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Keywords:

  • Epistasis;
  • heritability;
  • polygenic additivity;
  • psychophysiology

The intraclass correlations of monozygotic twins who were separated in infancy and reared apart (MZA twins) provide estimates of trait heritability, and the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart [MISTRA: Bouchard et al. (1990), The sources of human psychological differences: the Minnesota study of twins reared apart, Science 250, 223–228] has demonstrated that MZA pairs are as similar in most respects as MZ pairs reared together. Some polygenic traits—e.g. stature, IQ, harm avoidance, negative emotionality, interest in sports—are polygenic-additive, so pairs of relatives resemble one another on the given trait in proportion to their genetic similarity. But the existence and the intensity of other important psychological traits seem to be emergent properties of gene configurations (or configurations of independent and partially genetic traits) that interact multiplicatively rather than additively. Monozygotic (MZ) twins may be strongly correlated on such emergenic traits, while the similarity of dizygotic (DZ) twins, sibs or parent–offspring pairs may be much less than half that of MZ pairs. Some emergenic traits, although strongly genetic, do not appear to run in families. MISTRA has provided at least two examples of traits for which MZA twins are strongly correlated, and DZA pairs correlate near zero, while DZ pairs reared together (DZTs) are about half as similar as MZTs. These findings suggest that even more traits may be emergenic than those already identified. Studies of adoptees reared together (who are perhaps more common than twins reared apart) may help to identify traits that are emergenic, but that also are influenced by a common rearing environment.