Genetic Influences on Cognition Increase with Age, Study Shows

Medical Xpress, October 1, 2013

About 70 percent of a person’s intelligence can be explained by their DNA—and those genetic influences only get stronger with age, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, authored by psychology researchers Elliot Tucker-Drob, Daniel Briley and Paige Harden, shows how genes can be stimulated or suppressed depending on the child’s environment and could help bridge the achievement gap between rich and poor students. The findings are published online in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

To investigate the underlying mechanisms at work, Tucker-Drob and his colleagues analyzed data from several studies tracking the cognitive ability and environmental circumstances of twin and sibling pairs. According to the findings, genetic factors account for 80 percent of cognition for children in economically advantaged households.


In a related study, Daniel Briley, a psychology doctoral student, examined how genetic and environmental influences on cognition change over time. {snip}

According to his findings, published in the July issue of Psychological Science, genes influencing cognition become activated during the first decade of life and accelerate over time. {snip}

“As children get older, their parents and teachers give them increasing autonomy to do their homework to the best of their ability, pay attention in class, and choose their peer group,” says Briley. “Each of these behaviors likely influences their academic development. If these types of behaviors are influenced by genes, then it would explain why the heritability of cognitive ability increases as children age.”

Tucker-Drob says this research highlights the possibilities for bridging the achievement gap between the rich and poor.

“The conventional view is that genes place an upper limit on the effects of social intervention on cognitive development,” says Tucker-Drob. “This research suggests the opposite. As social, educational and economic opportunities increase in a society, more children will have access to the resources they need to maximize their genetic potentials.”

[Editor’s Note: Here is the study’s abstract:

Genes account for between approximately 50% and 70% of the variation in cognition at the population level. However, population-level estimates of heritability potentially mask marked subgroup differences. We review the body of empirical evidence indicating that (a) genetic influences on cognition increase from infancy to adulthood, and (b) genetic influences on cognition are maximized in more advantaged socioeconomic contexts (i.e., a Gene × Socioeconomic Status interaction). We discuss potential mechanisms underlying these effects, particularly transactional models of cognitive development. Transactional models predict that people in high-opportunity contexts actively evoke and select positive learning experiences on the basis of their genetic predispositions; these learning experiences, in turn, reciprocally influence cognition. The net result of this transactional process is increasing genetic influence with increasing age and increasing environmental opportunity.]

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  • John Ulfsson

    Great, more wiggle room for egalitarian excuses.

  • Puggg

    The way I read this, and never trust the reading comprehension skills of a dog, is that race differences in intelligence show up as we get older, and will negate or undo any egalitarian environmental attempts to gloss over them.

    • So CAL Snowman

      You are partially correct. What they are saying is that 70-80% (depending on if your parents are rich) of our intelligence is directly due to our genetics. The other 20-30% of our intelligence is due to external “resources” like good schools. The authors seem to place an undue emphasis on this 20-30%, assuming that THIS 20-30% is the reason for all of the social and economic inequality. Basically they are saying yes genetics matter but not as much as OPPORTUNITY. Gee where have we heard that before? If only we gave the poor and the minorities a little more . . .

      • MBlanc46

        Is it that good schools etc. increase one’s potential or that prenatal maternal alcohol use or starvation etc. during childhood decrease it?

        • So CAL Snowman

          Well good schools are only as good as their students. So there really isn’t such a thing as a “good” school. If Harvard had the same acceptance rate as an Atlanta community college, Harvard would no longer be considered a “good” school. That’s one of the million things that kills me about liberals. Since we are all equal, they have to blame walls, chairs, desks, athletic facilities and teachers for the reason that blacks and hispanics have such a huge achievement gap when it comes to education. It couldn’t possibly be because there is an intelligence gap.

          • MBlanc46

            Also, as good as their teachers.

  • Spartacus

    So groids get even dumber as they grow older ?

    • David Ashton

      The intellectual peak in young people seems to be loosely correlated with the sexual maturity peak.

      • bigone4u

        Did you mean peak or onset? Women peak out sexually in their 30s, men in their 20s, I believe. The onset is about ages 12 to 15.

        • David Ashton

          Thank you for correcting my careless terminology.

          On average blacks become men and women sooner than whites physically and mentally. See e.g. J. P. Rushton, “Race, Evolution and Behavior” (2000) chh.2 & 6.

          A longer adolescence often seems associated with higher intelligence.

    • So CAL Snowman

      Yes but only because evil Whitey is hoarding all of those precious “resources.” If blacks had all of those resources they would be flying space ships around like they were back in Egypt. If only blacks had all of the resources of a few major american cities like Detroit or Baltimore, there’s no doubt they would be competing with us Whites.

    • leftists are delusional

      Hard to believe that is possible.

    • Raised Its Ugly Head

      All our personal experiences with silver back groids confirms it.

    • 1stworlder

      I think its saying they are not as markedly stupid when they are younger. The achievement gap grows as they age.

      • Bubbamelon

        Yes, and its why the only jobs they want are city, state, or fed to hide out out.

  • So CAL Snowman

    “This research suggests the opposite. As social, educational and
    economic opportunities increase in a society, more children will have
    access to the resources they need to maximize their genetic potentials.”

    I’m sorry to be the one to burst the bubble, but resources are FINITE commodities . These liberals base all their assumptions on the fact that resources are infinite and the belief that everyone on Earth can and should have access to these resources. Even if the above statement were true (it’s not) there would never be enough resources on earth for every child to maximize his genetic potential. Sorry liberal stooges but there is a reason (directly attributed to mother nature) why the supply of scarce resources is not equally distributed and accessible to everyone. There is a reason why more intelligent people tend to have more access to these finite resources. All together now – Genetics Are Destiny (hat tip to the Amren user of the same name).

  • bigone4u

    The University of Texas System is the most anti-white, pro-egalatarian in the country, I believe. This study by UT profs was done to provide justification for more of the same–more spending on blacks and browns in the schools. There is no evidence this has worked in the past, so why would it work now.

    • Raised Its Ugly Head

      Wrong. It does work.

      Spending more on anti white Diversity means spending less on Whites while making Whites pay for it (losing twice), which means White privilege is squeezed even further into helplessness.

      The purpose is to hurt Whiteness.

      If you spend money to help blacks, you hurt Whites, but you hurt Whites more than you help blacks. That’s the secret multiplier of racial economics in USBRA. Call it the “reverse leverage” of social justice spending.

      • bigone4u

        Right. Basic egalitarian principle: If you can’t lift up D’awntavious and Sha’niqua, then pull down John and Susan. The problem is that too many white taxpayers keep voting for more money for the public schools in the belief that blacks and browns can be lifted up.

        • Raised Its Ugly Head

          Game is this:

          You SAY you are lifting D’wan and Sha’, but they stay in place and you really pull down John and Susan.

          It’s not pro-black, it’s anti white.

          The impact is what counts- systemic, institutional and structural disparate impact on Whiteness is the purpose of Everything these days, so do the right thing and HATE EVERYTHING.

    • 1stworlder

      Why you seem to forget the 137 teachers in Atlanta who managed to close the achievement gap until they got busted altering the tests.

  • Raised Its Ugly Head

    “Children of rich people have a better chance of choosing environments that suit their genetic propensities.”

    That’s more bad news for us.

    FedGov HUD will now force Diversity into the last few “too White” neighborhoods in an “urgent effort to wipe out inequality.”

    As a poor White, I celebrate FedGov HUD making it harder and more expensive for rich, Diversity worshipping, Diversity avoiding Whites to avoid Diversity.

    Let’s hope the “rivers of blood” wash over our enemies, who are lily White.

  • leftists are delusional

    I wonder what would happen if we compared academic performance between affluent blax and poor whites?

    Hmmm the SAT is obviously racist.

    • WR_the_realist

      I saved that chart to show my Democratic voting sister the next time she tells me that blacks do badly in school because they’re poor.

      • leftists are delusional

        When she claims it’s racist tell her you found it in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.


  • MBlanc46

    Is this a sign that the integrationists are finally grasping that they can no longer deny the heritability of intelligence and are now trying to spin it in their favor?

  • WR_the_realist

    The fact that the genetic component of IQ increases with age has long been known, it’s hardly news. I recall reading an article in Science about that about 20 years ago. A way to think about this is that genes determine how high the peak is, how long it takes to get to the top is environmentally determined. Somehow they manage to spin this news about the increasing importance of genes with age into an environmental effect and then babble about how this will let them eliminate the achievement gap between rich and poor. Ya gotta hand it to those lefties, they never, ever, give up.