Skip to main content Accessibility help

Affective Neuroscience Theory and Personality: An Update

  • Christian Montag (a1) (a2) and Kenneth L. Davis (a3)

The present work gives a short overview of central aspects of Jaak Panksepp’s Affective Neuroscience Theory (AN theory) and its relevance for modern personality neuroscience. In contrast to the widely used Big Five approach to studying and understanding human personality, AN theory provides researchers with a distinct roadmap to the biological basis of personality, including molecular and neuroanatomical candidates, to understand individual differences in human behavior. Such molecular and neuroanatomical brain candidates have been derived by means of electrical brain stimulation and pharmacological challenges, while investigating primary emotional systems anchored in the subcortical mammalian brain. Research results derived from the study of emotions in mammals are also of relevance for humans because ancient layers of our minds—those layers where primary emotions originate—have been homologously conserved across species. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense because primal emotions represent “built-in tools for survival” for all mammals. In this context, Montag and Panksepp recently illustrated a potential ancient neurobiological effect by carving out robust associations between individual differences in primary emotions (assessed via self-report) and the Big Five in a cross-cultural study with data from the United States, Germany, and China. These associations together with some ideas derived from MacLean’s Triune Brain concept highlighted (a) that primary emotions likely represent the phylogenetically oldest parts of human personality and (b) that primary emotions influence human personality in a bottom-up fashion given their localization in ancient subcortical brain regions. A comment on the work by Montag and Panksepp asked for insights on putative links between primary emotions and facets of the Big Five. Therefore, we provide some first insights into such associations from recent Germany data. In addition, the present work provides a new short version of the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales to assess individual differences in primary emotions.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Affective Neuroscience Theory and Personality: An Update
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Affective Neuroscience Theory and Personality: An Update
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Affective Neuroscience Theory and Personality: An Update
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivatives licence (, which permits noncommercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.
Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence: Christian Montag, E-mail:
Hide All
Abella, V., Panksepp, J., Manga, D., Bárcena, C. Iglesias, J. A. (2011). Spanish validation of the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 14, 926935.
Allport, G. W. Odbert, H. S. (1936). Trait-names: A psycho-lexical study. Psychological Monographs, 47, 1171.
Andone, I., Błaszkiewicz, K., Eibes, M., Trendafilov, B., Montag, C. Markowetz, A. (2016). Menthal: A framework for mobile data collection and analysis. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing: Adjunct, pp. 624–629.
Angres, D. H. (2010). The Temperament and Character Inventory in addiction treatment. Focus, 8, 187198.
Barrett, L. F. (2017). How emotions are made: The secret life of the brain. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Blanchard, D. C., Hynd, A. L., Minke, K. A., Minemoto, T. Blanchard, R. J. (2001). Human defensive behaviors to threat scenarios show parallels to fear-and anxiety-related defense patterns of non-human mammals. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 25, 761770.
Blanchard, R. J., Blanchard, D. C., Rodgers, J. Weiss, S. M. (1990). The characterization and modelling of antipredator defensive behavior. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 14, 463472.
Canzian, L. Musolesi, M. (2015). Trajectories of depression: Unobtrusive monitoring of depressive states by means of smartphone mobility traces analysis. Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, pp. 1293–1304.
Carver, C. S. White, T. L. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: The BIS/BAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 319333.
Christal, R. E. (1994). The Air Force Self-Description Inventory (Final R&D status report). Brooks AFB, TX: Armstrong Laboratory.
Cloninger, C. R. (1986). A unified biosocial theory of personality and its role in the development of anxiety states. Psychiatric Developments, 3, 167226.
Cloninger, C. R., Svrakic, D. M. Przybeck, T. R. (1993). A psychobiological model of temperament and character. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 975990.
Coenen, V. A., Schlaepfer, T. E., Maedler, B. Panksepp, J. (2011). Cross-species affective functions of the medial forebrain bundle – Implications for the treatment of affective pain and depression in humans. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 19711981.
Corr, P. J. Cooper, A. J. (2016). The reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality questionnaire (RST-PQ): Development and validation. Psychological Assessment, 28, 14271440.
Costa, P. T. Jr. McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO Personality Inventory–Revised (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Damasio, A., Damasio, H. Tranel, D. (2013). Persistence of feelings and sentience after bilateral damage of the insula. Cerebral Cortex, 23, 833846.
Damasio, A. R., Grabowski, T. J., Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Ponto, L. L., Parvizi, J., & Hichwa, R. D. (2000). Subcortical and cortical brain activity during the feeling of self-generated emotions. Nature Neuroscience, 3, 10491056.
Davis, K. L. Panksepp, J. (2011). The brain’s emotional foundations of human personality and the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 19461958.
Davis, K. L. Panksepp, J. (2018). The emotional foundations of personality. New York: W. W. Norton.
Davis, K. L., Panksepp, J. Normansell, L. (2003). The Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales: Normative data and implications. Neuropsychoanalysis, 5, 5769.
Deris, N., Montag, C., Reuter, M., Weber, B. Markett, S. (2017). Functional connectivity in the resting brain as biological correlate of the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales. NeuroImage, 147, 423431.
Di Domenico, S. Ryan, R. M. (2017). Commentary: Primary emotional systems and personality: An evolutionary perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1414.
Eysenck, H. J. (1967). The biological basis of personality. Springfield, IL: C. C. Thomas.
Farinelli, M., Panksepp, J., Gestieri, L., Leo, M. R., Agati, R., Maffei, M., … Northoff, G. (2013). SEEKING and depression in stroke patients: An exploratory study. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 35, 348358.
Felten, A., Montag, C., Markett, S., Walter, N. T. Reuter, M. (2011). Genetically determined dopamine availability predicts disposition for depression. Brain and Behavior, 1, 109118.
Fiske, D. W. (1949). Consistency of the factorial structures of personality ratings from different sources. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 44, 329344.
Geir, P., Selsbakk, J. M., Theresa, W. Sigmund, K. (2014). Testing different versions of the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales in a clinical sample. PloS One, 9, e109394
Goldberg, L. R. (1992). The development of markers for the Big-Five factor structure. Psychological Assessment, 4, 2642.
Gosling, S. D. John, O. P. (1999). Personality dimensions in nonhuman animals: A cross-species review. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 6975.
Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J. Swann, W. B. (2003). A very brief measure of the Big-Five personality domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 504528.
Gray, J. A. (1972). The psychophysiological nature of introversion – extraversion: A modification of Eysenck’s theory. In V. D. Nebylitsyn & J. A. Gray (Eds.), Biological bases of individual behavior (pp. 182205). New York: Academic Press.
Gray, J. A. McNaughton, N. (2000). A theory of the septo-hippocampal system. In J. A. Gray & N. McNaughton (Eds.), The neuropsychology of anxiety: An enquiry into the function of the septo-hippocampal system (pp. 233274). New York: Oxford University Press.
Hiebler-Ragger, M., Fuchshuber, J., Dröscher, H. B., Vajda, C., Fink, A. Unterrainer, H. F. (2018). Personality influences the relationship between primary emotions and religious/spiritual well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 370.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W. A. Light, K. C. (2008). Influence of a “warm touch” support enhancement intervention among married couples on ambulatory blood pressure, oxytocin, alpha amylase, and cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 976985.
Karterud, S., Pedersen, G., Johansen, M., Wilberg, T., Davis, K. Panksepp, J. (2016). Primary emotional traits in patients with personality disorders. Personality and Mental Health, 10, 261273.
King, J. E. Figueredo, A. J. (1997). The Five-factor model plus dominance in chimpanzee personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 257271.
Laeng, B., Eidet, L. M., Sulutvedt, U. Panksepp, J. (2016). Music chills: The eye pupil as a mirror to music’s soul. Consciousness and Cognition, 44, 161178.
Løseth, G., Leknes, S. Ellingsen, D. M. (2016). The neurochemical basis of motivation for affiliative touch. In H. Olausson, J. Wessberg & F. McGlone (Eds.), Affective touch and the neurophysiology of CT afferents (pp. 239264). New York: Springer.
Lyoo, I. K., Han, C. H., Lee, S. J., Yune, S. K., Ha, J. H., Chung, S. J.,… Hong, K. E. (2004). The reliability and validity of the junior temperament and character inventory. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 45, 121128.
MacLean, P. D. (1990). The triune brain in evolution: Role in paleocerebral functions. New York: Plenum Press.
Markett, S., Montag, C. Reuter, M. (2014). In favor of behavior: On the importance of experimental paradigms in testing predictions from Gray’s revised reinforcement sensitivity theory. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 8, 184.
Markowetz, A., Błaszkiewicz, K., Montag, C., Switala, C. Schlaepfer, T. E. (2014). Psycho-Informatics: Big data shaping modern psychometrics. Medical Hypotheses, 82, 405411.
McCrae, R. R. John, O. P. (1992). An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications. Journal of Personality, 60, 175215.
McNaughton, N. Corr, P. J. (2004). A two-dimensional neuropsychology of defense: Fear/anxiety and defensive distance. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 28, 285305.
Merker, B. (2007). Consciousness without a cerebral cortex: A challenge for neuroscience and medicine. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 6381.
Mobbs, D., Marchant, J., Hassabis, D., Seymour, B., Tan, G., Gray, M. , … Frith, C. (2009). From threat to fear: The neural organization of defensive fear systems in humans. Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 1223612243.
Mobbs, D., Petrovic, P., Marchant, J. L., Hassabis, D., Weiskopf, N., Seymour, B. , … Frith, C. D. (2007). When fear is near: Threat imminence elicits prefrontal-periaqueductal gray shifts in humans. Science, 317, 10791083.
Montag, C., Buckholtz, J. W., Hartmann, P., Merz, M., Burk, C., Hennig, J.,Reuter, M. (2008). COMT genetic variation affects fear processing: Psychophysiological evidence. Behavioral Neuroscience, 122, 901909.
Montag, C., Duke, É. Markowetz, A. (2016). Toward psychoinformatics: Computer science meets psychology. Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine, 2016, 110.
Montag, C., Fiebach, C. J., Kirsch, P. Reuter, M. (2011). Interaction of 5-HTTLPR and a variation on the oxytocin receptor gene influences negative emotionality. Biological Psychiatry, 69, 601603.
Montag, C., Hahn, E., Reuter, M., Spinath, F. M., Davis, K. Panksepp, J. (2016). The role of nature and nurture for individual differences in primary emotional systems: Evidence from a Twin Study. PloS One, 11, e0151405
Montag, C., Markowetz, A., Blaszkiewicz, K., Andone, I., Lachmann, B., Sariyska, R., … Markett, S. (2017a). Facebook usage on smartphones and gray matter volume of the nucleus accumbens. Behavioural Brain Research, 329, 221228.
Montag, C. Panksepp, J. (2016). Primal emotional-affective expressive foundations of human facial expression. Motivation and Emotion, 40, 760766.
Montag, C. Panksepp, J. (2017). Primary emotional systems and personality: An evolutionary perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 464.
Montag, C. Panksepp, J. (in press). Personality neuroscience: Why it is of importance to consider primary emotional systems! In V. Zeigler-Hill & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), Encyclopedia of personality and individual differences. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.
Montag, C., Reuter, M., Jurkiewicz, M., Markett, S. Panksepp, J. (2013). Imaging the structure of the human anxious brain: A review of findings from neuroscientific personality psychology. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 24, 167190.
Montag, C., Sindermann, C., Becker, B. Panksepp, J. (2016). An affective neuroscience framework for the molecular study of Internet addiction. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1906.
Montag, C., Widenhorn-Müller, K., Panksepp, J. Kiefer, M. (2017b). Individual differences in Affective Neuroscience Personality Scale (ANPS) primary emotional traits and depressive tendencies. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 73, 136142.
Morton, F. B., Lee, P. C., Buchanan-Smith, H. M., Brosnan, S. F., Thierry, B., Paukner, A.,...Weiss, A. (2013). Personality structure in brown capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella): Comparisons with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), orangutans (Pongo spp.), and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 127, 282298.
Olaru, G., Witthöft, M. Wilhelm, O. (2015). Methods matter: Testing competing models for designing short-scale Big-Five assessments. Journal of Research in Personality, 59, 5668.
Özkarar-Gradwohl, F. G., Panksepp, J., İçöz, F. J., Çetinkaya, H., Köksal, F., Davis, K. L. & Scherler, N. (2014). The influence of culture on basic affective systems: The comparison of Turkish and American norms on the affective neuroscience personality scales. Culture and Brain, 2, 173192.
Pahlavan, F., Mouchiroud, C., Zenasni, F. Panksepp, J. (2008). Validation de l’adaptation française de l’échelle neuro-affective de personnalité/French validation of the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS). Revue Européenne de Psychologie Appliquée (European Review of Applied Psychology), 58, 155163.
Panksepp, J. (1992). A critical role for “affective neuroscience” in resolving what is basic about basic emotions. Psychological Review, 99, 554560.
Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.
Panksepp, J. (2002). Foreword: The MacLean legacy and some modern trends in emotion research. In G. A. Cory & R. Gardner (Eds.), The evolutionary neuroethology of Paul MacLean: Convergences and frontiers. (pp. ixxxvii). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Panksepp, J. (2005). Affective consciousness: Core emotional feelings in animals and humans. Consciousness and Cognition, 14, 3080.
Panksepp, J. (2006). Emotional endophenotypes in evolutionary psychiatry. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 30, 774784.
Panksepp, J. (2007). Can PLAY diminish ADHD and facilitate the construction of the social brain? Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 16, 5766.
Panksepp, J. (2010). Affective neuroscience of the emotional BrainMind: Evolutionary perspectives and implications for understanding depression. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 12, 533545.
Panksepp, J. (2011). Cross-species affective neuroscience decoding of the primal affective experiences of humans and related animals. PloS One, 6, e21236
Panksepp, J. Burgdorf, J. (2003). “Laughing” rats and the evolutionary antecedents of human joy? Physiology & Behavior, 79, 533547.
Panksepp, J., Lane, R. D., Solms, M. Smith, R. (2017). Reconciling cognitive and affective neuroscience perspectives on the brain basis of emotional experience. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 76, 187215.
Panksepp, J., Normansell, L., Cox, J. F. Siviy, S. M. (1994). Effects of neonatal decortication on the social play of juvenile rats. Physiology & Behavior, 56, 429443.
Panksepp, J. Watt, D. (2011). Why does depression hurt? Ancestral primary-process separation-distress (PANIC/GRIEF) and diminished brain reward (SEEKING) processes in the genesis of depressive affect. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 74, 513.
Panksepp, J., Wright, J. S., Döbrössy, M. D., Schlaepfer, T. E. Coenen, V. A. (2014). Affective neuroscience strategies for understanding and treating depression: From preclinical models to three novel therapeutics. Clinical Psychological Science, 2, 472494.
Pascazio, L., Bembich, S., Nardone, I. B., Vecchiet, C., Guarino, G. Clarici, A. (2015). Validation of the Italian translation of the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales. Psychological Reports, 116, 97115.
Pellegrini, A. D. (1988). Elementary-school children’s rough-and-tumble play and social competence. Developmental Psychology, 24, 802806.
Pellegrini, A. D. Smith, P. K. (1998). Physical activity play: The nature and function of a neglected aspect of play. Child Development, 69, 577598.
Pellis, S. M. Pellis, V. C. (2007). Rough-and-tumble play and the development of the social brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 9598.
Pingault, J. B., Pouga, L., Grèzes, J. Berthoz, S. (2012). Determination of emotional endophenotypes: A validation of the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales and further perspectives. Psychological Assessment, 24, 375385.
Rammstedt, B. John, O. P. (2007). Measuring personality in one minute or less: A 10-item short version of the Big Five Inventory in English and German. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 203212.
Reuter, M., Cooper, A. J., Smillie, L. D., Markett, S. Montag, C. (2015). A new measure for the revised reinforcement sensitivity theory: Psychometric criteria and genetic validation. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 9, 38.
Reuter, M., Panksepp, J., Davis, K. Montag, C. (2017). Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS) – Deutsche Version. Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Reuter, M., Panksepp, J., Schnabel, N., Kellerhoff, N., Kempel, P. Hennig, J. (2005). Personality and biological markers of creativity. European Journal of Personality, 19, 8395.
Reuter, M., Weber, B., Fiebach, C. J., Elger, C. Montag, C. (2009). The biological basis of anger: Associations with the gene coding for DARPP-32 (PPP1R1B) and with amygdala volume. Behavioural Brain Research, 202, 179183.
Romine, C. B. Reynolds, C. R. (2005). A model of the development of frontal lobe functioning: Findings from a meta-analysis. Applied Neuropsychology, 12, 190201.
Rothbart, M. K. (1986). Longitudinal observation of infant temperament. Developmental Psychology, 22, 356365.
Savitz, J., van der Merwe, L. Ramesar, R. (2008a). Dysthymic and anxiety-related personality traits in bipolar spectrum illness. Journal of Affective Disorders, 109, 305311.
Savitz, J., van der Merwe, L. Ramesar, R. (2008b). Hypomanic, cyclothymic and hostile personality traits in bipolar spectrum illness: A family-based study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 42, 920929.
Schmitt, D., Allik, J., McCrae, R. Benet-Martinez, V. (2007). The geographic distribution of Big Five personality traits. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38, 173212.
Schwartz, H. A., Eichstaedt, J. C., Kern, M. L., Dziurzynski, L., Ramones, S. M., Agrawal, M.,… Ungar, L. H. (2013). Personality, gender, and age in the language of social media: The open-vocabulary approach. PloS One, 8, e73791.
Sindermann, C., Kendrick, K., Becker, B., Li, M., Li, S. Montag, C. (2017). Does growing up in urban compared to rural areas shape primary emotional traits? Behavioral Sciences, 7, 60.
Sindermann, C., Li, M., Sariyska, R., Lachmann, B., Duke, É., Cooper, A.,… Montag, C. (2016). The 2D:4D-ratio and neuroticism revisited: Empirical evidence from Germany and China. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 811.
Sindermann, C., Luo, R., Zhao, Z., Li, Q., Li, M., Kendrick, K. M. ,... Montag, C. (2018). High ANGER and low agreeableness predict vengefulness in German and Chinese participants. Personality and Individual Differences, 121, 184192.
Sindermann, C., Saliger, J., Nielsen, J., Markett, S., Karbe, H. Montag, C. (2017). Personality and primary emotional traits: Disentangling multiple sclerosis related fatigue and depression. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology (published online 9 November 2017).
Smillie, L. D. (2013). Extraversion and reward processing. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 167172.
Soto, C. J. John, O. P. (2017). The next Big Five Inventory (BFI-2): Developing and assessing a hierarchical model with 15 facets to enhance bandwidth, fidelity, and predictive power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113, 117143.
Tooley, V., Brigham, J. C., Maass, A. Bothwell, R. K. (1987). Facial recognition: Weapon effect and attentional focus. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 17, 845859.
Tupes, E. C. Christal, R. C. (1961). Recurrent personality factors based on trait ratings (USAF ASD Technical Report, 61–97). Bexar County, TX: US Air Force, Lackland Air Force Base. Retrieved from
van der Westhuizen, D. Solms, M. (2015). Social dominance and the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales. Consciousness and Cognition, 33, 90111.
Yarkoni, T. (2012). Psychoinformatics. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 391397.
Yeo, S. S., Chang, P. H. Jang, S. H. (2013). The ascending reticular activating system from pontine reticular formation to the thalamus in the human brain. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 416.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Personality Neuroscience
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2513-9886
  • URL: /core/journals/personality-neuroscience
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed