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Using DNA to predict intelligence

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Publication details

JournalIntelligence
DateAccepted/In press - 1 Mar 2021
DateE-pub ahead of print - 19 Mar 2021
DatePublished (current) - 1 May 2021
Volume86
Early online date19/03/21
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The DNA revolution made it possible to use DNA to predict intelligence. We argue that this advance will transform intelligence research and society. Our paper has three objectives. First, we review how the DNA revolution has transformed the ability to predict individual differences in intelligence. Thousands of DNA variants have been identified that – aggregated into genome-wide polygenic scores (GPS) – account for more than 10% of the variance in phenotypic intelligence. The intelligence GPS is now one of the most powerful predictors in the behavioral sciences. Second, we consider the impact of GPS on intelligence research. The intelligence GPS can be added as a genetic predictor of intelligence to any study without the need to assess phenotypic intelligence. This feature will help export intelligence to many new areas of science. Also, the intelligence GPS will help to address complex questions in intelligence research, in particular how the gene-environment interplay affects the development of individual differences in intelligence. Third, we consider the societal impact of the intelligence GPS, focusing on DNA testing at birth, DNA testing before birth (e.g., embryo selection), and DNA testing before conception (e.g., DNA dating). The intelligence GPS represents a major scientific advance, and, like all scientific advances, it can be used for bad as well as good. We stress the need to maximize the considerable benefits and minimize the risks of our new ability to use DNA to predict intelligence.

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
S.v.S is supported by a Jacobs Fellowship and a Nuffield award (EDO/44110). R.P. is supported in part by the UK Medical Research Council (MR/M021475/1) with additional support from the US National Institutes of Health (AG04938).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Copyright:
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • DNA, Genome-wide polygenic scores, Intelligence, Prediction, Review

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