57% of the total genetic influence on educational and work achievement has nothing to do with cognitive abilities

57% of the total genetic influence on educational and work achievement has nothing to do with cognitive abilities

According to a new study published in Nature, non-cognitive abilities (such as curiosity, motivation, persistence, determination, self-control, growth mindset …) account for more than half of the total genetic influence on achievement. education and obtaining better jobs and higher incomes.

Specifically, the study identified 157 significant loci throughout the genome and a polygenic architecture that represents 57% of the genetic variance in educational achievement.

Genetic architecture of traits

According to the cited study, non-cognitive genetics was enriched in the same brain tissues and cell types as cognitive performance, but showed different associations with brain gray matter volumes.

In general, the genetics of non-cognitive abilities were associated with higher risk tolerance, a greater willingness to forgo immediate gratification, less risky behavior for health, and delayed fertility .

The researchers also observed that the genetics of non-cognitive abilities were associated with a constellation of personality traits linked to success in relationships and at work, such as being curious and eager to learn, being more emotionally stable and being more hard-working and tidy.

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The genetics of non-cognitive abilities that were associated with educational achievement were also associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia , bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anorexia nervosa.

The research provides evidence for the idea that inheriting genes that affect things other than cognitive ability is important for understanding differences in people’s life outcomes.


The researchers applied a new statistical method to develop an understanding of the essence of non-cognitive abilities and how genetic correlations with non-cognitive abilities diverged from genetic correlations with cognitive abilities, measured using standardized IQ tests: the association of everything. the genome (GWAS) of educational achievement.

At GWAS, all people are sampled and all of their DNA is examined for something that is a match for all of them . This coincidence does not necessarily tell us something about the ultimate cause, but rather that there is a common genetic trait that could provide the trait.

The first GWAS was published very recently, 2005, after scanning the genomes of 93 people with retinal disease. On paper, GWAS seems like an elegant solution, but the problem is that the amount of data is overwhelming . For example, simply to look for genes related to height, a survey of 183,727 different people was carried out. The study required the participation of 280 authors. The results appeared published in Nature in 2010 , suggesting that hundreds of genetic variants were implicated in height alone, and furthermore those variants only explained 10 percent of the differences in height.