Genetic and environmental influences on human psychological differences

J Neurobiol. 2003 Jan;54(1):4-45. doi: 10.1002/neu.10160.


Psychological researchers typically distinguish five major domains of individual differences in human behavior: cognitive abilities, personality, social attitudes, psychological interests, and psychopathology (Lubinski, 2000). In this article we: discuss a number of methodological errors commonly found in research on human individual differences; introduce a broad framework for interpreting findings from contemporary behavioral genetic studies; briefly outline the basic quantitative methods used in human behavioral genetic research; review the major criticisms of behavior genetic designs, with particular emphasis on the twin and adoption methods; describe the major or dominant theoretical scheme in each domain; and review behavioral genetic findings in all five domains. We conclude that there is now strong evidence that virtually all individual psychological differences, when reliably measured, are moderately to substantially heritable.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adoption
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Genetics, Behavioral* / methods
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Intelligence Tests / standards
  • Intelligence Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Personality / genetics
  • Religion
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Social Environment*
  • Statistics as Topic / methods
  • Twin Studies as Topic / methods
  • Twin Studies as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Twins / genetics
  • Twins / psychology
  • Work / psychology