Most Reported Genetic Associations With General Intelligence Are Probably False Positives

Christopher F. Chabris, Benjamin M. Hebert, Daniel J. Benjamin, Jonathan Beauchamp, David Cesarini, Matthijs van der Loos, Magnus Johannesson, Patrik K E Magnusson, Paul Lichtenstein, Craig S. Atwood, Jeremy Freese, Taissa S. Hauser, Robert M. Hauser, Nicholas Christakis, David Laibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations

Abstract

General intelligence (g) and virtually all other behavioral traits are heritable. Associations between g and specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in several candidate genes involved in brain function have been reported. We sought to replicate published associations between g and 12 specific genetic variants (in the genes DTNBP1, CTSD, DRD2, ANKK1, CHRM2, SSADH, COMT, BDNF, CHRNA4, DISC1, APOE, and SNAP25) using data sets from three independent, well-characterized longitudinal studies with samples of 5,571, 1,759, and 2,441 individuals. Of 32 independent tests across all three data sets, only 1 was nominally significant. By contrast, power analyses showed that we should have expected 10 to 15 significant associations, given reasonable assumptions for genotype effect sizes. For positive controls, we confirmed accepted genetic associations for Alzheimer's disease and body mass index, and we used SNP-based calculations of genetic relatedness to replicate previous estimates that about half of the variance in g is accounted for by common genetic variation among individuals. We conclude that the molecular genetics of psychology and social science requires approaches that go beyond the examination of candidate genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1314-1323
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Volume23
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Keywords

  • behavior genetics
  • cognitive ability
  • genetics
  • individual differences
  • intelligence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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