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Heritability in the Era of Molecular Genetics: Some Thoughts for Understanding Genetic Influences on Behavioural Traits

Authors


Wendy Johnson, Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology and Department of Psychology, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, UK EH8 9JZ. E-mail: wendy.johnson@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

Genetic influences on behavioural traits are ubiquitous. When behaviourism was the dominant paradigm in psychology, demonstrations of heritability of behavioural and psychological constructs provided important evidence of its limitations. Now that genetic influences on behavioural traits are generally accepted, we need to recognise the limitations of heritability as an indicator of both the aetiology and likelihood of discovering molecular genetic associations with behavioural traits. We review those limitations and conclude that quantitative genetics and genetically informative research designs are still critical to understanding the roles of gene-environment interplay in developmental processes, though not necessarily in the ways commonly discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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