Genes, IQ and the media

I have been reading quite a few pieces recently that point a wagging finger at the media for oversimplifying psychological research and perpetuating myths. Here’s one. The Cognitive Genomics Lab aims to identify the genes underlying cognitive ability. A large multi-author group – 59 of them including the renowned geneticist Robert Plomin) have just published their most recent result (September 2014) identifying three genes associated with higeducational attainment. Jointly these genes account for differences in academic performance so the Sydney Morning Herald could be excused for the headline ‘Scientists discover ‘smart’ genes‘ . But the combined effect of these genes is probably less than 5 IQ points (different people give different estimates). In the end, if say 50 genes are identified that all contribute something what will we end up knowing about intelligence? Very little. It is better to know that a bit of effort produces the same effect and at least you can do something about effort.

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