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Literacy and numeracy are more heritable than intelligence in primary school

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Yulia Kovas, Ivan Voronin, Andrey Kaydalov, Sergey B Malykh, Philip S Dale, Robert Plomin

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2048-2056
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science (China)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


King's Authors


Because literacy and numeracy are the focus of teaching in schools, whereas general cognitive ability (g, intelligence) is not, it would be reasonable to expect that literacy and numeracy are less heritable than g. Here, we directly compare heritabilities of multiple measures of literacy, numeracy, and g in a United Kingdom sample of 7,500 pairs of twins assessed longitudinally at ages 7, 9, and 12. We show that differences between children are significantly and substantially more heritable for literacy and numeracy than for g at ages 7 and 9, but not 12. We suggest that the reason for this counterintuitive result is that universal education in the early school years reduces environmental disparities so that individual differences that remain are to a greater extent due to genetic differences. In contrast, the heritability of g increases during development as individuals select and create their own environments correlated with their genetic propensities.

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