Personality Neuroscience – A New Journal from Cambridge University Press
Personality Neuroscience is inspired by the major developments in cognitive neuroscience that have taken place over the past decades, especially those that have revealed the considerable inter-individual variability in relationships between neural circuits and behaviour. Alongside these developments are similarly significant ones in personality psychology, which has moved on from debates about the reality of traits to a serious scientific focus on the causation, applications and implications of personality processes – neuroscience is central here.
Much of the excitement in personality neuroscience comes from advances in techniques, analytical approaches, theories, and especially the results of impressively large data sets, especially in the field of molecular genetics – all of which are starting to show, for example, the fundamental role of systematic individual differences (i.e., personality) in physical and mental health. Especially important in the mental health field has been the return to some very early ideas regarding the essential continuity of personality and psychopathology – the continuum or dimensional approach. Putting all of this together, advances in basic knowledge promises, for example, neuroscience-based ‘personality signatures’ that could be used in the design of personalized therapeutic approaches and individualised health care.
Not too long ago, the study of personality factors and processes was hindered by the lack of appropriate experimental methodologies, and too much of the field was content to rely upon a purely correlational approach with all the inferential hazard that entails. But now research advances have blown wide open the doors to developing a truly experimental approach to personality that focuses on causal processes. This is made possible by the availability of powerful neuroimaging tools and analytical strategies, allowing highly sophisticated studies of personality factors and processes – examining among other things individual differences in behaviour and brain structure/function, functional connectomics, large-scale neurogenomics, mechanistic studies of the molecular basis of gene-environment interactions, and the social regulation of gene expression. These developments surely presage remarkable findings in the future – some are starting to emerge now (e.g., the field of cognitive epidemiology where cognitive ability measured at an early age predicts a wide range of later-life outcomes). There is also the very real prospect of the neuroscience of personality combining with the digital world in high innovative ways. For example, a new generation of researchers are interested in digital phenotyping (e.g., social media footprints) and apply methods from psychoinformatics – this can be combined with neuroscientific data, potentially merging into a new discipline of ‘psychoneuroinformatics’.
In a number of different ways, Personality Neuroscience aims to encourage and facilitate these developments. Most importantly, allowing researchers the freedom to include personality variables (broadly defined) in their neuroscience studies without the fear of this decision undermining the perceived quality or appropriateness of their work – previously, a choice had often to be made: to get into a top-tier neuroscience journal, personality factors/processes had to be downplayed, and personality journals often cannot handle complicated neuroscience approaches. This changes with the existence of Personality Neuroscience: Personality neuroscientists are no longer forced to trade-off one side of this scientific coin for the other in their search for a high quality publishing outlet – this must be beneficial to psychological science as a whole.
For sure, there is a buzz of excitement and a willingness for this new field to flourish. But to succeed the journal needs to be embraced by the personality neuroscience community, especially by those neuroscientists at the cutting-edge of research. The field is still in its infancy and it needs support, guidance and nurturing. Cambridge University Press should be congratulated for taking on this project and for supporting it in their own admirable way, and now it is up to all of us to transform its potential into reality – if the inaugural papers are anything to go by, the future is, indeed, bright.
As the Founding Editor-in-Chief, I intend to work collaboratively with the personality neuroscience community and intend, as far as feasible, to avoid the somewhat adversarial relationship that can exist between author(s) and editor. If you think you have an idea for a great paper then just get in touch: [email protected] – I look forward to hearing from you!
Learn more about the journal by visiting the journal homepage on Core at cambridge.org/PEN.