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Childhood socioeconomic status amplifies genetic effects on adult intelligence

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JournalPsychological Science
DatePublished - Oct 2013
Issue number10
Volume24
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)2111-2116
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Studies of intelligence in children reveal significantly higher heritability among groups with high socioeconomic status (SES) than among groups with low SES. These interaction effects, however, have not been examined in adults, when between-families environmental effects are reduced. Using 1,702 adult twins (aged 24-84) for whom intelligence assessment data were available, we tested for interactions between childhood SES and genetic effects, between-families environmental effects, and unique environmental effects. Higher SES was associated with higher mean intelligence scores. Moreover, the magnitude of genetic influences on intelligence was proportional to SES. By contrast, environmental influences were constant. These results suggest that rather than setting lower and upper bounds on intelligence, genes multiply environmental inputs that support intellectual growth. This mechanism implies that increasing SES may raise average intelligence but also magnifies individual differences in intelligence.

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