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Intelligence. 2005 Sep 1;33(5):473-489.

'Generalist genes' and mathematics in 7-year-old twins.

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  • 1Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, United Kingdom.


Mathematics performance at 7 years as assessed by teachers using UK national curriculum criteria has been found to be highly heritable. For almost 3000 pairs of 7-year-old same-sex twins, we used multivariate genetic analysis to investigate the extent to which these genetic effects on mathematics performance overlap with genetic effects on reading and general intelligence (g) as predicted by the 'generalist genes' hypothesis. We found substantial genetic overlap between mathematics and reading (genetic correlation=0.74) and between mathematics and g (0.67). These findings support the 'generalist genes' hypothesis that most of the genes that contribute to individual differences in mathematics are the same genes that affect reading and g. Nonetheless, the genetic correlations are less than unity and about a third of the genetic variance on mathematics is independent of reading and g, suggesting that there are also some genes whose effects are specific to mathematics.

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