, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 380-392,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 15 Mar 2009

The Heritability of Aptitude and Exceptional Talent Across Different Domains in Adolescents and Young Adults


The origin of individual differences in aptitude, defined as a domain-specific skill within the normal ability range, and talent, defined as a domain specific skill of exceptional quality, is under debate. The nature of the variation in aptitudes and exceptional talents across different domains was investigated in a population based twin sample. Self-report data from 1,685 twin pairs (12–24 years) were analyzed for Music, Arts, Writing, Language, Chess, Mathematics, Sports, Memory, and Knowledge. The influence of shared environment was small for both aptitude and talent. Additive and non-additive genetic effects explained the major part of the substantial familial clustering in the aptitude measures with heritability estimates ranging between .32 and .71. Heritability estimates for talents were higher and ranged between .50 and .92. In general, the genetic architecture for aptitude and talent was similar in men and women. Genetic factors contribute to a large extent to variation in aptitude and talent across different domains of intellectual, creative, and sports abilities.

Edited by Robert Plomin.