Plomin born 1948 in Chicago, Illinois is an American psychologist best known for his work in twin studies and behavior genetics. Plomin is a psychologist and geneticist, and he makes a persuasive case for the primacy of genes over environment in shaping our individual personalities. Genetically sensitive designs like twin and adoption studies could, for the first time, study the environment while controlling for genetics. Still, if Plomin is right, we may be able to do less than many people think to fundamentally transform ourselves. Right now, the tide falls far short of the high-water mark of heritability, in part because the specks of gold dust are so small they are difficult to find. He was the youngest president of the international Behaviour Genetics Association, and has been given lifetime achievement awards from that association as well the American Psychological Association and the Society for Research in Child Development, among others. He is nothing of the kind.
Some great info if you are interested in psychology, social policy, personalized medicine and heredity in general. Or rather the data does. Although this book is about psychological traits, it is useful to begin by contrasting psychological traits with a few physical traits eye colour, height and medical traits breast cancer, stomach ulcers. This is why, he argues, teachers and parents should accept children for who they are, rather than trying to mould them in certain directions. They also include cognitive traits such as general learning ability, often called intelligence, and specific mental abilities such as vocabulary and memory, as well as disabilities in these traits. This in turn means that the abnormal is normal. Heritability increases throughout the lifespan, especially for intelligence.
For example, in the case of mental illness, we no longer need to wait until people show brain or behavioural signs of the illness and then rely on asking them about their symptoms. If there are potentially one thousand genes involved with many 'conditions', then we're effectively all on a spectrum of having more or less of things like being bipolar. They affect our behaviour as adults, when that single cell with which our lives began has become trillions of cells. Plomin's writing combines passion with reason and passion for reason so fluently that it is hard to believe this is his first book for popular consumption, after more than 800 scientific publications. This, says Plomin, is a game changer. Plomin first goes through the statistical evidence for hereditability of various human behaviours and other attributes, such as weight and height.
The implications of these findings are transformative for psychology and society and for the way you think about what makes you who you are. My excuse for not doing it sooner is that more research was needed to document the importance of genetics, and I was busy doing that research. It puts forward the findings that he and other pioneers have made with precision, insight and humility. Plomin has been working on these issues for almost fifty years, conducting longitudinal studies of twins and adoptees. Fifth, studying the environment while controlling for genetics revealed that environmental influences make children growing up in the same family as different as children reared in different families. He is the author of two previous books, Creation, which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Prize, and A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived.
However, as I move further from the data to explore the implications of these findings, some issues will be controversial. To take one example, many elites spend enormous energy and time fighting over schooling. For most of the twentieth century environmental factors were called nurture because the family was thought to be crucial in determining who we become. I am not aware of a single psychological trait that shows no genetic influence. Plomin suggests that it does not matter which school you go to. What was new to me was that even though some identical twins have been reared apart they are still very similar.
Most environmental influences are random and relatively small. Or maybe that´s exactly why you should read it. But he fails to note that the total variance associated with environmental differences is also about 50 per cent, and that when one looks for particular regions of the genome associated with differences, specific loci are associated with less than 1 per cent of the variance. I give the author high marks for the courage to write this book and the first part of it was really outstanding. Earlier from his interviews, I was getting an impression of Plomin as being rather cool on social issues. A second reason is that I am a psychologist who has for forty-five years been at the centre of genetic research on mental health and illness, personality and mental abilities and disabilities. To be sure, there are some people who are good at a variety of intellectual tasks, but, in my experience, the range of actual skills in intelligent people is usually fairly narrow.
A physical disease is typically caused by, say, a single bacterium or virus. And it was assumed it was due to the shared environment. I never realised just how influential genes were before reading this book. Recognition that both genes and environment are important fosters research at the interplay between nature and nurture, a very productive area of study. Others have a more grumpy disposition. I feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to help bring the insights of genetics to the study of psychology. Basically this book is really interesting and I can highly recommend it.
Substantial genetic influence has been found not only for schizophrenia and autism but for all types of psychopathology, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit disorders, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, antisocial personality disorders and drug dependence. He presents his conclusions from very many scientific studies as the five biggest findings in psychology: 1. Plomin also showcases some of his longitudinal studies of twins and adopted children and telling the reader his findings. During the Industrial Revolution, the Puritan work ethic and basic mechanical understanding sufficed. The same goes for many other aspects of our personality.
The correlation is about 0,75 in identical twins, and between other siblings it is less than 0,5. The remainder of the book switches to very recent studies which associate human traits with specific genes. Overwhelmingly, children turn out more like their biological parents than their adoptive parents. One of the best things in life is to find something that you love to do, and I fell in love with genetics when I was a graduate student in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin in the early 1970s. So it's refreshing to come across a book that is primarily about psychology but is driven by good quality data and where the author goes out of his way to show what the numbers really mean.
Polygenic scores are already the best predictors we have for schizophrenia and school achievement. These findings led to a new view of what makes us who we are. To read some of the people's reviews in this section, you'd think he was a snake oil salesman. As I mentioned, the author is an expert in the field of behavioural genetics and presents many of his studies and findings. This is familiar ground to many, but I was astonished to find out how hereditable some behaviours are. Genetic research showed that this is absolutely not true. Nonetheless, by the time you read this, the predictive power of all of these polygenic scores will be far greater than those described in this book.