Do genes affect our intelligence? The debate ‘is over’

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Image credit: Alamy

Researchers are now becoming confident enough to claim that the information available from sequencing a person’s genome – the instructions encoded in our DNA that influence our physical and behavioural traits – can be used to make predictions about their potential to achieve academic success.

All too often genes are read as destiny. But in truth there’s rather little in your genetic make-up that fixes traits or behaviour with any clarity. There are some genetic diseases that particular gene mutations will give you if you’re unlucky enough to inherit them. But most traits (including diseases) that are influenced by genes manifest only as tendencies.

Partly this is because a lot of traits are influenced by many genes, interacting and correlating with one another in complex ways that are hard, perhaps impossible, to anticipate. But it’s also because genes are themselves influenced by environmental factors, which can cause them to be activated or suppressed.

The data both from twin studies and DNA analysis are unambiguous: intelligence is strongly heritable. Typically around 50 per cent of variations in intelligence between individuals can be ascribed to genes, although these gene-induced differences become markedly more apparent as we age. As [psychologist Stuart] Ritchie says: like it or not, the debate about whether genes affect intelligence is over.

Read full, original post: The IQ trap: how the study of genetics could transform education

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