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Twin and Adoption Studies

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What have twin studies and adoption taught us about the role of inheritance in human intelligence?

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LAST UPDATED: JUNE 24, 2009

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6. What have twin studies and adoption taught us about the role of inheritance in human intelligence?

Twin studies are valuable to researchers because identical twins share 100% of their genes and fraternal twins share, on average, 50% of their genes. Both identical and fraternal twins share certain aspects of their environment (e.g. religious practices in the home). This allows researchers to estimate the heritability of certain traits, including human intelligence.

The role of genes and environment (nature vs. nurture) in determining IQ is reviewed in Plomin et al. (2001, 2003). For example, twin studies and adoption studies have taught us the degree to which the roles of inheritance plays in human intelligence. For example, the degree to which genetic variation contributes to observed variation in a trait is measured by a statistic called heritability. Heritability scores range from 0 to 1, and can ...

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This solution examines what twin studies and adoption taught us about the role of inheritance in human intelligence. Last updated on June 24, 2009.

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Twin study

Twin research is based on the notion that if identical twins (whose genes are exactly the same) reared apart are more similar than fraternal twins or non-twin siblings (who are similar, but not identical, in genetic inheritance) reared together, heredity must be the most important influence. According to this theory, if psychological characteristics such as intelligence, emotionality and sociability were determined by heredity, identical twins would be exactly alike and researchers would find correlations of +1.00. However, studies show that correlations are less than +1.00.

How do you think these results can be explained? What does this tell us about the role of environment vs. heredity in the development of psychological traits?

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