The P3 auditory event-related brain potential indexes major personality traits

Ronald J. Gurrera, Brian F. O'Donnell, Paul G. Nestor, Joanna Gainski, Robert W. McCarley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations


Background: The amplitude of the auditory P3 event-related potential is reduced in patients with axes I and II disorders. Data regarding P3 amplitude and normal personality traits in healthy individuals have been inconsistent, however, although more extreme variants of dimensional traits such as neuroticism and extraversion are associated with psychiatric morbidity. Methods: Male subjects (n = 18) recruited from the community completed the NEO Five-Factor Inventory, which consists of five scales: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. P3 potentials were generated using an auditory discrimination paradigm to which a third, novel stimulus was added. Partial least squares analysis, a multivariate statistical procedure, was used to test the relationship, in both stimulus conditions, between P3 amplitude at six electrode sites and the five personality dimensions. Results: P3 amplitude across conditions and sites was positively related to Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness and negatively related to Neuroticism. Conclusions: Previous studies have shown that both reduced P3 amplitude and a high Neuroticism/low Extraversion-Openness-Agreeableness-Conscientiousness trait pattern are associated with the presence of, and risk for, substantial psychiatric morbidity. Our results suggest that processes indexed by auditory P3 amplitude are related to these broad personality dimensions in healthy individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-929
Number of pages8
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001


  • Event-related potentials
  • Five-factor trait models
  • Novel stimuli
  • P3
  • Partial least squares analysis
  • Personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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