Most Reported Genetic Associations With General Intelligence Are Probably False Positives

Christopher F. Chabris, Benjamin M. Hebert, Daniel J. Benjamin, Jonathan Beauchamp, David Cesarini, Matthijs van der Loos, Magnus Johannesson, Patrik K.E. Magnusson, Paul Lichtenstein, Craig S. Atwood, Jeremy Freese, Taissa S. Hauser, Robert M. Hauser, Nicholas Christakis, David Laibson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    General intelligence (g) and virtually all other behavioral traits are heritable. Associations between g and specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in several candidate genes involved in brain function have been reported. We sought to replicate published associations between g and 12 specific genetic variants (in the genes DTNBP1, CTSD, DRD2, ANKK1, CHRM2, SSADH, COMT, BDNF, CHRNA4, DISC1, APOE, and SNAP25) using data sets from three independent, well-characterized longitudinal studies with samples of 5,571, 1,759, and 2,441 individuals. Of 32 independent tests across all three data sets, only 1 was nominally significant. By contrast, power analyses showed that we should have expected 10 to 15 significant associations, given reasonable assumptions for genotype effect sizes. For positive controls, we confirmed accepted genetic associations for Alzheimer's disease and body mass index, and we used SNP-based calculations of genetic relatedness to replicate previous estimates that about half of the variance in g is accounted for by common genetic variation among individuals. We conclude that the molecular genetics of psychology and social science requires approaches that go beyond the examination of candidate genes.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1314-1323
    Number of pages10
    JournalPsychological Science
    Issue number11
    StatePublished - Nov 2012


    • behavior genetics
    • cognitive ability
    • genetics
    • individual differences
    • intelligence

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Psychology


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