Scientists found genetics to be the biggest reason why people have different levels of intelligence

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When you‘re applying for a job, they often assess your problem solving skills. But how much of it really is a skill? How much we are actually impacting our own intelligence? An international team of scientists has just determined that more than half of intelligence in people can be linked to our genes.  That explains more than 50 % of difference between people.

Our education still matters, but genetics is the biggest factor explaining more than half of the difference in intelligence in people. Image credit: Allan Ajifo via Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh, Göttingen, and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany analysed thousands of genetic markers in 20,000 people’s DNA. The data used in the study came from Generation Scotland, which is a resource of human biological samples and data which are available for medical research. Scientists used a couple of statistical methods to determine the effect that rare genetic variants may have on intelligence. They say that none of the previous researches in the field have managed to estimate this effect.

Researchers found that combination of rare genetic variants and common genetic variants is causing more than half of the difference in people’s intelligence. While there were no studies like this, this estimate does match the one presented in earlier twin and family studies. Previously this number was believed to be too big to be true as molecular studies of the human genome predicted around 30 %. This study also provides an easy to follow path for future studies to follow as the new measure of the influence that rare genetic variants have on intelligence has been established.

Researchers also found that rare genetic combinations accounted for a bigger number of factors than more common genetic variants. This could shed light on how human intelligence evolved. Sharing these rare genetic variants increases intelligence in children, but the exact mechanism is yet to be explained. Dr David Hill, one of the researchers in the study, said: “We used two methods to measure the effect that rare variants had on intelligence. By combining the effect of both rare and common variants, more than 50 per cent of the differences in intelligence between people could be traced to their genes”.

Intelligence is how we define ourselves. While education and social conditions are still very important, it just seems like genetics is explaining most of the difference between people.


Source: University of Edinburgh

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