Should You Blame Genes For Your Grades? - The Comprehensive Minds

Should You Blame Genes For Your Grades?

Genes For Your Grades
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Can you blame genetics for your report card? Were you born to be good at school? 

Well, straight up intelligence might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Studies are discovering a plethora of other biological factors that influence our success in school and they say most of them are heritable. It seems obvious, to succeed in school you simply have to be born with intelligence, and then the environment takes over and molds you into the upstanding citizen you’re going to become. 

But scientists at King’s College in London are saying that’s not entirely true, and other genetic factors may be more important than we first thought. In a paper recently published in the proceeding of the national academy of sciences, researchers made a controversial assertion that our performance on standard assessment tests is determined by our DNA. 

In their paper, they state “genetic thinking counters the deplorable tendency to blame teachers and parents rather than recognizing that learning is inherently more difficult for some children and that differences in children’s educational achievement are more a matter of genes than schools or home environments” ... Wow… 

They came to this conclusion by examining the performance of six thousand six hundred and fifty-three pairs of twins on a nationwide examination of academic achievement administered in the UK at age 16 (the GCSE for you brits out there, if you live in the US just think SAT). 

The twins were already registered in an early development study and so additional genetic and cognitive information was available for study participants. Each pair of twins lived at home with the same parents, so the researchers were able to control for environmental factors and examine only the effect of genetic variation on exam scores. 

Now here is where it gets interesting: the scientists broke the pool of twins into two groups, identical twins (who share 100% of the same genetic composition) and fraternal twins (who share only 50% of the same genetic composition) in this way they were able to show that genetic similarity was a greater indicator of test performance than a similarity of the home environment. 

The study looked at the twins’ intelligence scores, but also confidence, personality, self, and parent-reported behavior problems, and more, and they say that what on the surface seems like an environmental influence, like behavioral problems, can actually be linked to causal genetic traits like attention and extroversion or introversion. 

Furthermore, they assert that education is not a passive process and children actively choose what experiences they are exposed to. This link between experience and preferences determined by genotype is known as genotype-environment correlation. 

Obviously, there is a lot that needs to get unpacked here, but this study introduces a great nature vs. nurture issue. The authors clearly argue that nature, (genetic factors) are more powerful and important than nurture, or environmental factors. 

Personally? I think that genetics gives us a baseline, but doesn’t dictate how far we can go. What do you think? Are you team Nature or team Nurture? 

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