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Learning Abilities and Disabilities: Generalist Genes, Specialist Environments

Yulia Kovas and Robert Plomin
Current Directions in Psychological Science
Vol. 16, No. 5 (Oct., 2007), pp. 284-288
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20183217
Page Count: 5
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Learning Abilities and Disabilities: Generalist Genes, Specialist Environments
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Abstract

Twin studies comparing identical and fraternal twins consistently show substantial genetic influence on individual differences in learning abilities such as reading and mathematics, as well as in other cognitive abilities such as spatial ability and memory. Multivariate genetic research has shown that the same set of genes is largely responsible for genetic influence on these diverse cognitive areas. We call these "generalist genes." What differentiates these abilities is largely the environment, especially nonshared environments that make children growing up in the same family different from one another. These multivariate genetic findings of generalist genes and specialist environments have far-reaching implications for diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities and for understanding the brain mechanisms that mediate these effects.

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