How DNA Makes Us Who We Are with Robert Plomin

Today it’s a great honor to have Dr. Robert Plomin on the podcast. Dr. Plomin is Professor of Behavioural Genetics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience at King’s College London. He previously held positions at the University of Colorado Boulder and Pennsylvania State University. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the British Academy for his twin studies and his groundbreaking work in behavioral genetics. He is the author or coauthor of many books, including G is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement (with Kathryn Asbury), and most recently, BluePrint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are.

In this wide-ranging conversation, we discuss the following topics:

  • How Robert became interested in genetics
  • The importance of going “with the grain” of your nature
  • Robert’s twin studies methodology
  • How genotypes become phenotypes
  • How kids select their environments in ways that correlate with their genetic inclinations
  • The genetic influence on television viewing
  • How virtually everything is moderately heritable
  • The effects of extreme trauma on the brain
  • The developmental trajectory of heritability
  • How the abnormal is normal
  • How we could use polygenic information to inform educational interventions
  • The potential for misuse of genetic information to select children for particular educational tracks
  • Recent research on shared environmental influences on educational achievement
  • The “nature of nurture”
  • The variability of heritability across different cultures and levels of SES
  • The role of education on intelligence
  • How teachers can and cannot make a difference
  • The genetics of social class mobility
  • Free will and how we can change our destiny

Further Reading

Fifty years of twin studies: A meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits

The nature of nurture: effects of parental genotypes

Variation in the heritability of educational attainment: An international meta-analysis

Genetic analysis of social-class mobility in five longitudinal studies

Large cross-national differences in gene x socioeconomic status interaction on intelligence

How much does education improve intelligence? A meta-analysis

Are cognitive gand academic gone and the same g?

A systematic review of personality trait change through intervention

How scientists are learning to predict your future with your genes

Using nature to understand nurture

What makes us who we are? 

Can ‘genius’ be detected in infancy?

A brief history of everyone who ever lived

The gardner and the carpenter: What the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children


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