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The Genomic and Environmental Sources of Cognitive Ability

Sat, August 11, 8:30 to 9:30am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Level 100, 113A


Cognitive ability is one of the most potent measures in social sciences. Cognitive ability has been shown to be one of the best predictors of educational attainment, occupation achievement, income, wealth, involvement in criminality, and health. Although some interpret cognitive ability or IQ as inborn endowment, most others take a moderate position. Our objective of this study is to identify genomic and environmental sources of cognitive ability measure in adolescence. The objective became possible recently due to the identification of the genetic variants that are related to educational attainment by the genome-wide association study (GWAS) (Okbay et al. 2016). Social scientists can now construct the polygenic score for education as a genetic measure by using the GWAS results. We draw 8,109 samples (wave I and wave III) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescents to Adult Health (Add Health) to examine how genetic and environmental factors account for cognitive ability. Cognitive ability is measured by the abridged version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test score. Our findings show that both socioeconomic measures and human inheritance have positive influences on PVT score. Moreover, results also show that the effect of genetic legacy is conditional on socioeconomic status and health behaviors. These findings expand our understanding of cognitive ability and highlight the need to integrate social and genetic origins in further studies.