Genetic and Environmental Influences on Reaction Times: Evidence from Behavior-Genetic Research

By Spinath, F. M.; Borkenau, P. | Psychologische Beiträge, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Reaction Times: Evidence from Behavior-Genetic Research


Spinath, F. M., Borkenau, P., Psychologische Beiträge


Summary

This paper reviews the behavior-genetic literature on speed of information processing with special focus on two major issues in this field: (a) the importance of genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in performance on elementary cognitive tasks, and (b) the contributions of correlated genetic and correlated environmental effects to the relation between faster processing rates and higher intelligence scores that is consistently observed. The bulk of relevant studies points to substantial genetic influences on speed of information processing. These genetic influences, however, do not exceed the importance of genetic influences on psychometric intelligence. Moreover, small to moderate shared environmental influences on speed of information processing are usually found. The correlation between mental speed and psychometric intelligence is mainly accounted for by correlated genetic effects, but genetic effects on processing speed and intelligence are not perfectly correlated.

Key words: information processing, speed.

Introduction

Tests of basic cognitive abilities or elementary cognitive tasks (ECT) have been developed to investigate the sources of individual differences in general cognitive ability or intelligence (Jensen, 1987, 1993, 1998). Such tasks are often viewed as indicators of biologically influenced cognitive processes that are involved in problem-solving ability (Petrill, Thompson, & Detterman, 1995). Note that biologically influenced does not necessarily imply genetically influenced as there may be effects of biological variables like nutrition that do not reflect the influence of genes.

To gain a better understanding of the role that genetic and environmental influences play at different levels of cognitive functioning, several issues have to be addressed, among them the extent that cognitive abilities at different levels are heritable (i.e., influenced by genes). Another important problem concerns the relation between speed of information processing and psychometric intelligence: The available evidence suggests a moderate negative correlation between reaction time (RT) in ECTs and psychometric intelligence, and thus the etiology of this relationship in terms of genetic and environmental sources should be explored. But the state of knowledge with regard to these issues varies: Whereas numerous studies investigated genetic and environmental influences on general intelligence and more specific cognitive abilities (e.g., verbal, spatial and memory; see Plomin, DeFries, McClearn, & Rutter, 1997 for a review), the available evidence on the heritability of ECTs is by far less extensive.

The first study that addressed this issue was conducted by McGue, Bouchard, Lykken, and Feuer (1984). In the subsequent decade, three studies were published that reported heritabilities of elementary cognitive tasks (Vernon, 1989; McGue & Bouchard, 1989; Boomsma & Somsen, 1991), and two additional studies explored the extent in how far the correlation between processing speed and psychometric intelligence reflected shared genetic or shared environmental factors (Ho, Baker, & Decker, 1988; Baker, Vernon, & Ho, 1991). In all these studies, the samples were rather small and different ECTs were employed, thus limiting the generalizability of the findings. Recently however, some behavior-genetic studies on elementary cognitive tasks have been published in which larger and more representative samples were investigated (Petrill et al., 1995; Petrill, Luo, Thompson, & Detterman, 1996; Rijsdijk, Vernon, & Boomsma, 1998; Neubauer, Spinath, Riemann, Borkenau, & Angleitner, in press). In this article, these studies and their findings will be reviewed, and their implications will be explored.

Early Behavior-Genetic Studies on Elementary Cognitive Tasks

McGue et al. (1984) investigated samples of 34 MZ and 13 DZ adult twin pairs made up, in part, of participants in the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Reaction Times: Evidence from Behavior-Genetic Research
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.