Date: 24 Jun 2014

The genetics of music accomplishment: Evidence for gene–environment correlation and interaction

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Abstract

Theories of skilled performance that emphasize training history, such as K. Anders Ericsson and colleagues’ deliberate-practice theory, have received a great deal of recent attention in both the scientific literature and the popular press. Twin studies, however, have demonstrated evidence for moderate-to-strong genetic influences on skilled performance. Focusing on musical accomplishment in a sample of over 800 pairs of twins, we found evidence for gene–environment correlation, in the form of a genetic effect on music practice. However, only about one quarter of the genetic effect on music accomplishment was explained by this genetic effect on music practice, suggesting that genetically influenced factors other than practice contribute to individual differences in music accomplishment. We also found evidence for gene–environment interaction, such that genetic effects on music accomplishment were most pronounced among those engaging in music practice, suggesting that genetic potentials for skilled performance are most fully expressed and fostered by practice.