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The Power of Two

Cognitive Seeds

Published August 20, 2014 3:37 PM by Eleanor Wolfram

Will the nature versus nurture debate ever be resolved? You know the controversy. The one that addresses the extent to which particular aspects of behavior are a product of either inherited by nature (i.e. genetic) or acquired (i.e. learned) characteristics. For decades, the nature/nurture debates were a monopoly within the psychology field, but lately life scientists have jumped on the band wagon. And it is a good thing they have, because the electronic advancements in molecular technology will one day soon answer many of the lingering nature/nurture questions.

To put the large volume of genetic versus environmental learning theories to bed, keen scientific and evidence-based studies are required. You see as early as the 1800's, academia deemed reading, writing and arithmetic as the basic necessary skills to build higher education upon. However, the primary question has been how can humans be better equipped to learn three these vital skills.

Currently there is global research being conducted to address this inquiry. For example, research conducted in the genetics department at the University College London (UCL), has revealed that about 50% of our genes Influence how well a person will read and do math. It has been long understood that math and reading abilities can be attributed to the family tree, however the genes affecting these skills acquirement characteristics have gone unidentified. Because of the vagueness of which genes are involved in reading and math cognitive development, a team of scientists from UCL, King's College London and the University of Oxford are leading studies to investigate the genetic basis of basic cognitive characteristics.

The collaborative study will examine the impact of genetics on basic reading writing and arithmetic performance skills of close to 3,000 British elementary school children. Educational tests will be administered and combined with DNA data. The hope is to find significant correlations in the genetics that influence mathematics and reading.

Another example involves similar skills attainment studies that are being conducted on the other side of the planet. Specifically, within the United States human development scientists at Ohio State University are conducting studies with identical and fraternal twin children to ascertain the role genetics reading skills. The research study titled the Western Research Reading Project is testing about three hundred subjects. The ultimate goal is to reveal the influence of the environment on reading performance over time. What they may uncover will add to the understanding of the environmental influences on reading skills, thereby settling a few nature/nurture questions.

posted by Eleanor Wolfram


Really scary thought that school children would have their DNA profiled to increase their learning capabilities, even long before they are able to decide for themselves whether they want their genetic properties known....And that is independent of whether you believe in nature or nurture or both.

Bertie de Leeuw, Molecular diagnosis - Dr., RLM September 22, 2014 5:03 AM

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