Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Learning ability and genetics

Article: About half of kids' learning ability is in their DNA, study says

Classic type of twin studies looking at one aspect of intelligence.

Takeaway: Children are not blank slates. While nurture matters it is only, literally, half the story.

Our children are different from each other because the genetic influence is complex. Even small differences in the complex of genes associated with learning ability (and thus intelligence) can add up to a large difference between children.

On the other hand, all of your children are going to be more alike compared to the children of others where the potential mix is going to be different.
You may think you’re better at reading than you are at math (or vice versa), but new research suggests you’re probably equally good (or bad) at both. The reason: The genes that determine a person’s ability to tackle one subject influence their aptitude at the other, accounting for about half of a person’s overall ability.
 If I am more comfortable with math than reading, it may be because I have worked on it more, or take more pleasure in working on it. 
What’s more, the genes responsible for math and reading ability appear to be numerous and interconnected, not specifically targeted toward one set of skills. These so-called “generalist genes” act in concert to determine a child’s aptitude across multiple disciplines.

The finding that one’s propensities for math and reading go hand in hand may come as a surprise to many, but it shouldn’t. People often feel that they possess skills in only one area simply because they perform slightly worse in the other, Plomin said. But it’s all relative.

“You might think you’re a little less good at math, but compared to everybody in the world, you’re pretty good at math,” he said.

“Just as we no longer blame mothers for schizophrenia, we should be humble when blaming schools and parents for not every child learning as quickly as we'd desire,” he said. “The implications, I think, are that children really do differ at very deep levels in how easily they learn.” [Emphasis added.]
I like the emphasis in the article on recognizing hard-wired differences between the abilities of different children.

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