Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nature or Nurture?

Both, of course. David Kirp on the heritability of IQ, via Brad de Long.

The big surprise is among the poorest families. Contrary to what you might expect, for those children, the I.Q.s of identical twins vary just as much as the I.Q.s of fraternal twins.... [H]ome life is the critical factor for youngsters at the bottom of the economic barrel


An analysis of the reading ability of middle-aged twins showed that even half a century after childhood, family background still has a big effect -- but only for children who grew up poor.


A later study of French youngsters adopted between the ages of 4 and 6 shows the continuing interplay of nature and nurture. Those children had little going for them. Their I.Q.s averaged 77, putting them near retardation. Most were abused or neglected as infants.... Nine years later, they retook the I.Q. tests.... The amount they improved was directly related to the adopting family's status. Children adopted by farmers and laborers had average I.Q. scores of 85.5; those placed with middle-class families had average scores of 92. The average I.Q. scores of youngsters placed in well-to-do homes climbed more than 20 points, to 98.... Taken together, these studies show that the issue has changed: it is no longer a matter of whether the environment matters but when and how it matters

Am reading "Genome" by Matt Ridley. Shall post on that when I am done. As he puts it, in a perfectly egalitarian society, ALL variation in attributes will be genetic, just as, in a wealthy society where everyone gets enough to eat, all variation in height will be genetic.


gaddeswarup said...

There is an earlier book by Matt Ridley "Nature via Nurture" which discusses this problem. If you have not read the book I recommend it. I have yet to read Genome; started but went on to read an older book "The Red Queen" which again is good. He seems to be an excellent writer and clearly states when he is extrapolating or when he is expressing his opinions. There are some good reviews of his books by Orr in the Boston Globe and The New York Review of Books.

Rajeev Ramachandran said...

Yup.. Nature via Nature is superb.. Read The Red Queen some time back, and that was fun, too. :-)