Genetic and Environmental Factors of Intelligence

3375 Words7 Pages

Genetic and Environmental Factors of Intelligence

One of the most interesting and controversial areas in behavioral genetics, human intelligence is currently assumed to be subject to both genetic and environmental influences.

While this assumption is accepted by a majority of geneticists and behavioral scientists, there is great disagreement on the degree of influence each contributes. Arguments for environmental influences are compelling; at the same time there is growing evidence that genetic influence on intelligence is significant and substantial (Eyesenck, 1998; Mackintosh, 1998; Plomin, 1994; Steen, 1996). The purpose of this paper is to explore the question: "How is intelligence influenced by heredity and environment?"

What is Intelligence?

It is often difficult to remember that intelligence is purely a social construct, and as such is limited to operational definitions. Binet & Simon (1905, as cited in Mackintosh) defined it purely in terms of mental ability: "the ability to judge well, to comprehend well, to reason well." Wechsler (1944, as cited in Mackintosh) added behavioral factors: "the aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with the environment." Sternberg (1985) synthesizes the previous definitions, defining intelligence as "the mental capacity of emitting contextually appropriate behavior at those regions in the experiential continuum that involve response to novelty or automatization of information processing as a function of metacomponents, performance components, and knowledge acquisition components." Gardner (1993) took the definition to a societal level, as "the ability or skill to solve problems or to fashion products which...

... middle of paper ...

...ics and intelligence: What's new? Intelligence. 24 (1), 53-77.

Scarr, S., & Weinberg, R. A. (1983). The Minnesota adoption studies: Genetic differences and malleability. Child Development, 54, 260-267.

Schweinhart, L. J., & Wiekart, D. B. (1988). The High/Scope Perry Preschool Program. In R. Price et al. (Eds.), 14 Ounces of prevention (pp. 53-66). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Steen, R. G. (1996). DNA and destiny. New York: Plenum.

Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Stoltenberg, S. F. & Hirsch, J. (in press). Behavior-genetic analysis. In G. Greenberg & M. Haraway (Eds.). Comparative Psychology: A handbook. New York: Garland.

Werner, E. E., & Smith, R. S. (1992). Overcoming the odds: High risk children from birth to adulthood. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Open Document