Understanding Heritability: What it is and What it is Not

Authors


Wendy Johnson, Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

E-mail: wendy.johnson@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

Commentators generally found our exposition of the concept of heritability helpful for psychologists, suggesting that we largely accomplished our primary goal. Many provided supplemental and helpful perspectives on concepts we addressed. A few of the comments indicated that we may not have been completely successful in making clear our secondary goal, which was to outline how heritability estimates confound a plethora of influences. In this response, we thus emphasize that we do not claim that specific kinds of complexity, or, even worse, intractable complexity, pervade the genetics of behavioural traits. Rather, our claim is that genetics is riddled with complexity of many degrees and kinds, and heritability is a poor indicator of either degree or kind of underlying genetic complexity. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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