is noted in Trowill, Panksepp, & Gandelman (1989) how the manipulation of dopamine activity in medial frontal cortex resulted in the exhibition of coherent emotional responses representing ‘foraging’ or ‘seeking’. Further studies regarding self-stimulation reward have noted a complex neuronal system for appetitive desire which mediates an articulate organismic urge to explore the environment and seek resources in response to bodily needs and external incentives (Ikemoto & Panksepp, 1999).

The ‘CARE’ system concerns behaviours such as empathy and nurture and is argued to be more active in females then males because of an evolutionary adaptation to ensure offspring survival. It is proposed to be heavily related to hormone Oxytocin, which is more present in females then males, and has been found to be involved in trust, pair bonding, and generosity (Panksepp, 2010). It is believed to operate around a neural system in the forebrain coursing the hypothalamus, posterior lobe and the nucleus accumbens and may increase affiliative behaviour by dampening amygdala activity (Theodoridou, Rowe, Penton-Voak & Rogers, 2009). For example, a study by Kirsch et al (2005) found that the manipulation of oxytocin activity around the posterior lobe increased perceptions of trustworthiness in participants. Furthermore, a fMRI study by Petrovic, Kalso, Petersson & Ingvar (2008) found reduced amygdala activity to be related to increased perception of generosity.

Finally, the ‘PLAY’ System refers to feelings of excitement, exploration and the instinctual nature of rough and tumble play demonstrated in human childhood and most young mammals. It is believed to influence learning of social structures, and several social processes such as defeat and social-appetitive motor skills (Panksepp, 1998a). Much like the seek systems it has been found to be linked to stimulation of the ventral tegmental area via dopamine (Panksepp, 2010). Evidence of this can be seen in studies which show the behaviour to survive radical decortication with animals possessing no neocortex still exhibiting play behaviour (Panksepp, Normansell, Cox & Siviy, 1994). Furthermore, placing psychostimulants such as amphetamine into the ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens) can promote stimulation of laughter and feelings of joy (Burgdorf, Knutson, Panksepp, & Ikemoto, 2001) and engaging in playful activities also provokes a robust arousal of the same brain area in humans (Mobbs, Greicius, Abdel-Azim, Menon, & Reiss, 2003).

The first system in the negative grouping is named ‘ANGER’ which relates to feeling of annoyance, displeasure and hostility and is often aroused when the seeking system is inhibited. The system is related to the activity of the neuropeptide glutamate within a neural network extending from the amygdala and hypothalamus to the periaqueductal gray (PAG) (Located in the tegmentum) (Panksepp, 2010), a region shown to influence defensive behaviour and aggression (Tovote et al, 2016). In a neuroimaging review by Bruehl, Burns, Chung & Chont (2009) it was found that opioid dysfunction in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior insula, amygdala, and PAG was related to direct verbal or physical expression of anger.

The ‘FEAR’ system influences behaviours such as alarm and panic when an organism is put in a threatening situation. The system is heavily related to the concept of ‘flight or fight’, as activation can lead organisms to flee or elicit a freezing response. It is related to neuropeptide Y and corticotropic activity stimulated by the hypothalamus (Panksepp, 2010). This system was established on the basis of experiments showing that localized DBS within an anterior hypothalamic trajectory could generate coherent fear responses and anxiety (Pankepp, 2005). Furthermore, stimulation of this system at various points along the neuroaxis resulted in animals consistently attempting to escape DBS applied to such brain sites (Panksepp, 1998a).

Finally, the ‘SADNESS’ system includes feelings of grief, unhappiness and regret. Relevant sub-cortical areas of control include the anterior cingulate, the bed-nucleus of the stria terminalis, the ventral septal and dorsal preoptic areas, the dorsomedial thalamus, and the PAG. Such areas have been found to linked to the detection and appraising of social processes as well the expression of negative emotion (Etkin, Egner & Kalisch (2012). Some of these areas, most notably the ventral septal and dorsomedial thalamus, are known to control feelings of physical pain with shallow levels of brain stimulation within the PAG still being able to evoke emotional distress (Eisenberger, Lieberman, & Williams, 2003). Similarly, it has been reported that social exclusion and depression activates anterior cingulate regions that are known to regulate pain within the human brain (Mayberg, 2004). Moreover, localized electrical stimulation of the stria terminalis can provoke crying (Herman & Panksepp, 1981) with neuroimaging imaging studies highlighting similar trajectories of brain activation when experiencing intense sadness (Damasio, Grabowski, Bechara, Damasio, Ponto, Parvizi, 2000).

The ANPS

On the basis of such evidence for brain affective systems, it can be inferred that a great deal of variation in personality may be related to the strengths and weaknesses found the activity of these systems. This implies that evaluation of personality can be based on empirically relevant indicators along the lines of these brain systems. This precipitated the construction of the affective neuroscience personality scale (ANPS; Davis, Panksepp & Normansell, 2003). Modelled after the Spielberger’s State-Trait Personality Inventory (STPI; Spielberger, 1975) and based on such neurological studies, the ANPS was designed to approximate self-reported feedback concerning the individual differences of these six neural based networks. The ANPS contrast to traditional measures of personality such as questionnaires based on the five-factor model (FFM; Goldberg, 1990) which primarily focus on linguistic representations of personality. As the FFM is based on a lexical (adjective-based) approach it does not assist in hypothesizing about neural emotional systems underlying the human personality. For example, it has been found that emotional distress is related to stimulation of the PAG (Eisenberger et al, 2003). Therefore, such neural activity can be attributed to participants indicating high levels of distress on the ANPS, whereas reporting emotional distress via a lexical-based personality tool would indicated the presence of linguistic representation rather than hinting at the neural correlates. This can be seen in a study by Montag & Reuter (2013) which highlights the use of the ANPS in helping identify the monoamines and neuropeptides involved in the molecular genetic basis of personality.

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However, the FFM can be argued to be the most influential tool in the measurement of personality, with thousands of studies within the realms of social and cognitive psychology, genetics and psychopathology employing its use Costa & McCrae (1995). Therefore, the ANPS should be able to relate to the FFM in terms of the connection between the affective systems and the traditional adjectival descriptive personality dimensions (Extroversion, Introversion, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness). Research shows a theoretical relationship between the ANPS and the FFM with each of the six ANPS sub-scales reporting a significant correlation with at least one FFM sub-scale. The most robust associations have been reported between Extraversion and PLAY, Openness and SEEK with Agreeableness positively related to CARE and negatively with ANGER Conscientiousness seems to be more weakly related with the three negative emotions. (Davis et al, 2003). Such findings make theoretical sense as many of the behavioural facets defined in each sub-scale relate to corresponding sub-scales in the other model. For example, both the SEEK system and Openness sub-scale include facets relating to curiosity. It is suggested in Davis & Panksepp (2011) that the six affective systems form the foundation for substantial parts of the adult five-factor personality structure. For example, that the root of Extraversion, as defined in the FFM, may be the PLAY system. This first emerges as infant smiling, laughter, and sensitivity to tickling, then in later development as childhood games and social interaction and is elaborated in adult personalities as they as joke telling and social engagement.

Personality & Attachment

One area in which the FFM has been greatly utilized, is adult attachment. Adult attachment is a theory designed to explain thoughts, feelings and behaviours in the context of adult relationships. The theory was first developed in Mikulincer & Shaver (2003) where it was suggested that close adult relationships mirror the relationship between mother and child, where, for example, a securely attached individual is comforted when their attachments are present and anxious when they are absent. Shaver and Brenner (1992) is one of the earliest examples for the examination of the relationship between attachment and personality. Most studies in the area have focused on the associations between attachment measures and the ‘big five’ personality traits. Results have generally followed theoretically predictable patterns. Since the publication of Shaver and Brennan’s (1992) study, several other researchers have reported correlations between a variety of different attachment measures and different measures of the Big Five. In general, these studies show attachment security to be moderately-negatively correlated with neuroticism and moderately-positively correlated with extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. With attachment security rarely showing a correlation with openness (Noftle & Shaver, 2006). Such relationships tend to situate around a r = .30 correlation, implying the sub-scales are not simply redundant with each other (Noftle & Shaver, 2006). These findings are further developed in studies examining the underlying cognitive and behavioural constructs behind such a relationship. For example, it has been noted how introversion is a form of insecurity in a similar way to insecurity in attachment. An Insecure attachment occurs when a caregiver is unreliable, leading to feelings of vulnerability in the child which relates heavily to the vulnerability and anxiety sub-scales of introversion in the FFM (Thompson, 1999). More recent research has attempted to study this relationship as a possible construct in clinical realms. For example, it has been reported how early traumatization affects brain areas in emotional states which verbal treatment cannot reach, resulting in hindered personality development and attachment malfunction (Ammon, 2010). Personality and attachment profiles have also been found to be important indicators for treatment of drug addiction in patients with children as well as for relapse prevention programmes for sex-offenders (Francescade, 2014, Lu & Lung, 2010).

Brain imaging studies have also contributed to literature concerning attachment and personality, to a lesser degree. Studies examining the neural correlates of attachment have found several overlapping areas such as the amygdala and the midbrain nuclei to be involved in the activation of the ‘attachment-system’ (Lenzi et al, 2015) as well as regulation of the SEEK system (Trowill, 1989). This connection is better illustrated in Narvaez’s (2017) theory of human biosocial plasticity. It is suggested that the primary caregiver acts as an ‘external psychobiological regulator’ whose behaviour helps shape the construction of the child’s affective neural systems. During prenatal and perinatal life, the maturation of the neocortex is rapidly developing. Under typical developmental conditions, before four months postnatally, the connections between the amygdala and regions mediating motor activity and environmental provocations have not become fully mature (Weber, Watts, & Richardson, 2003). From five – six months however, reactions to environmental stimuli are patterned clearly. During this development, the relationship between the caregiver and child act as a template for interactions between the self and the social environment. The infant and the caregiver’s attachment system provides an instrument by which the elementary nervous system of the infant can be co-constructed by the caregiver to help develop ‘psycho-behavioural potentials’ patterned into the affective emotional systems (Schore, 2001, in Narvaez, 2017). This is further illustrated in a study by Farinelli et al (2015) which found a relationship between affective personality and attachment style in adults. A group of stroke patients with lesions to certain areas of the brain were compared to a group of control patients, in terms of affective personality and attachment style. It was found that those with lesions to midline regions involved in the regulation of the positive emotional system displayed significantly lower levels of SEEK, and higher levels of SADNESS and insecure attachment. Similar results were found in those with lesions to the motor cortex, with the addition of increased levels of ANGER. Dopamine activity surrounding the motor cortex and midbrain regions has been found to play a role in the modulation the ANGER system (Hosp, Pekanovic, Mengia, Rioult-Pedotti & Luft, 2011).

Neuroimaging studies have also focused on more specific relations between personality and attachment. Most notably, a substantial amount of research has underlined the relationship between the CARE system and the anxiety sub-type of attachment. There exists two sub-types of attachment, attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance, which refer to different measures of the construct. There are many different dimensions of attachment such as the traditional: secure, insecure avoidant and insecure anxious constructs (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991). However, attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance refer to measures of these different dimensions Mikulincer & Shaver (2003). Attachment anxiety also referred to as the ‘model of self’ refers to concepts such as self-awareness and self-consciousness in the context of relationships. This is opposed to attachment avoidance or ‘model of others’ which refers to one’s feelings and cognitions concerning others in the relationship dynamic. Many brain imaging studies have focused on the activity of the neuropeptide oxytocin in terms of the CARE system and attachment anxiety. For example, there is neural evidence indicating the importance of oxytocin in helping develop the model of self during the earliest stages of attachment. Insel (2003) highlights the importance of oxytocin for facilitating mother-infant bonding, maternal urges, and solidification of social memories. It has also been found to reduce separation distress and facilitate social bonding from the infant’s perspective (Nelson & Panksepp, 1998). This activity can be seen to relate to similar neural behaviour involved in aspects of the PLAY system, such as empathy and maternal behaviour. For example, the posterior lateral hypothalamus is involved in introspection and self-awareness (Fabbro, Aglioti, Bergamasco, Clarici & Panksepp, 2015) as well as maternal behaviour, of which both are modulated by oxytocin administration (Sripada, Phan, Labuschagne, Welsh, Nathan & Wood, 2013). Oxytocin also mediates the activation of the posterior temporal sulcus, which is involved in the mentalizing and processing of self-other distinction (Decety & Lamm, 2007) as well as empathy (Paulus, Müller, Jansen, Gazzola, Krach & Sören, 2015).

Affect is the subjective experiential-feeling component that accompanies bodily stimulation found in physiological aspects such as: the homeostatic drive of hunger and thirst, the external stimulation of taste and touch and the emotional stimulation of environmental events. All are compound central functions of the brain, which are triggered by perceptions, becoming experientially refined. Such affective experiences are typically conceptualized in terms of: valence, such as positive and negative feelings. Arousal; which refers to the intensity of the feeling and also power, concerning the effect of the feeling on the mental state (Panksepp, 2005). There exists a large number of affective states each representing different neuro-dynamics within the brain. Such brain systems operate as an evolutionary adaption situated in subcortical networks and lower brain regions which produce these basic affects, with learning and higher brain functions considered secondary and tertiary processes (Davis & Panksepp, 2011). Such systems are located in ancient brain regions and are predominantly homologous in all mammals. These brain systems generate instinctual behavioural responses that are closely linked to the primitive affects that accompany such activity. (Panksepp, 1998a). Panksepp’s theory of affective personality (Panksepp, 1998a) suggests that such affective states modulated by these systems when induced by emotional stimuli act as the basis for personality. By employing techniques such as deep (subcortical) electrical stimulation (DBS) and pharmacological manipulation, the construction of six distinct primary emotion systems (SEEK, CARE, PLAY, FEAR, ANGER and SADNESS), anchored in phylogenetically old brain areas, have been developed (Panksepp, 1998a) (Primary emotional systems are printed in capital letters, as a formal designation for primal systems in all mammalian brains and to distinguish them from the vernacular emotional terms traditionally used in emotional and personality research). The affective personality model suggests that Individual differences in these emotional systems promote varying affective states, acting as the basis for individual differences in personality. Each system influences different affective activity which can correspond to a different fundamental personality trait. The six emotional systems are divided into two categories in correspondence to their associated valence. The positive system encompasses SEEK, CARE and PLAY while FEAR, ANGER and SADNESS fall into the negative system.

The first of the three ‘positive’ systems can be classed as ‘SEEK’. This precipitates behaviours such as enthusiasm, curiosity and learning. It produces motivation to search for things the organism needs, craves and desires. The system is proposed to correspond with the medial forebrain bundle or the ‘brain reward system’. It has been found to be largely driven by dopamine activity following a neural circuit surrounding the ventral-tegmental area of the midbrain and medial frontal cortex (Panksepp, 2010). For instance, it is noted in Trowill, Panksepp, & Gandelman (1989) how the manipulation of dopamine activity in medial frontal cortex resulted in the exhibition of coherent emotional responses representing ‘foraging’ or ‘seeking’. Further studies regarding self-stimulation reward have noted a complex neuronal system for appetitive desire which mediates an articulate organismic urge to explore the environment and seek resources in response to bodily needs and external incentives (Ikemoto & Panksepp, 1999).

The ‘CARE’ system concerns behaviours such as empathy and nurture and is argued to be more active in females then males because of an evolutionary adaptation to ensure offspring survival. It is proposed to be heavily related to hormone Oxytocin, which is more present in females then males, and has been found to be involved in trust, pair bonding, and generosity (Panksepp, 2010). It is believed to operate around a neural system in the forebrain coursing the hypothalamus, posterior lobe and the nucleus accumbens and may increase affiliative behaviour by dampening amygdala activity (Theodoridou, Rowe, Penton-Voak & Rogers, 2009). For example, a study by Kirsch et al (2005) found that the manipulation of oxytocin activity around the posterior lobe increased perceptions of trustworthiness in participants. Furthermore, a fMRI study by Petrovic, Kalso, Petersson & Ingvar (2008) found reduced amygdala activity to be related to increased perception of generosity.

Finally, the ‘PLAY’ System refers to feelings of excitement, exploration and the instinctual nature of rough and tumble play demonstrated in human childhood and most young mammals. It is believed to influence learning of social structures, and several social processes such as defeat and social-appetitive motor skills (Panksepp, 1998a). Much like the seek systems it has been found to be linked to stimulation of the ventral tegmental area via dopamine (Panksepp, 2010). Evidence of this can be seen in studies which show the behaviour to survive radical decortication with animals possessing no neocortex still exhibiting play behaviour (Panksepp, Normansell, Cox & Siviy, 1994). Furthermore, placing psychostimulants such as amphetamine into the ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens) can promote stimulation of laughter and feelings of joy (Burgdorf, Knutson, Panksepp, & Ikemoto, 2001) and engaging in playful activities also provokes a robust arousal of the same brain area in humans (Mobbs, Greicius, Abdel-Azim, Menon, & Reiss, 2003).

The first system in the negative grouping is named ‘ANGER’ which relates to feeling of annoyance, displeasure and hostility and is often aroused when the seeking system is inhibited. The system is related to the activity of the neuropeptide glutamate within a neural network extending from the amygdala and hypothalamus to the periaqueductal gray (PAG) (Located in the tegmentum) (Panksepp, 2010), a region shown to influence defensive behaviour and aggression (Tovote et al, 2016). In a neuroimaging review by Bruehl, Burns, Chung & Chont (2009) it was found that opioid dysfunction in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior insula, amygdala, and PAG was related to direct verbal or physical expression of anger.

The ‘FEAR’ system influences behaviours such as alarm and panic when an organism is put in a threatening situation. The system is heavily related to the concept of ‘flight or fight’, as activation can lead organisms to flee or elicit a freezing response. It is related to neuropeptide Y and corticotropic activity stimulated by the hypothalamus (Panksepp, 2010). This system was established on the basis of experiments showing that localized DBS within an anterior hypothalamic trajectory could generate coherent fear responses and anxiety (Pankepp, 2005). Furthermore, stimulation of this system at various points along the neuroaxis resulted in animals consistently attempting to escape DBS applied to such brain sites (Panksepp, 1998a).

Finally, the ‘SADNESS’ system includes feelings of grief, unhappiness and regret. Relevant sub-cortical areas of control include the anterior cingulate, the bed-nucleus of the stria terminalis, the ventral septal and dorsal preoptic areas, the dorsomedial thalamus, and the PAG. Such areas have been found to linked to the detection and appraising of social processes as well the expression of negative emotion (Etkin, Egner & Kalisch (2012). Some of these areas, most notably the ventral septal and dorsomedial thalamus, are known to control feelings of physical pain with shallow levels of brain stimulation within the PAG still being able to evoke emotional distress (Eisenberger, Lieberman, & Williams, 2003). Similarly, it has been reported that social exclusion and depression activates anterior cingulate regions that are known to regulate pain within the human brain (Mayberg, 2004). Moreover, localized electrical stimulation of the stria terminalis can provoke crying (Herman & Panksepp, 1981) with neuroimaging imaging studies highlighting similar trajectories of brain activation when experiencing intense sadness (Damasio, Grabowski, Bechara, Damasio, Ponto, Parvizi, 2000).

The ANPS

On the basis of such evidence for brain affective systems, it can be inferred that a great deal of variation in personality may be related to the strengths and weaknesses found the activity of these systems. This implies that evaluation of personality can be based on empirically relevant indicators along the lines of these brain systems. This precipitated the construction of the affective neuroscience personality scale (ANPS; Davis, Panksepp & Normansell, 2003). Modelled after the Spielberger’s State-Trait Personality Inventory (STPI; Spielberger, 1975) and based on such neurological studies, the ANPS was designed to approximate self-reported feedback concerning the individual differences of these six neural based networks. The ANPS contrast to traditional measures of personality such as questionnaires based on the five-factor model (FFM; Goldberg, 1990) which primarily focus on linguistic representations of personality. As the FFM is based on a lexical (adjective-based) approach it does not assist in hypothesizing about neural emotional systems underlying the human personality. For example, it has been found that emotional distress is related to stimulation of the PAG (Eisenberger et al, 2003). Therefore, such neural activity can be attributed to participants indicating high levels of distress on the ANPS, whereas reporting emotional distress via a lexical-based personality tool would indicated the presence of linguistic representation rather than hinting at the neural correlates. This can be seen in a study by Montag & Reuter (2013) which highlights the use of the ANPS in helping identify the monoamines and neuropeptides involved in the molecular genetic basis of personality.

However, the FFM can be argued to be the most influential tool in the measurement of personality, with thousands of studies within the realms of social and cognitive psychology, genetics and psychopathology employing its use Costa & McCrae (1995). Therefore, the ANPS should be able to relate to the FFM in terms of the connection between the affective systems and the traditional adjectival descriptive personality dimensions (Extroversion, Introversion, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness). Research shows a theoretical relationship between the ANPS and the FFM with each of the six ANPS sub-scales reporting a significant correlation with at least one FFM sub-scale. The most robust associations have been reported between Extraversion and PLAY, Openness and SEEK with Agreeableness positively related to CARE and negatively with ANGER Conscientiousness seems to be more weakly related with the three negative emotions. (Davis et al, 2003). Such findings make theoretical sense as many of the behavioural facets defined in each sub-scale relate to corresponding sub-scales in the other model. For example, both the SEEK system and Openness sub-scale include facets relating to curiosity. It is suggested in Davis & Panksepp (2011) that the six affective systems form the foundation for substantial parts of the adult five-factor personality structure. For example, that the root of Extraversion, as defined in the FFM, may be the PLAY system. This first emerges as infant smiling, laughter, and sensitivity to tickling, then in later development as childhood games and social interaction and is elaborated in adult personalities as they as joke telling and social engagement.

Personality & Attachment

One area in which the FFM has been greatly utilized, is adult attachment. Adult attachment is a theory designed to explain thoughts, feelings and behaviours in the context of adult relationships. The theory was first developed in Mikulincer & Shaver (2003) where it was suggested that close adult relationships mirror the relationship between mother and child, where, for example, a securely attached individual is comforted when their attachments are present and anxious when they are absent. Shaver and Brenner (1992) is one of the earliest examples for the examination of the relationship between attachment and personality. Most studies in the area have focused on the associations between attachment measures and the ‘big five’ personality traits. Results have generally followed theoretically predictable patterns. Since the publication of Shaver and Brennan’s (1992) study, several other researchers have reported correlations between a variety of different attachment measures and different measures of the Big Five. In general, these studies show attachment security to be moderately-negatively correlated with neuroticism and moderately-positively correlated with extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. With attachment security rarely showing a correlation with openness (Noftle & Shaver, 2006). Such relationships tend to situate around a r = .30 correlation, implying the sub-scales are not simply redundant with each other (Noftle & Shaver, 2006). These findings are further developed in studies examining the underlying cognitive and behavioural constructs behind such a relationship. For example, it has been noted how introversion is a form of insecurity in a similar way to insecurity in attachment. An Insecure attachment occurs when a caregiver is unreliable, leading to feelings of vulnerability in the child which relates heavily to the vulnerability and anxiety sub-scales of introversion in the FFM (Thompson, 1999). More recent research has attempted to study this relationship as a possible construct in clinical realms. For example, it has been reported how early traumatization affects brain areas in emotional states which verbal treatment cannot reach, resulting in hindered personality development and attachment malfunction (Ammon, 2010). Personality and attachment profiles have also been found to be important indicators for treatment of drug addiction in patients with children as well as for relapse prevention programmes for sex-offenders (Francescade, 2014, Lu & Lung, 2010).

Brain imaging studies have also contributed to literature concerning attachment and personality, to a lesser degree. Studies examining the neural correlates of attachment have found several overlapping areas such as the amygdala and the midbrain nuclei to be involved in the activation of the ‘attachment-system’ (Lenzi et al, 2015) as well as regulation of the SEEK system (Trowill, 1989). This connection is better illustrated in Narvaez’s (2017) theory of human biosocial plasticity. It is suggested that the primary caregiver acts as an ‘external psychobiological regulator’ whose behaviour helps shape the construction of the child’s affective neural systems. During prenatal and perinatal life, the maturation of the neocortex is rapidly developing. Under typical developmental conditions, before four months postnatally, the connections between the amygdala and regions mediating motor activity and environmental provocations have not become fully mature (Weber, Watts, & Richardson, 2003). From five – six months however, reactions to environmental stimuli are patterned clearly. During this development, the relationship between the caregiver and child act as a template for interactions between the self and the social environment. The infant and the caregiver’s attachment system provides an instrument by which the elementary nervous system of the infant can be co-constructed by the caregiver to help develop ‘psycho-behavioural potentials’ patterned into the affective emotional systems (Schore, 2001, in Narvaez, 2017). This is further illustrated in a study by Farinelli et al (2015) which found a relationship between affective personality and attachment style in adults. A group of stroke patients with lesions to certain areas of the brain were compared to a group of control patients, in terms of affective personality and attachment style. It was found that those with lesions to midline regions involved in the regulation of the positive emotional system displayed significantly lower levels of SEEK, and higher levels of SADNESS and insecure attachment. Similar results were found in those with lesions to the motor cortex, with the addition of increased levels of ANGER. Dopamine activity surrounding the motor cortex and midbrain regions has been found to play a role in the modulation the ANGER system (Hosp, Pekanovic, Mengia, Rioult-Pedotti & Luft, 2011).

Neuroimaging studies have also focused on more specific relations between personality and attachment. Most notably, a substantial amount of research has underlined the relationship between the CARE system and the anxiety sub-type of attachment. There exists two sub-types of attachment, attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance, which refer to different measures of the construct. There are many different dimensions of attachment such as the traditional: secure, insecure avoidant and insecure anxious constructs (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991). However, attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance refer to measures of these different dimensions Mikulincer & Shaver (2003). Attachment anxiety also referred to as the ‘model of self’ refers to concepts such as self-awareness and self-consciousness in the context of relationships. This is opposed to attachment avoidance or ‘model of others’ which refers to one’s feelings and cognitions concerning others in the relationship dynamic. Many brain imaging studies have focused on the activity of the neuropeptide oxytocin in terms of the CARE system and attachment anxiety. For example, there is neural evidence indicating the importance of oxytocin in helping develop the model of self during the earliest stages of attachment. Insel (2003) highlights the importance of oxytocin for facilitating mother-infant bonding, maternal urges, and solidification of social memories. It has also been found to reduce separation distress and facilitate social bonding from the infant’s perspective (Nelson & Panksepp, 1998). This activity can be seen to relate to similar neural behaviour involved in aspects of the PLAY system, such as empathy and maternal behaviour. For example, the posterior lateral hypothalamus is involved in introspection and self-awareness (Fabbro, Aglioti, Bergamasco, Clarici & Panksepp, 2015) as well as maternal behaviour, of which both are modulated by oxytocin administration (Sripada, Phan, Labuschagne, Welsh, Nathan & Wood, 2013). Oxytocin also mediates the activation of the posterior temporal sulcus, which is involved in the mentalizing and processing of self-other distinction (Decety & Lamm, 2007) as well as empathy (Paulus, Müller, Jansen, Gazzola, Krach & Sören, 2015).

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