Nature vs. Nurture: The Origins of Intelligence

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10 Questions

What is a common method researchers use to study the origins of intelligence and other characteristics?

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Why do researchers study identical and fraternal twins to learn about intelligence?

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What percentage of identical twins have similar IQ scores according to the text?

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Why do some experts argue that shared environment plays a role in determining IQ scores?

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What does the data on IQ scores between identical and fraternal twins suggest?

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What is the primary argument in favor of the environment being the primary factor in developing extreme intelligence?

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What would supporters of the genetics explanation argue based on the text?

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How do scientists who argue against an environmental explanation view Ramanujan's genius?

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What do scientists propose as other explanations for the origin of genius according to the text?

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Based on the text, what is a key factor supporting the argument that genius is genetically determined?

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Study Notes

The Origins of Intelligence

  • Scientists have long debated whether genius is inherited (genetic) or determined by the environment (education, family, life experiences).

Twin Studies

  • Researchers study identical and fraternal twins to understand the origins of intelligence and other characteristics.
  • Identical twins share the same genes, while fraternal twins do not share as many genes.
  • In about 85% of cases, identical twins have similar IQ scores.
  • In about 60% of cases, fraternal twins have similar IQ scores, despite sharing the same environment.

Genetics Argument

  • The strong similarity in IQ scores among identical twins suggests a genetic influence on intelligence.
  • Supporters of the genetics explanation argue that talented families exist, where talent is passed on through genes.

Environmental Argument

  • The environment, not genetics, could be the primary factor in developing extreme intelligence.
  • If intelligence were inherited, every genius in history would have had extremely gifted ancestors, which is not the case.
  • The shared environment that twins experience could also influence their IQ scores.


  • Identical twins may have the same genes, but they don't necessarily have the same talents and abilities.
  • The existence of talented families, such as families of successful scientists or musicians, could be evidence of genetic inheritance.

Case Study: Srinivasa Ramanujan

  • Ramanujan, a mathematical genius from India, was raised in a poor village with little mathematical training.
  • His genius is difficult to explain without a genetic component, as his environment did not provide opportunities for mathematical development.
  • Ramanujan's case is often cited as evidence of genetic determination of genius.

Explore the debate on whether extreme intelligence is genetic or influenced by environmental factors. Delve into the origins of intelligence and the differing perspectives of researchers through various studies.

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