Behavior Genetics

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 183–193

Genetic and environmental determinants of musical ability in twins

  • Hilary Coon
  • Gregory Carey


Analyses of musical ability data from the Loehlin and Nichols National Merit Scholarship study are presented. Musical ability is indexed by four measures: interest in a profession in music, performance in school, performance outside of school, and receiving honors in music. These variables pose a challenge for behavior genetic analysis since they do not conform to the assumptions of traditional linear models. For example, there is a dependent relationship between the honors and the performance variables; one cannot obtain honors without performance. Several methods were employed to deal with these relationships, and the following conclusions appeared regardless of the method used. First, twin correlations were always high, ranging from 0.44 to 0.90 in monozygotic (MZ) twins and from 0.34 to 0.83 in dizygotic (DZ) twins. Second, although there was evidence for heritable variation, the effects of common environment were almost always larger than the effects of heredity. Third, marital assortment was not of sufficient magnitude to account for these common environment effects. In the young adults in this sample, musical ability is influenced more by shared family environment than by shared genes.

Key Words

musical ability genetics family heritability genotype-environment interaction 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilary Coon
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gregory Carey
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Behavioral GeneticsUniversity of ColoradoBoulder
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulder

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