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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Oct 21;111(42):15273-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1408777111. Epub 2014 Oct 6.

The high heritability of educational achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits, not just intelligence.

Author information

  • 1Medical Research Council Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London SE5 8AF, United Kingdom;
  • 2Medical Research Council Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London SE5 8AF, United Kingdom; Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London WC1H 0DS, United Kingdom;
  • 3Psychology in Education Research Centre, Department of Education, University of York, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom;
  • 4Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309;
  • 5Medical Research Council Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London SE5 8AF, United Kingdom; Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, London SE14 6NW, United Kingdom; Laboratory for Cognitive Investigations and Behavioural Genetics, Tomsk State University, Tomsk 634050, Russia; and.
  • 6Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131.
  • 7Medical Research Council Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London SE5 8AF, United Kingdom; robert.plomin@kcl.ac.uk.

Abstract

Because educational achievement at the end of compulsory schooling represents a major tipping point in life, understanding its causes and correlates is important for individual children, their families, and society. Here we identify the general ingredients of educational achievement using a multivariate design that goes beyond intelligence to consider a wide range of predictors, such as self-efficacy, personality, and behavior problems, to assess their independent and joint contributions to educational achievement. We use a genetically sensitive design to address the question of why educational achievement is so highly heritable. We focus on the results of a United Kingdom-wide examination, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), which is administered at the end of compulsory education at age 16. GCSE scores were obtained for 13,306 twins at age 16, whom we also assessed contemporaneously on 83 scales that were condensed to nine broad psychological domains, including intelligence, self-efficacy, personality, well-being, and behavior problems. The mean of GCSE core subjects (English, mathematics, science) is more heritable (62%) than the nine predictor domains (35-58%). Each of the domains correlates significantly with GCSE results, and these correlations are largely mediated genetically. The main finding is that, although intelligence accounts for more of the heritability of GCSE than any other single domain, the other domains collectively account for about as much GCSE heritability as intelligence. Together with intelligence, these domains account for 75% of the heritability of GCSE. We conclude that the high heritability of educational achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits, not just intelligence.

KEYWORDS:

academic achievement; behavioral genetics; general cognitive ability; personalized learning; twin studies

PMID:
25288728
PMCID:
PMC4210287
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1408777111
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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