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Environment


Environmental factors play a large role in determining IQ in extreme situations. Proper childhood nutrition appears critical for cognitive development; malnutrition can lower IQ. Other research indicates environmental factors such as prenatal exposure to toxins, duration of breastfeeding, and micronutrient deficiency can affect IQ. In the developed world, there are some family effects on the IQ of children, accounting for up to a quarter of the variance. However, by adulthood, this correlation disappears, so that the IQ of adults living in the prevailing conditions of the developed world may be more heritable.

Nearly all personality traits show that, contrary to expectations, environmental effects actually cause adoptive siblings raised in the same family to be as different as children raised in different families (Harris, 1998; Plomin & Daniels, 1987). Put another way, shared environmental variation for personality is zero, and all environmental effects would be nonshared. Conversely, IQ is actually an exception to this, at least among children. The IQs of adoptive siblings, who share no genetic relation but do share a common family environment, are correlated at .32. Despite attempts to isolate them, the factors that cause adoptive siblings to be similar have not been identified. However, as explained below, shared family effects on IQ disappear after adolescence.

Active genotype-environment correlation, also called the "nature of nurture", is observed for IQ. This phenomenon is measured similarly to heritability; but instead of measuring variation in IQ due to genes, variation in environment due to genes is determined. One study found that 40% of variation in measures of home environment are accounted for by genetic variation. This suggests that the way human beings craft their environment is due in part to genetic influences.
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2012 Robert Artmann | Psychologist