Week 12

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12. (11/21) Heritability, heterogeneity, and group differences


Idea: As conventionally interpreted, heritability indicates the fraction of variation in a trait associated with "genetic differences." A high value indicates a strong genetic contribution to the trait and "makes the trait a potentially worthwhile candidate for molecular research" that might identify the specific genetic factors involved. I contest the conventional interpretation and contend that there is nothing reliable that anyone can do on the basis of estimates of heritability for human traits. While some have moved their focus to cases in which measurable genetic and environmental factors are involved, others see the need to bring genetics into the explanation of differences among the averages for groups, especially racial groups.


Cases: Heritability & critique; Interaction of measured genes and measured environments; Data & models about heritability & change (or lack of it)


Readings: Turkheimer 2000, Plomin 2006, Taylor 2007, Caspi 2002, Rutter 2002, Moffitt 2005, Dickens 2001, Rushton 2005



Copyright ©2010 Peter Taylor, Ph.D.