Pathfinder: a gamified measure to integrate general cognitive ability into the biological, medical, and behavioural sciences

Margherita Malanchini*, Kaili Rimfeld, Agnieszka Gidziela, Rosa Cheesman, Andrea G. Allegrini, Nicholas Shakeshaft, Kerry Schofield, Amy Packer, Rachel Ogden, Andrew McMillan, Stuart J. Ritchie, Philip S. Dale, Thalia C. Eley, Sophie von Stumm, Robert Plomin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have uncovered DNA variants associated with individual differences in general cognitive ability (g), but these are far from capturing heritability estimates obtained from twin studies. A major barrier to finding more of this ‘missing heritability’ is assessment––the use of diverse measures across GWA studies as well as time and the cost of assessment. In a series of four studies, we created a 15-min (40-item), online, gamified measure of g that is highly reliable (alpha = 0.78; two-week test-retest reliability = 0.88), psychometrically valid and scalable; we called this new measure Pathfinder. In a fifth study, we administered this measure to 4,751 young adults from the Twins Early Development Study. This novel g measure, which also yields reliable verbal and nonverbal scores, correlated substantially with standard measures of g collected at previous ages (r ranging from 0.42 at age 7 to 0.57 at age 16). Pathfinder showed substantial twin heritability (0.57, 95% CIs = 0.43, 0.68) and SNP heritability (0.37, 95% CIs = 0.04, 0.70). A polygenic score computed from GWA studies of five cognitive and educational traits accounted for 12% of the variation in g, the strongest DNA-based prediction of g to date. Widespread use of this engaging new measure will advance research not only in genomics but throughout the biological, medical, and behavioural sciences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number12
Early online date1 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Oct 2021


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