Genetic and Environmental Influences on Cognition Across Development and Context

Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, Daniel A. Briley, K. Paige Harden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genes account for between approximately 50% and 70% of the variation in cognition at the population level. However, population-level estimates of heritability potentially mask marked subgroup differences. We review the body of empirical evidence indicating that (a) genetic influences on cognition increase from infancy to adulthood, and (b) genetic influences on cognition are maximized in more advantaged socioeconomic contexts (i.e., a Gene × Socioeconomic Status interaction). We discuss potential mechanisms underlying these effects, particularly transactional models of cognitive development. Transactional models predict that people in high-opportunity contexts actively evoke and select positive learning experiences on the basis of their genetic predispositions; these learning experiences, in turn, reciprocally influence cognition. The net result of this transactional process is increasing genetic influence with increasing age and increasing environmental opportunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-355
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene × Environment interaction
  • behavior genetics
  • cognitive ability
  • cognitive development
  • intelligence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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