Original Research

Behavior Genetics

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 359-370

A Twin Study of the Genetics of High Cognitive Ability Selected from 11,000 Twin Pairs in Six Studies from Four Countries

  • Claire M. A. HaworthAffiliated withSocial, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London
  • , Margaret J. WrightAffiliated withQueensland Institute of Medical Research
  • , Nicolas W. MartinAffiliated withQueensland Institute of Medical Research
  • , Nicholas G. MartinAffiliated withQueensland Institute of Medical Research
  • , Dorret I. BoomsmaAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University
  • , Meike BartelsAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University
  • , Danielle PosthumaAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU UniversitySection Medical Genomics, VU Medical CentreSection Functional Genomics, Faculty Earth and Life Science, VU University
  • , Oliver S. P. DavisAffiliated withSocial, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London
  • , Angela M. BrantAffiliated withInstitute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado at Boulder
    • , Robin P. CorleyAffiliated withInstitute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado at Boulder
    • , John K. HewittAffiliated withInstitute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado at Boulder
    • , William G. IaconoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Minnesota
    • , Matthew McGueAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Minnesota
    • , Lee A. ThompsonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Case Western Reserve University
    • , Sara A. HartAffiliated withHuman Development and Family Science, Ohio State University
    • , Stephen A. PetrillAffiliated withHuman Development and Family Science, Ohio State University
    • , David LubinskiAffiliated withSocial, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College LondonDepartment of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University
    • , Robert PlominAffiliated withSocial, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London Email author 

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Abstract

Although much genetic research has addressed normal variation in intelligence, little is known about the etiology of high cognitive abilities. Using data from 11,000 twin pairs (age range = 6–71 years) from the genetics of high cognitive abilities consortium, we investigated the genetic and environmental etiologies of high general cognitive ability (g). Age-appropriate psychometric cognitive tests were administered to the twins and used to create g scores standardized within each study. Liability-threshold model fitting was used to estimate genetic and environmental parameters for the top 15% of the distribution of g. Genetic influence for high g was substantial (0.50, with a 95% confidence interval of 0.41–0.60). Shared environmental influences were moderate (0.28, 0.19–0.37). We conclude that genetic variation contributes substantially to high g in Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Keywords

Genetics High cognitive ability Twins Intelligence Talent