What’s behind the Rorschach inkblot test?

What’s behind the Rorschach inkblot test?

Psychologist conducting Rorschach test

Few devices from the world of psychology have entered popular culture quite so much as Hermann Rorschach’s famous inkblot test. But the test still divides psychologists, writes Dr Mike Drayton.

I first came across the Rorschach inkblot test when I was training to be a clinical psychologist. I was shown a series of cards containing inkblots and asked to say what they looked like to me (Tester: “What does this look like?” Me: “A bat.”) I remember thinking that it felt more like a tarot reading than a proper psychometric test.

However, when the test was scored and interpreted, it produced a scarily accurate profile of my personality. It knew things about me that even my mother didn’t know. I’ve been a fan, if a rather sceptical one, ever since.

So, what is the Rorschach inkblot test? It’s simply a set of cards containing pictures of inkblots that have been folded over on themselves to create a mirror image.

Find out more

Dr Inkblot is broadcast on Wednesday 25 July at 21:00 BST on BBC Radio 4

The Rorschach is what psychologists call a projective test. The basic idea of this is that when a person is shown an ambiguous, meaningless image (ie an inkblot) the mind will work hard at imposing meaning on the image. That meaning is generated by the mind.

By asking the person to tell you what they see in the inkblot, they are actually telling you about themselves, and how they project meaning on to the real world.

But the inventor of the test, Hermann Rorschach, never intended it to be a test of personality.

A Rorschach test inkblot

Some might see two elephants dancing

As a child, the young Hermann was a big fan of a popular game called Klecksographie, so much so that his nickname was Kleck. The idea of the game was to collect inkblot cards that could be bought from local shops and make associations and stories from the inkblots.

Rorschach went on to study psychiatry and while training, in 1918, he noticed that patients diagnosed with schizophrenia made radically different associations to the Klecksographie inkblots than did normal people. He therefore developed the Rorschach test as a diagnostic tool for schizophrenia.

It wasn’t until 1939 that the test was used as a projective test of personality. Rorschach himself had always been sceptical about this.

This controversy about the reliability and validity of the Rorschach has been present since its conception. Today, many – probably most – psychologists in the UK think the Rorschach is nonsense.

Wikipedia controversy

A Rorschach test inkblot

  • In 2009, all 10 images from the Rorschach test were posted on Wikipedia, along with possible answers
  • Many psychologists complained that publishing the inkblots online rendered them useless, as patients should not see the images before undertaking the test
  • They argued that patients would not answer honestly if they were already familiar with the inkblots and had memorised the ‘correct’ answers
  • It wasn’t the first time inkblots from the test had been published. In 1983, William Poundstone printed them in his book Big Secrets

Criticisms of the Rorschach have centred on three things:

First, some psychologists have argued that the testing psychologist also projects his or her unconscious world on to the inkblots when interpreting responses.

For example, if the person being tested sees a bra, a male psychologist might classify this as a sexual response, whereas a female psychologist may classify it as clothing.

Second, the Rorschach has also been criticised for its validity. In other words, is it measuring what it says it is measuring? Rorschach was clear that his test measured disordered thinking (as found in schizophrenia) and this has never been disputed. But whether it accurately measures personality as well is up for debate.

Finally, critics have suggested that the Rorschach lacks reliability. Two different testers might come up with two different personality profiles for the same person.

I am also sceptical about the scientific validity of the Rorschach. But I do think it is a useful tool in therapy and coaching as a way of encouraging self-reflection and starting a conversation about the person’s internal world.

Here’s an example of how I have used the Rorschach:

Samantha is a 28-year-old lawyer. She is happily married and has recently discovered she is pregnant. She and her husband had been trying to conceive for the past year.

I used the Rorschach as part of a leadership coaching programme with her. To give you a flavour of the Rorschach in practice, here are her responses to this card.

An image from the Rorschach test

“It’s two people facing each other. You can see their heads, arms and legs spread out. There is a big cooking pot between them. They are stirring the cooking pot, making food. The thing in the middle is like two hearts – maybe it’s meant to show that they are in love?

“The red thing in the middle looks like a butterfly. I know it’s silly – and probably because I’m pregnant, but the red things on each side look like newborn babies with the umbilical cords still attached. When I think of that, the two people could be a mummy and daddy holding a Moses basket or cot. Look, you can see the blanket round the side.

“The red in the middle is their two hearts joined and is the baby. They could be fighting for the baby, like a tug-of-war with the cot. That reminds me of work, which I haven’t thought about for ages. Parents divorcing and fighting over the children. God forbid that would happen to me.”

Rorschach’s influence

  • Many artists have been influenced by Rorschach’s inkblots, including Andy Warhol – who created a series of “Rorschach paintings” in 1984
  • The “inkblot” style has been used in promotional London Underground maps and to advertise US drama Dexter.
  • Rorschach’s work has also inspired films, including the Rorschach characters in 2009’s Watchmen – and music videos such as Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy

Samantha is a well-adjusted, confident and successful woman who is experiencing a particularly happy period in her life. It is clear to see how she projects the themes of her current life on to the inkblot.

There is a strong theme of partnership and attachment. The two people making something (“stirring the cooking pot”), alludes to Samantha’s pregnancy. This theme is then reinforced (“the red things on each side look like new-born babies with the umbilical cords still attached”), and then instantiated (“the two people could be a mummy and daddy holding a Moses basket or cot”).

Anxiety is the opposing emotion to joy in Samantha’s emotional dynamic. Worries about future conflict with her partner intrude into her narrative (“they could be fighting for the baby, like a tug-of-war with the cot”).

This is only a snapshot. There were many other things in Samantha’s Rorschach that opened the doors to how her internal psychological world impacted on her life at home and work.

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Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, the Downs, and Things in Between

Can Child Adolesc Psychiatr Rev. 2005 May; 14(2): 51.

PMCID: PMC2542924

Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, the Downs, and Things in Between

Reviewed by Margaret Weiss, MD
Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, the Downs, and Things in Between.
Liane Holliday Willey, editor. .
 London:
 Jessica Kingsley Publishers;
 2003.
  336.
 US $19.95

Adolescence presents unique challenges to individuals with Asperger’s syndrome, many of which will have escaped diagnosis in earlier years, or been misdiagnosed because of prominent attention problems, anxiety or other issues. There are excellent resources available to help parents recognize, understand and work with the key features of this disorder, such as Tony Attwood’s Asperger’s Syndrome. Individuals with Asperger’s have also written creative accounts of the internal experience of living and growing with the disorder, such as Pretending to be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey.

This volume fills a different niche. First, it focuses on the issues that are paramount and unique to adolescence. Clinicians working with parents who have to deal with diagnosis during this period, and understanding why their child who managed previously, is now having so much trouble will benefit from a practical how-to appropriate to this age group. Second, this book brings together such a diverse authorship that the reader cannot help but come away with a sense of the disorder from within, from loving family and from dedicated professionals working to problem solve side by side. Third, the chapters in the book cover areas that I have not seen spoken to with such thoughtfulness anywhere else, although real life demands their attention. This includes Asperger’s and sexuality, friendship, safety, school options, siblings, disclosure, motor coordination and coping with the bittersweet news of diagnosis. These are questions I have often been asked. Having a book available that addresses each of these issues by experts in the area from occupational therapists, to private inspector and special education teachers provides a framework and structure for more thoughtful therapeutic interventions.

Professionals who contributed chapters include Tony Attwood who discussed adapting Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Aspergers, Steven Gutstein who has developed Relationship Development Intervention, Isabelle Henault a sexologist, and Richard Howlin a specialist in adolescent psychology. Autobiographical contributions include the forward by a 14 year old, several adults with Asperger’s who have written and taught about the disorder, and a mother of seven special needs children among whom four have autism spectrum disorders. Three teachers, a private investigator, and an occupational therapist all add perspectives on assisting with learning, safety and leisure activities. The authorship represents the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK: in itself a testament to the solidarity of the research community around this disorder and the gains we have made.

The chapters vary, as is always the case in an edited book. I did not expect to agree with everything in every chapter and I did not. I could recommend this book to patients and therapists alike as a useful tool to find strategies that would help, without necessarily recommending it as something that need be swallowed whole. Overall the reading level of the book is high, but not out of reach of educated consumers. Nor is the information provided so simplistic that any good clinician will not pick up new insights and awareness. This is a difficult balance to strike and I was impressed that the task was possible and accomplished.


    Articles from The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review are provided here courtesy of Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

    Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, the Downs, and Things in Between

    Can Child Adolesc Psychiatr Rev. 2005 May; 14(2): 51.

    PMCID: PMC2542924

    Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, the Downs, and Things in Between

    Reviewed by Margaret Weiss, MD
    Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, the Downs, and Things in Between.
    Liane Holliday Willey, editor. .
     London:
     Jessica Kingsley Publishers;
     2003.
      336.
     US $19.95

    Adolescence presents unique challenges to individuals with Asperger’s syndrome, many of which will have escaped diagnosis in earlier years, or been misdiagnosed because of prominent attention problems, anxiety or other issues. There are excellent resources available to help parents recognize, understand and work with the key features of this disorder, such as Tony Attwood’s Asperger’s Syndrome. Individuals with Asperger’s have also written creative accounts of the internal experience of living and growing with the disorder, such as Pretending to be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey.

    This volume fills a different niche. First, it focuses on the issues that are paramount and unique to adolescence. Clinicians working with parents who have to deal with diagnosis during this period, and understanding why their child who managed previously, is now having so much trouble will benefit from a practical how-to appropriate to this age group. Second, this book brings together such a diverse authorship that the reader cannot help but come away with a sense of the disorder from within, from loving family and from dedicated professionals working to problem solve side by side. Third, the chapters in the book cover areas that I have not seen spoken to with such thoughtfulness anywhere else, although real life demands their attention. This includes Asperger’s and sexuality, friendship, safety, school options, siblings, disclosure, motor coordination and coping with the bittersweet news of diagnosis. These are questions I have often been asked. Having a book available that addresses each of these issues by experts in the area from occupational therapists, to private inspector and special education teachers provides a framework and structure for more thoughtful therapeutic interventions.

    Professionals who contributed chapters include Tony Attwood who discussed adapting Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Aspergers, Steven Gutstein who has developed Relationship Development Intervention, Isabelle Henault a sexologist, and Richard Howlin a specialist in adolescent psychology. Autobiographical contributions include the forward by a 14 year old, several adults with Asperger’s who have written and taught about the disorder, and a mother of seven special needs children among whom four have autism spectrum disorders. Three teachers, a private investigator, and an occupational therapist all add perspectives on assisting with learning, safety and leisure activities. The authorship represents the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK: in itself a testament to the solidarity of the research community around this disorder and the gains we have made.

    The chapters vary, as is always the case in an edited book. I did not expect to agree with everything in every chapter and I did not. I could recommend this book to patients and therapists alike as a useful tool to find strategies that would help, without necessarily recommending it as something that need be swallowed whole. Overall the reading level of the book is high, but not out of reach of educated consumers. Nor is the information provided so simplistic that any good clinician will not pick up new insights and awareness. This is a difficult balance to strike and I was impressed that the task was possible and accomplished.


      Articles from The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review are provided here courtesy of Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

      Asperger’s and Age of Onset? | Autism PDD

      Asperger’s and Age of Onset?

      After my daughter developed autistic traits and was diagnosed with a language disorder I began to explore the possibility that my father, brothers and I may have mild Asperger’s. In school, we were all just considered gifted. My IQ is over 140, (or at least it was when I was a child, as late as age 13). One of my brothers is a very successful electrical engineer and the other an IT professional. All of us are criticized for being “too quiet”.

      However, if I do have it, the onset would have been in middle childhood, around age 8. I have read one source that suggests Asperger’s may have a later onset, but I am not familiar with what age that would be.

      In my case, it would probably be very mild, but even the mildest form of autism has an enormous impact on many areas of life. Six-seven years ago after I finished graduate school I began a competitive management internship that required different business line rotations and panel presentations. I did very well with the formal presentations, writing, and learning the business lines that I was being exposed to, but I was severely criticized for being “aloof”, “not smiling enough”, and being “too serious”. I felt I was being unfairly criticized for being a logical female, and thought that if I were a man I would not have endured this type of criticism. I remember during my interview before I was hired I was asked about my weaknesses. I told them I am occasionally clumsy, and that gave everyone a laugh. I was told at the end of the internship they doubted my ability to form strong customer relationships.

      Actually, they were very wrong, and I’ve proved otherwise. The problem, though, is that it takes some time for me to form the relationships. When they are formed, I am very honest, conscientious, loyal, and work hard within the business relationships. What I lack, with different degrees of severity based on the circumstances, is the ability to be relaxed and spontaneous in social settings.

      When I was in grad school, I remember that there were times that my writing was criticized as being too verbose and my sentence structure too complex. I had to concentrate very hard on learning to communicate the salient point of each paragraph very clearly, rather than being overly theoretical. Now, in retrospect, this may be slightly autistic.

      I don’t “look” like a person with Asperger’s, and I don’t believe that I lack empathy. I have very strong relationships with my family, and I wish that I had more close friends.

      Here is how I would describe my experience of my “problem”. When I am in un-structured social settings, it feels as if the banter, joking and camaraderie that  occurs naturally for “normal” people is totally out of sync with me. It feels as if the laughter and humor is “too fast”, and that I am behind a wall that I can’t really break through to connect with others in these light, airy social settings. I feel left out, and never feel confident that I can really trust others’ motives, and even feel slightly paranoid that people don’t really like me. The problems only show up in new situations, though, not with people I am comfortable with.

      Does this sound like Asperger’s, or more like anxiety?
       
      What kristys is describing is pretty much what happened with me. The symptoms were there from birth, it’s just that no one aside from my mom and possibly my maternal grandmother ever caught on.

      [quote=”Bluebird”]Kristys- I have very clear memories of what I was like when I was ages 2-8. I didn’t have any sensory issues, though one of my brothers had severe sensory problems. I didn’t have any social problems at this age, either. I remember exactly how I felt and what I was like, and I had many friends. That’s one reason why I questioned whether I could be on the spectrum. It wouldn’t have been a matter of nobody identifying the symptoms, I really didn’t have any before 8.

      [/quote]

      I did that as well. But remember that kids aren’t really very judgmental of others until about 3rd or 4th grade, so you could have the symptoms and still have a lot of friends (in fact some of them may even admire your “quirks” at that age). Then when they start getting more aware of one another, they start forming their cliques, and usually we start getting left out at that point.

      Also that empathy thing is a complete and total myth. Some autistic people have it and some don’t, just like some NTs have it and some don’t. For those who have it, it’s a matter of perception. It’s just that aspies perceive differently than Nts, so their empathy shows up at different times, and for different things sometimes. But empathy or lack thereof has absolutely nothing to do with autism. stickboy2639476.2810416667

      [QUOTE=b9st8]

      Hey Blue Bird

      Are you asking for my unprofessional opinion?

      ‘Cause you sound exactly Asperger’s Autism to me. I am a better match to Kanner’s autism which was a suprise to me too. The reality is not what is reported in popular and professional works. I am thoroughly impressed that you have developed fewer, but authentic relationships. I would predict this for AS. You will always feel out of sync, yet knowing why makes it easier. It is great that you are cautious about motives. I cannot conceive of others’ motives and trust even after repeated betrayals. You are my idea of ideal.

      I suspect you have been told it is ‘social anxiety’ ?

      Are you constantly obsessed with what people are thinking about you? Are you checking your clothes hair expression what ever, to make sure you LOOK ok? Do you fear rejection or ridicule by some other person as the end of the world? Must everyone love you for you to feel safe? Actually this is one of the less harmful labels given to the female presention of Asperger’s autism. You need to have comprehension of all that social nonverbal stuff to have social anxiety.

      If you mean normal anxiety, sorry, and AS comes with plenty of that. Mediation and grounding skills help.

      Hope you hear from some other mothers who have found they are on spectrum too. I can’t even aspire to your skill level.[/QUOTE]

      Oh, I don’t think of myself as skilled. These problems with the way I am wired to the world just have such an impact on so many areas. When I was a teenager, I waited tables, and worked so hard, and always ended up with less money in tips than everyone else. As I grew older, I learned to not waste time feeling sorry for myself, but I was still convinced that something was unfair about the world when it came to me. I seem to get much worse customer service than other people in every area. I felt like I was constantly failing at getting doors to open that should have opened for me. I am single, and have a history of being very badly treated by men. Now, I could care less, I am so happy alone with my children, but for many years this was very painful for me.

      Kristys- I have very clear memories of what I was like when I was ages 2-8. I didn’t have any sensory issues, though one of my brothers had severe sensory problems. I didn’t have any social problems at this age, either. I remember exactly how I felt and what I was like, and I had many friends. That’s one reason why I questioned whether I could be on the spectrum. It wouldn’t have been a matter of nobody identifying the symptoms, I really didn’t have any before 8.

      Bluebird39471.9552777778

      I never got tips either and I covered their tables for all their smoke breaks. Life is not fair. I think we all have a touch of PTSD. You will always have to work harder than others.

      I think the later onset is because of the varying skill levels. Some of us have no skills from conception, others have a reasonable amount  for a number of years until it becomes too complex and they lag behind. My dd is not diagnosable, but is finding increasing management demands are becoming difficult due to the traits she has.

      I can get jobs, but never keep them long. I have no relationships beyond immediate family and many of them only tolerate me. I am always an embarrassment. My autism is obvious if not instantly, within a day or two at work and they need me to disappear. Let me admire your skill level

      Hey Blue Bird

      Are you asking for my unprofessional opinion?

      ‘Cause you sound exactly Asperger’s Autism to me. I am a better match to Kanner’s autism which was a suprise to me too. The reality is not what is reported in popular and professional works. I am thoroughly impressed that you have developed fewer, but authentic relationships. I would predict this for AS. You will always feel out of sync, yet knowing why makes it easier. It is great that you are cautious about motives. I cannot conceive of others’ motives and trust even after repeated betrayals. You are my idea of ideal.

      I suspect you have been told it is ‘social anxiety’ ?

      Are you constantly obsessed with what people are thinking about you? Are you checking your clothes hair expression what ever, to make sure you LOOK ok? Do you fear rejection or ridicule by some other person as the end of the world? Must everyone love you for you to feel safe? Actually this is one of the less harmful labels given to the female presention of Asperger’s autism. You need to have comprehension of all that social nonverbal stuff to have social anxiety.

      If you mean normal anxiety, sorry, and AS comes with plenty of that. Mediation and grounding skills help.

      Hope you hear from some other mothers who have found they are on spectrum too. I can’t even aspire to your skill level.

      Bluebird,

      I believe it is common for Asperger’s to not get dx’s until a child is school age, often 6 – 8.  It isn’t really a late onset, as the Asperger’s didn’t suddenly appear at that age.  It’s more the fact that it’s often difficult to dx earlier.  Since aspies tend to talk on time, there isn’t that red flag.  And since aspies tend to be gifted, some quirkiness is often written off to high intelligence.  However, once the child starts school, often the social difficulties become much more obvious, as do restricted/stereotypical interests, sensory issues, etc.

      A good friend of mine has a 1st grader with Aspergers.  She knew something was “off” with her son and had him evaluated at ages 3 and 4, but she was told he was gifted, and that he had some sensory issues (tactile defensiveness) so they did some OT to help with that.  However he did ok in preschool.  However it all fell apart in kindergarten.  As the year went on, he started having meltdowns, difficulting staying in the classroom, social issues.  They got an Asperger’s dx this summer.  From what I’ve read, this seems to be common.

       

      Copyright Autism-PDD.net

      http://www.autism-pdd.net/testdump/test23929.htm

      Asperger’s and Age of Onset? | Autism PDD

      Asperger’s and Age of Onset?

      After my daughter developed autistic traits and was diagnosed with a language disorder I began to explore the possibility that my father, brothers and I may have mild Asperger’s. In school, we were all just considered gifted. My IQ is over 140, (or at least it was when I was a child, as late as age 13). One of my brothers is a very successful electrical engineer and the other an IT professional. All of us are criticized for being “too quiet”.

      However, if I do have it, the onset would have been in middle childhood, around age 8. I have read one source that suggests Asperger’s may have a later onset, but I am not familiar with what age that would be.

      In my case, it would probably be very mild, but even the mildest form of autism has an enormous impact on many areas of life. Six-seven years ago after I finished graduate school I began a competitive management internship that required different business line rotations and panel presentations. I did very well with the formal presentations, writing, and learning the business lines that I was being exposed to, but I was severely criticized for being “aloof”, “not smiling enough”, and being “too serious”. I felt I was being unfairly criticized for being a logical female, and thought that if I were a man I would not have endured this type of criticism. I remember during my interview before I was hired I was asked about my weaknesses. I told them I am occasionally clumsy, and that gave everyone a laugh. I was told at the end of the internship they doubted my ability to form strong customer relationships.

      Actually, they were very wrong, and I’ve proved otherwise. The problem, though, is that it takes some time for me to form the relationships. When they are formed, I am very honest, conscientious, loyal, and work hard within the business relationships. What I lack, with different degrees of severity based on the circumstances, is the ability to be relaxed and spontaneous in social settings.

      When I was in grad school, I remember that there were times that my writing was criticized as being too verbose and my sentence structure too complex. I had to concentrate very hard on learning to communicate the salient point of each paragraph very clearly, rather than being overly theoretical. Now, in retrospect, this may be slightly autistic.

      I don’t “look” like a person with Asperger’s, and I don’t believe that I lack empathy. I have very strong relationships with my family, and I wish that I had more close friends.

      Here is how I would describe my experience of my “problem”. When I am in un-structured social settings, it feels as if the banter, joking and camaraderie that  occurs naturally for “normal” people is totally out of sync with me. It feels as if the laughter and humor is “too fast”, and that I am behind a wall that I can’t really break through to connect with others in these light, airy social settings. I feel left out, and never feel confident that I can really trust others’ motives, and even feel slightly paranoid that people don’t really like me. The problems only show up in new situations, though, not with people I am comfortable with.

      Does this sound like Asperger’s, or more like anxiety?
       
      What kristys is describing is pretty much what happened with me. The symptoms were there from birth, it’s just that no one aside from my mom and possibly my maternal grandmother ever caught on.

      [quote=”Bluebird”]Kristys- I have very clear memories of what I was like when I was ages 2-8. I didn’t have any sensory issues, though one of my brothers had severe sensory problems. I didn’t have any social problems at this age, either. I remember exactly how I felt and what I was like, and I had many friends. That’s one reason why I questioned whether I could be on the spectrum. It wouldn’t have been a matter of nobody identifying the symptoms, I really didn’t have any before 8.

      [/quote]

      I did that as well. But remember that kids aren’t really very judgmental of others until about 3rd or 4th grade, so you could have the symptoms and still have a lot of friends (in fact some of them may even admire your “quirks” at that age). Then when they start getting more aware of one another, they start forming their cliques, and usually we start getting left out at that point.

      Also that empathy thing is a complete and total myth. Some autistic people have it and some don’t, just like some NTs have it and some don’t. For those who have it, it’s a matter of perception. It’s just that aspies perceive differently than Nts, so their empathy shows up at different times, and for different things sometimes. But empathy or lack thereof has absolutely nothing to do with autism. stickboy2639476.2810416667

      [QUOTE=b9st8]

      Hey Blue Bird

      Are you asking for my unprofessional opinion?

      ‘Cause you sound exactly Asperger’s Autism to me. I am a better match to Kanner’s autism which was a suprise to me too. The reality is not what is reported in popular and professional works. I am thoroughly impressed that you have developed fewer, but authentic relationships. I would predict this for AS. You will always feel out of sync, yet knowing why makes it easier. It is great that you are cautious about motives. I cannot conceive of others’ motives and trust even after repeated betrayals. You are my idea of ideal.

      I suspect you have been told it is ‘social anxiety’ ?

      Are you constantly obsessed with what people are thinking about you? Are you checking your clothes hair expression what ever, to make sure you LOOK ok? Do you fear rejection or ridicule by some other person as the end of the world? Must everyone love you for you to feel safe? Actually this is one of the less harmful labels given to the female presention of Asperger’s autism. You need to have comprehension of all that social nonverbal stuff to have social anxiety.

      If you mean normal anxiety, sorry, and AS comes with plenty of that. Mediation and grounding skills help.

      Hope you hear from some other mothers who have found they are on spectrum too. I can’t even aspire to your skill level.[/QUOTE]

      Oh, I don’t think of myself as skilled. These problems with the way I am wired to the world just have such an impact on so many areas. When I was a teenager, I waited tables, and worked so hard, and always ended up with less money in tips than everyone else. As I grew older, I learned to not waste time feeling sorry for myself, but I was still convinced that something was unfair about the world when it came to me. I seem to get much worse customer service than other people in every area. I felt like I was constantly failing at getting doors to open that should have opened for me. I am single, and have a history of being very badly treated by men. Now, I could care less, I am so happy alone with my children, but for many years this was very painful for me.

      Kristys- I have very clear memories of what I was like when I was ages 2-8. I didn’t have any sensory issues, though one of my brothers had severe sensory problems. I didn’t have any social problems at this age, either. I remember exactly how I felt and what I was like, and I had many friends. That’s one reason why I questioned whether I could be on the spectrum. It wouldn’t have been a matter of nobody identifying the symptoms, I really didn’t have any before 8.

      Bluebird39471.9552777778

      I never got tips either and I covered their tables for all their smoke breaks. Life is not fair. I think we all have a touch of PTSD. You will always have to work harder than others.

      I think the later onset is because of the varying skill levels. Some of us have no skills from conception, others have a reasonable amount  for a number of years until it becomes too complex and they lag behind. My dd is not diagnosable, but is finding increasing management demands are becoming difficult due to the traits she has.

      I can get jobs, but never keep them long. I have no relationships beyond immediate family and many of them only tolerate me. I am always an embarrassment. My autism is obvious if not instantly, within a day or two at work and they need me to disappear. Let me admire your skill level

      Hey Blue Bird

      Are you asking for my unprofessional opinion?

      ‘Cause you sound exactly Asperger’s Autism to me. I am a better match to Kanner’s autism which was a suprise to me too. The reality is not what is reported in popular and professional works. I am thoroughly impressed that you have developed fewer, but authentic relationships. I would predict this for AS. You will always feel out of sync, yet knowing why makes it easier. It is great that you are cautious about motives. I cannot conceive of others’ motives and trust even after repeated betrayals. You are my idea of ideal.

      I suspect you have been told it is ‘social anxiety’ ?

      Are you constantly obsessed with what people are thinking about you? Are you checking your clothes hair expression what ever, to make sure you LOOK ok? Do you fear rejection or ridicule by some other person as the end of the world? Must everyone love you for you to feel safe? Actually this is one of the less harmful labels given to the female presention of Asperger’s autism. You need to have comprehension of all that social nonverbal stuff to have social anxiety.

      If you mean normal anxiety, sorry, and AS comes with plenty of that. Mediation and grounding skills help.

      Hope you hear from some other mothers who have found they are on spectrum too. I can’t even aspire to your skill level.

      Bluebird,

      I believe it is common for Asperger’s to not get dx’s until a child is school age, often 6 – 8.  It isn’t really a late onset, as the Asperger’s didn’t suddenly appear at that age.  It’s more the fact that it’s often difficult to dx earlier.  Since aspies tend to talk on time, there isn’t that red flag.  And since aspies tend to be gifted, some quirkiness is often written off to high intelligence.  However, once the child starts school, often the social difficulties become much more obvious, as do restricted/stereotypical interests, sensory issues, etc.

      A good friend of mine has a 1st grader with Aspergers.  She knew something was “off” with her son and had him evaluated at ages 3 and 4, but she was told he was gifted, and that he had some sensory issues (tactile defensiveness) so they did some OT to help with that.  However he did ok in preschool.  However it all fell apart in kindergarten.  As the year went on, he started having meltdowns, difficulting staying in the classroom, social issues.  They got an Asperger’s dx this summer.  From what I’ve read, this seems to be common.

       

      Copyright Autism-PDD.net

      http://www.autism-pdd.net/testdump/test23929.htm

      THE GENETICS OF GENIUS

      Lykken, David.  The Genetics of Genius to appear
      in: A. Steptoe (Ed.), Genius and the Mind: Studies of Creativity and
      Temperament in the Historical Record
      . Copyright Oxford University Press. 



       

      THE GENETICS OF GENIUS

      David T. Lykken
       

       

      Professor David T Lykken
      Department of Psychology
      Elliott Hall
      University of Minnesota
      Minneapolis
      MN 55455
      USA

      Tel:  (612) 625-6331

      e-mail: dlykken@tfs.psych.umn.edu

      Chapter Heading – The Genetics of Genius[1]

       

      ´Since each individual produced by the sexual process
      contains a unique set of genes, very exceptional combinations of genes
      are unlikely to appear twice even within the same family. So if genius
      is to any extent hereditary, it winks on and off through the gene pool
      in a way that would be difficult to measure or predict. Like Sisyphus rolling
      his boulder up to the top of the hill only to have it tumble down again,
      the human gene pool creates hereditary genius in many ways in many places
      only to have it come apart in the next generation.’
      — E. O. Wilson
      1978

      Psychologists once thought, simplistically, that genius was nothing
      more than high general intelligence, the capacity measured by the intelligence
      quotient
      or IQ. IQ scores of 140 and above, attained by perhaps four
      in every thousand youngsters, were classified as in the ´genius range.’
      Stanford University’s Lewis Terman, who was responsible for revising and
      standardizing the first individually-administered IQ test, the Stanford-Binet,
      identified some 1500 gifted children with IQs in this range and Terman’s
      gifted group have now been followed through middle age. Most of them have
      led relatively successful lives but none of them, so far as I am aware,
      would be classified as geniuses today.

      At the other end of the IQ scale, a rare few of retarded or autistic
      persons, known as savants, can quickly specify the day of the week
      on which any date in history fell or, although unable to read music, can
      play on the piano any composition after just a single hearing. These highly
      specialized abilities seem all the more remarkable in people whose general
      intelligence may be so low that they are dependent on others for their
      care and sustenance. Autistic savants are not geniuses either, of course,
      but these remarkable people seem to me to illustrate an important fact
      about the structure of mind.

      A Autism and the modular brain

      Autism was first described in 1944 and is extremely variable in its
      manifestations. Some autists seem to be profoundly retarded and never develop
      language. Others, often labeled Asperger’s syndrome, have normal or superior
      IQs. One common theme in autism is an extraordinary lack of social motivation
      and social intelligence. Most autistic children are unresponsive to people,
      even to their mothers, and dislike being held or fondled. Unlike normal
      children, they do not seem to see other members of their species as especially
      interesting, to be studied and imitated. This may explain why even high-level
      autists tend to be slow in language development and why, in spite of sometimes
      high general intelligence, they remain insensitive to social cues. Asperger
      children seem to be unable to identify with other persons and therefore
      unable to anticipate how others will react to what they do. Another rare
      congenital abnormality, Williams’ syndrome, presents the antithesis of
      autism. Children with Williams’ syndrome are verbally and socially precocious,
      they ´often appear exceptionally self-possessed, articulate, and
      witty, and only gradually is their mental deficit borne in on one.’ (Sacks
      1995, p. 223)

      A normal child has an innate fear of snakes and spiders, a reaction
      not shown to guns or electric sockets although the latter are more dangerous.
      Evolutionary psychologists point out that human toddlers back in the Pleistocene
      who instinctively avoided snakes and spiders were somewhat more likely
      in consequence to live to maturity and to become our ancestors. Since natural
      selection works slowly, such a reaction to electric sockets has not yet
      evolved. In a similar way, it was adaptive for ancestral infants to be
      fascinated by their mother’s faces, to recognize an affinity with other
      creatures like themselves, to study and imitate them. This special-purpose
      ´mental module’ facilitated learning language and the other skills
      required for social living. It would appear that this social-intelligence
      module is well-developed in Williams’ syndrome, in spite of low general
      intelligence, but poorly developed in Asperger’s syndrome even when general
      intelligence is normal.

      Retarded or autistic savants seem to betoken the existence of other
      special-purpose modules that are capable of efficient functioning even
      in the presence of a low IQ. Neurologist Oliver Sacks describes some of
      these prodigies, such as Jedediah Buxton, a simpleminded laborer, who was
      a prodigious calculator. ´When asked what would be the cost of shoeing
      a horse with 140 nails if the price was one farthing for the first nail,
      then doubled for each remaining nail, he arrived at the figure of 725,958,096,074,907,868,531,656,993,638,851,106
      pounds, 2 shillings and 8 pence.’ (Sacks, p. 191). When asked to square
      this number, he produced the 78-digit answer after 10 weeks’ time during
      which he did his work, held conversations, lived his life, while his astonishing
      calculating engine continued to grind away at the problem. A savant studied
      by Sacks personally could recite the entire nine volumes of Grove’s 1954
      Dictionary of Music and Musicians which had been read to him once
      by his father.

      ´Blind Tom’, a slave child, was born in the 1850s nearly blind
      and he was unable to speak until age five or six, yet from the age of four,
      ´seated at the piano, he would play beautiful tunes, his little hands
      having already taken possession of the keys, and his wonderful ears of
      any combination of notes they had once heard.’ (Sacks, p. 189). Tested
      at age 11 by musicologists, who played for him two entirely new compositions,
      13 and 20 pages in length, Tom ´reproduced them perfectly and with
      the least apparent effort.’ Like Mozart, Tom could perform on the piano
      with his back to the keyboard and his hands inverted. It is important to
      understand that the gifts of these autistic prodigies seem to go far beyond
      extraordinary rote memory. Leslie Lemke, a modern ´Blind Tom’, who
      also is congenitally blind and retarded, ´is as renowned for his
      improvisational powers as for his incredible musical memory. Lemke catches
      the style of any composer, from Bach to Bartok, after a single hearing,
      and can thereafter play any piece or improvise, effortlessly, in that style.’
      (Sacks, p.224). The autistic man who could recite all of Grove’s Dictionary
      was also a musical prodigy. Martin, although retarded, ´had a musical
      intelligence fully up to appreciating all the structural rules and complexities
      of Bach, all the intricacies of contrapuntal and fugal writing; he had
      the musical intelligence of a professional musician.’ (Sacks, p.222).

      Sacks also describes artistic prodigies such as Nadia, who ´suddenly
      started drawing at the age of three and a half, rendering horses, and later
      a variety of subjects, in a way that psychologists considered ‘not possible.’
      Her drawings, they felt, were qualitatively different from those of other
      children; she had a sense of space, an ability to depict appearances and
      shadows, a sense of perspective such as the most gifted normal child might
      only develop at three times her age.’ (Sacks, p.194). Stephen, a profoundly
      autistic child, was consigned at age four to a London school for the developmentally
      disabled. When he was five, Stephen began drawing, primarily cars and sometimes
      ´wickedly clever’ caricatures of his teachers. At age seven, he began
      to specialize in drawing buildings, such as St.Paul’s Cathedral ´and
      other London landmarks, in tremendous detail, when other children his age
      were just drawing stick figures. It was the sophistication of his drawings,
      their mastery of line and perspective, that amazed me—and these were
      all there when he was seven.’ (Sacks, p.199). Steven could draw from memory
      a complex scene (e.g., a construction site) viewed only for a few seconds
      but he also had an intuitive grasp for artistic and architectural style.
      Repeated drawings from memory of Sacks’ house over the period of a year
      varied considerably in detail but not at all in style. Similar repeated
      renderings of Matisse paintings varied also, proving that he was not ´merely’
      faithfully copying a vivid visual memory but, rather, that he was improvising
      Ă  la Matisse.

      Examples like these have led psychologists to postulate the existence
      of numerous special intelligences which are seen in these savant cases
      in especially stark relief against a background of general intellectual
      poverty. It is of great importance to realize that such savant-like talents
      can also co-exist with high intelligence and in the absence of autism.
      The young concert pianist, Evgeny Kissin, “the most phenomenal prodigy
      of our time” (Solomon, 1996, p. 113), at 11 months, spontaneously sang
      an entire Bach fugue that his older sister had been practicing. At 30 months,
      “Genya sat down at the old Bechstein on which his mother taught and picked
      out with one finger some of the tunes he had been singing. The next day,
      he did the same again, and on the third day he played with both hands,
      using all his fingers…Chopin’s ballades he would play with those little
      hands, as well as Beethoven sonatas and Liszt rhapsodies.” (p.115). The
      literary genius, Vladimir Nabokov, possessed ´a prodigious calculating
      gift, but this disappeared suddenly and completely, he wrote, following
      a high fever, with delirium, at the age of seven.’ (Sacks, p.226). The
      intellectually normal Chinese artist, Yani, displayed her artistic powers
      as early as did Nadia or Stephen and Sacks describes another gifted young
      man, now doing fundamental research in chemistry, who could read fluently
      and with comprehension at age two or repeat and even harmonize with any
      melody at the same age, and who did remarkable drawings with perspective
      at age three. Thus, it does not seem to be the case that savant-like gifts
      result from the conscription of all intellectual resources in the service
      of a single function.

      This idea of a modular intelligence contrasts with the view of the brain
      as merely a general-purpose computer. the power of which can be assessed
      just by a single number, the IQ. Yet general intelligence is both real
      and important. Its role may be like that of the conductor of an orchestra
      in which the brass, percussion, strings, and woodwinds are the special-purpose
      modules. Like the best orchestral conductors, the computer-intelligence
      knows all of the parts but cannot play the flute as well as the flutist
      can; the conductor’s function is to evaluate and to coordinate. Temple
      Grandin, a highly intelligent autistic woman and a college professor, learned
      to use her general intelligence to compensate for her deficient social
      sensitivity (Grandin 1986).

      There is a useful analogy between the domains of mental and physical
      talent. Each Olympic sport makes different demands on different muscle
      groups, reaction times, gross or fine motor coordination, and so on. Because
      of their different genetic endowment, it is unlikely that any world-class
      distance runner could have become instead a world-class sprinter or weight-lifter
      or gymnast. Yet all world-class athletes have an unusual degree of general
      athletic ability. That is, if we were to construct a series of special
      tests designed to tap each athlete’s special abilities, it is likely that
      the scores on all these tests would intercorrelate positively—would form
      what is called a ´positive manifold’, both for the mixed group of
      world-class athletes and also for people in general. If we were to construct
      a soccer team of Olympic runners, sprinters, pole-vaulters, gymnasts, and
      boxers, they would likely beat any other scratch soccer team—except one
      comprised of potential world-class soccer players.

      If we were to construct special tests for each of the several varieties
      of savant, tests designed to quantify their remarkable special abilities,
      we can be confident that, when administered to a sample of the general
      population, scores on these tests also would form a positive manifold.
      Good tonal memory would tend to go with good visual and conceptual memory
      as well as with the ability for mental computation (this correlation among
      the strengths of the mental modules is far from perfect, however; I know
      people no smarter than I am who have much better memories, for example).
      Retarded savants are remarkable not just because of a particular gift but
      also because of the absence of the related gifts that normally go with
      it.

      Every acknowledged human genius seems to have had at least a good general
      intelligence together with an assortment of other gifts or attributes
      which, in mutually facilitating cohabitation, led to the extraordinary
      achievements that are the ultimate basis for classification into this special
      category. One of the ingredients in the recipe for genius, and which I
      believe may be as essential as general intelligence, is an exceptional
      degree of mental energy, permitting protracted periods of intensely focused
      concentration on the project in hand. Our question in this chapter has
      to do with the origins of these interacting attributes. Is it true that
      ´genius must be born and never can be taught’, as Dryden claimed?
      Or, can genius be achieved? Is genius something that a doting parent can
      ´thrust upon’ an otherwise ordinary child?

      First, however, we need to address the curious fact that there are many
      people, including social scientists, even some geneticists—highly educated
      people who ought to know better—who believe that the human nervous system,
      unlike that of any other mammal, is unaffected by the same heritable variation
      that is obvious in the body’s morphology. It follows from this postulate
      of radical environmentalism[2]
      that every normal human infant, however distinctive in size, shape, and
      appearance, must arrive equipped with a brain that is essentially identical
      in structure and capacity with every other new brain, just as all new Macintosh
      computers are essentially identical when they arrive from the factory.
      What differences in intellect, interests, character, or personality are
      to be found later in the adult must, in this view, be attributable solely
      to differences in subsequent experience or programming.

      A Radical environmentalism

      During the middle half of the 20th century, most social scientists and
      many intellectuals came to ´hold these truths to be self-evident,
      that all men are created equal…’ and to interpret this fine phrase to
      mean biological equality. The fact is, however, that Jefferson modeled
      this first sentence of the American Declaration of Independence
      after the language of the constitution that had just been drafted for the
      state of Virginia. That document read like this: ´That all men are
      born equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights…’
      Jefferson kept the music but changed the words slightly for rhetorical
      effect. No practical man of that period would have given credence to the
      notion that all humans are biologically equal.

      Charles Darwin (1809–82) was a scientist and scientists have to be
      practical people because they study the world of nature rather than the
      mistier realm of philosophy. Darwin knew that the offspring tend to resemble
      the parents. The great controversy over Darwin’s Origin of Species and
      … the Descent of Man
      was not about whether people’s physiognomy and
      character tended to reflect their ancestry; like the invention of the wheel,
      the origins of that idea date back to prehistory. Animal breeders well
      knew that temperament, as well as running speed in horses or milk production
      in cows, reflected the animal’s parentage and every dog fancier was aware
      that terriers were aggressive and sheep dogs inclined to herd things and
      that these behavioral traits tended to breed true.

      Throughout most of human history, people have assumed that the same
      thing is true of our species, that smart parents tend to have smart children,
      that the offspring of athletes tend to enjoy sports, that mean parents
      often have mean offspring. But certain European philosophers, not being
      practical men, did entertain the notion, following John Locke (1632–1704),
      that the minds of human babies begin as identical blank slates to be written
      on solely by experience. One important radical environmentalist was the
      British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806–73), a contemporary of Darwin.

      C John Stuart Mill

      Mill was the eldest child of James Mill, a brilliant Scots historian
      and philosopher, and James educated his firstborn son himself. Little John
      Stuart was reading by the age of three, he was reading Greek at five, and
      by the age of eight he had read all of Herodotus and all of Plato’s Dialogues
      in the original. By the ripe old age of 12, John Stuart had mastered algebra
      and Euclid’s geometry; he had read all the standard Greek and Latin classics
      in those languages, and he was beginning the serious study of Adam Smith,
      Ricardo, and other political economists.

      It is perhaps not surprising that, in his later life, Mill was inclined
      to attribute his own intellectual achievements to that extraordinary and
      intensive early training. What Mill failed to take into account, however,
      was that he had benefited, not only from his father’s determined and ambitious
      educational efforts, but also from having received a half-helping of his
      brilliant father’s genes.

      It was not until the 20th century, however, that large numbers of intellectuals
      took up radical environmentalism as an article of faith. They arrived at
      this common delusion from different starting points and for a variety of
      reasons.

      B Marxism

      Karl Marx wanted to refute the prevailing assumption that the existing
      class structure of society was somehow preordained by God or human nature.
      Like many non-Marxist economists of today, he saw human individuals as
      interchangeable pawns at the mercy of economic forces and his utopian vision
      required that these same pawns, arrayed on a different board with different
      rules, would all behave alike and in their mutual interest. Lamarck’s (1744–1829)
      belief that acquired characteristics might be passed along genetically
      from parent to child provided what appeared to be a mechanism for achieving
      a new world order and became a part of neo-Marxist dogma. The Marxist scientists
      who still lead the attack on what they regard as the hereditarian heresy
      are too sophisticated to espouse Lamarckian ideas, but they cling to the
      egalitarian dream because they cannot imagine achieving the greatest good
      for the greatest number unless that dream is true.[3]

      B Liberalism

      Political liberals, too, were concerned about the evils of oppression,
      both political and economic, and they believed that the achievements of
      the privileged classes were largely a consequence of that privilege rather
      than of some innate superiority. They reacted especially against Herbert
      Spencer’s (1820–1903) Social Darwinism and his claim that the structure
      of Victorian society reflected the ´survival of the fittest,’ the
      workings of a natural law which we cannot change and with which we should
      not tamper. Upper class white males took for granted the genetic superiority
      of their race and gender and considered their dominant social position
      to be a birth right. The liberals believed, quite reasonably, that, with
      better living conditions and equivalent education, many children from the
      lower classes could excel in life’s race over many scions of the aristocracy.

      B Anthropology and Margaret Mead

      American cultural anthropology, led by Franz Boas (1858–1942), ´declared
      war on the idea that differences in culture derived from differences in
      innate capacity.’ (Degler, p. 62). By 1915, Alfred Kroeber, one of Boas’
      leading students, was asserting that: ´heredity cannot be allowed
      to have acted any part in history.’ (Degler, p.84). This position was most
      clearly articulated by another Boas disciple, Margaret Mead, whom he sent
      as a graduate student to the South Pacific with the aim of demonstrating
      that adolescence was less stormy and stressful in Samoa than in the United
      States because of cultural differences and, in particular, because of the
      greater sexual freedom allegedly enjoyed by young Samoans. Mead’s (1928)
      book, Coming of age in Samoa, the most widely read anthropological
      treatise ever published, propelled her into the front rank of social thinkers
      and her views were strongly stated and widely influential. ´We are
      forced to conclude,’ she wrote later, ´that human nature is almost
      unbelievably malleable, responding accurately and contrastingly to contrasting
      cultural conditions.’ (Degler, p.134). In her book Male and female,
      Mead explicitly asserted the radical environmentalist credo: ´Learned
      behaviors have replaced the biologically given ones.’ (Mead 1949, p. 216).

      Part of the impetus for Mead’s work throughout her distinguished career
      was her conviction that prevailing assumptions about psychological sex
      differences were mistaken and that cultural stereotypes, rather than innate
      genetic factors, play an important (she would say a decisive) role. We
      now know that Mead’s Samoan research was superficial and that her conclusions
      were based largely upon innocent deceptions practiced upon her by her young
      female Samoan informants (Freeman 1992). On the other hand, there is no
      doubt that there are marked differences in sexual attitudes and practices
      across human cultures and Mead was assuredly correct in insisting upon
      both the malleability of human culture and the important role that the
      culture plays in affecting human behavior. Her mistake, it seems to me,
      was in conflating human culture, which is relatively easy to change, with
      human nature, which is not.

      B Behaviorism

      The middle half of the 20th century was the heyday of behaviorism and
      many behaviorists tended to be radical environmentalists. One obvious reason
      for this tendency was the reluctance of behaviorists to theorize about
      mental mechanisms; if there are no theoretical constructs referring to
      the brain or mind, if one deals only with S–R (stimulus-response) relationships
      rather than with S–O–R relationships (where O stands for the organism
      or person), then it is difficult to account for individual differences,
      much less genetically determined differences. The founder of the movement,
      J. B. Watson, is famous for his claim:

       

        ´Give me a dozen healthy infants, well formed, and my own
        specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one
        at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor,
        lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless
        of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and the race
        of his ancestors.’
        (Watson 1924, p. 128).

        Nearly 60 years after Watson, the geneticist, Richard Lewontin, made
        an even more extravagant claim:

         

          ´Our genetic endowments confer a plasticity of psychic and
          physical development, so that in the course of our lives, from conception
          to death, each of us, irrespective of race, class, or sex, can develop
          virtually any identity that lies within the human ambit’
          (Lewontin
          1992, from author’s prĂŠcis on the book jacket).

           
          By claiming nearly limitless plasticity for both psychic and physical development,
          Lewontin suggested that ambitious parents can make their child not only
          into a doctor, lawyer, or, no doubt, a genius, at will, but also into a
          tennis champion or a basketball superstar, if that is what the child aspires
          to. Watson had only hubris and wishful thinking to back up his assertions.
          Lewontin’s challenge was greater because he had 60 years’ accumulation
          of data to contend with, most of it adverse to his startling hypothesis.
          That he chose to state it anyway is a triumph of ideology over reason and
          evidence. If it were true, Lewontin’s claim would impose a heavy burden
          of guilt on the parents of children who fail to achieve whatever ´identity’
          they hoped for; because it is not true, it seems to me that Lewontin’s
          claim is a kind of scandal.

          B Nazi Racism

          The views and deeds of Adolf Hitler may have had more influence on the
          nature–nurture question than Marx or Mead or any other thinker. Nazi notions
          about racial differences and Aryan superiority, the cruel experiments on
          twins conducted by Dr. Mengele and, above all, the barbaric ´final
          solution’ for the millions alleged to be genetically inferior, made it
          difficult for an entire generation of civilized people to be dispassionate
          about the role of heritable differences in human affairs. Radical environmentalism
          was no longer just an arguable scientific hypothesis but, rather, it became
          an article of antifascist faith, no longer debatable in politically correct
          society, not even on University campuses.

          B The Decline and Fall of Radical Environmentalism

          The long night of radical environmentalism seems, however, to be coming
          to an end. Throughout the period, occasional studies appeared showing that
          adoptees resembled psychologically their biological parents more than they
          resembled the adoptive parents who reared them. Twin and family studies
          accumulated, showing that the degree of resemblance of pairs of related
          individuals tends to parallel their degree of genetic relatedness. In recent
          years there has been a crescendo of twin and adoption studies with mutually
          corroborative results, and the pendulum of informed public opinion seems
          to be swinging in the direction toward which these findings point.

          It is once again possible for reasonable, educated people to acknowledge
          not only that we humans differ remarkably from one another in nearly every
          way imaginable but, moreover, that life would be unbearable, perhaps impossible,
          if this were not so. ´Individual differences are what make horse
          races’ as Mark Twain pointed out and of course he meant ´horses races’
          as a metaphor for all of social living. There are still some elderly survivors
          of the Long Dark lurking about; geneticist Lewontin, psychologist Leon
          Kamin, and paleontologist Stephen Gould are three of the better known examples.
          The dawn light hurts their eyes and they want to cling to the old egalitarian
          dream. They might finally awaken if they were to try seriously to imagine
          a world populated exclusively by genetic clones of themselves. If every
          other person had precisely my own innate gifts and limitations I know that
          life would be hell. In a world comprised of Gould’s, or Kamin’s, or Lewontin’s
          clones—of anyone’s clones—not just the state but civilization itself
          would wither quickly away. Our species since the earliest times has been
          dependent for its survival upon a division of labor within social groupings;
          an organization of specialists being more efficient than a mere congeries
          of individuals, the extended-family bands formed by our ancestors were
          therefore greater than just the sum of their component members. Our humanoid
          division of labor, in turn, has been especially successful because of our
          within-group differences in talents and interests.

          A The human genome

          The human genome, the book of instructions for the fabrication of an
          individual, consists of some 100,000 pairs of genes strung out rather like
          beads along the DNA molecules packed within each of our 23 pairs of chromosomes.
          This complete genetic blueprint is contained within the nucleus of nearly
          every cell of the body. Genes serve as patterns for making enzymes and
          other proteins. Each cell is like a chemical factory in which the enzymes
          are the chemists that synthesize the special molecules required for life.
          Most of the genes in the human genome are identical in all normal persons;
          they constitute the instructions that caused us to develop into Homo sapiens
          rather than into chimpanzees or butterflies or toadstools. Perhaps one-fourth
          of our genes are polymorphic; from one person to another in the
          human population there may be two to 20 or more slightly different genes,
          different alleles that can occupy the locus of a given polymorphic
          gene. For example, there is one pair of genes, located on homologous loci
          of one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human genome, that primarily
          determines eye color and there are two different alleles that can occur
          in that polymorphic locus. If both of your eye-color genes are of the blue
          type, then your eyes will be predominantly blue (although other genes will
          influence the particular shade of blue). If either or both of your eye-color
          genes are of the brown type, then your eyes will be predominantly brown.
          The brown-eye gene is said to be dominant over the blue type.

          Most traits that are of psychological interest, however, are metrical
          traits that vary in degree from person to person, as stature does. Metrical
          traits such as stature are polygenic, which means they are determined
          by the combined activity of many polymorphic genes. Your stature is the
          sum of the lengths of your head, your neck, your trunk and the long bones
          of your legs. Each of these components is designed by a different group
          of genes, some of them polymorphic, so that people differ from one another
          genetically in the lengths of each component part. Other polymorphic genes,
          such as those that determine the manufacture of the pituitary’s growth
          hormone, influence the length of all the parts so that the components are
          correlated in respect to size; people with long heads tend to have long
          femurs also. For these reasons, we say that stature, which is the sum of
          these component lengths, is determined by the additive action of many different
          polymorphic genes. As we shall see, most metrical psychological traits
          also owe an important portion of their variation among people to polygenic
          variation within the breeding group.

          C The great genetic lottery

          At conception, the mother’s ovum contains in its nucleus one gene more-or-less
          randomly selected from each of the approximately 100,000 gene pairs in
          her genome. The fertilizing sperm similarly contains some 100,000 single
          genes, one from each of the father’s complete set of gene pairs. At fertilization,
          these two random halves of the two parents’ genomes combine to form the
          genome of the child. If only 1000 of the 100,000 gene pairs in the human
          genome were polymorphic, the number of different, genetically unique offspring
          from all possible matings would exceed 10 followed by more than 600 zeros
          (21000 x 21000). From this we can safely conclude
          that each child produced by the great lottery of conception possesses a
          genetic blueprint that differs in at least some respects from any heretofore
          seen on earth.

          B Twins

          On the other hand, fortunately for science, there are twins. After conception,
          the fertilized ovum divides into two identical daughter cells each of which
          then divides again, and those four daughters again divide—beginning the
          embryological process that will lead to the creation of a human fetus.
          About four times in every 1000 conceptions, at one of these early cell
          divisions during the first two weeks or so, the embryo splits into two
          equal and separately viable parts. These two half-embryos will continue
          to develop into separate fetuses and, ultimately, two separate children
          who, because they began as a single zygote or fertilized egg, are
          known as monozygotic (MZ) twins. Because of their origins, MZ twins
          share the same genome and are genetically identical.

          Dizygotic (DZ) or fraternal twins occur when, for reasons still
          as obscure as the causes of MZ twinning, the mother produces more than
          one fertile ovum in the same ovulation period. When two (or more) ova are
          present, each can be fertilized by a different sperm and begin to develop
          into pairs (or more) of siblings who are genetically related just like
          ordinary siblings, each of them possessing different random halves of each
          parent’s genome so that, on the average, they will share about half of
          their polymorphic genes. DZ twins, like ordinary siblings, can share many
          more than half of their parent’s polymorphic genes and thus be remarkably
          similar, or they may share many fewer than half, and thus be genetically
          quite different. I have a photograph of one pair of DZ twins, young men
          who participated in one of our twin studies, who do not appear to be even
          from the same generation; one looks like the ´swinger’ nephew while
          the other might be his twin’s staid, accountant uncle.

          Because of their genetic identity, we know that differences within-pairs
          of MZ twins must be due to environmental causes. Environmental influences,
          of course, begin well before birth. Indeed, when one considers the almost
          unimaginable complexity of the steps involved in fabricating a child, it
          is astonishing that the building process hews as closely as it normally
          does to the blueprint provided in the genome. MZ twin babies differ in
          size, often in handedness, and sufficiently in other little ways so that
          their parents and close friends can generally tell them apart—and these
          small differences all are due to idiosyncratic environmental differences
          during development. As they grow up, however, MZ twins usually prove to
          be remarkably similar in temperament, in aptitudes, and interests, more
          so than pairs of DZ twins while the latter are generally more similar,
          both physically and psychologically, than random pairs of unrelated people.
          It was Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, who first realized
          the possibilities of using twins to study the heritability of psychological
          characteristics.

          B Heritability

          It is meaningless to ask whether Isaac Newton’s genius was due more
          to his genes or his environment, as meaningless as asking whether the area
          of a rectangle is due more to its length or its width. But if a certain
          group of rectangles vary in width between 1 and 10 inches but vary in length
          from 1 to 100 inches, then we can say, for the group, that the variation
          in their areas is more affected by the variation in their lengths than
          by the lesser variation in their widths.[4]
          Similarly, for people in general, it is meaningful to ask whether their
          genetic differences are more or less important than their differences in
          experience in producing the variation we observe in the traits involved
          in genius. The proportion of the total variation in any trait that is associated
          with genetic variation is called the heritability of that trait.

          It is important to understand that the heritability of most psychological
          traits tells us as much about the given culture as it does about human
          nature. It is likely (although we cannot be sure of this) that the amount
          of genetic variability among people within each human culture or breeding
          group is about the same. But environmental opportunities vary widely both
          within and between cultures. We would not expect to find a literary genius
          in a preliterate tribe in Papua New Guinea. In the Middle Ages, peasant
          children had much less opportunity to develop their intellectual capacities
          than the children of princes and the heritability of IQ then would have
          been decreased by this large amount of environmental variation. On the
          other hand, the fact that the heritability of IQ among the citizens of
          modern western democracies is on the order of 75 per cent suggests that
          these cultures have succeeded in providing environmental opportunity that
          is tolerably equal for all their children (at least for their white children;
          we are less sure about the heritability of IQ among, e.g., African Americans,
          for whom the relevant environmental variation may be greater).

          C Estimating Heritability

          As Galton anticipated, we can make use of both the social experiment
          of adoption and the biological experiment of twinning to estimate the heritability
          of traits. Children reared from infancy by adoptive parents will resemble
          their biological parents solely for genetic reasons. If the adoptive placements
          are random—if the adoptive parents are unrelated to the biological parents
          and are not selected to resemble them—then any similarity between the
          children and their adoptive parents will be due solely to environmental
          influences provided by the adoptive home. Twins reared together will resemble
          each other both for genetic reasons and because of their shared rearing
          experiences. If we assume that these environmental influences are the same
          for both MZ and DZ twins, then the greater similarity within MZ than DZ
          pairs must be due to the fact that MZ twins share all their polymorphic
          genes while DZ twins share, on average, only 50 per cent of theirs. A standard
          formula computes the heritability of a trait from twice the difference
          between the correlations of MZ and DZ twins on that trait. As explained
          below, however, the home environment has surprisingly little lasting effect
          on most traits so that a more accurate estimate of heritability is provided
          directly by the correlation between adult MZ cotwins.

          Twins who are adopted away in infancy and reared apart represent a rare
          and valuable combination of Galton’s two methods; apart from shared pre-natal
          influences, reared-apart twins resemble one another solely for genetic
          reasons. The correlation within pairs of MZ twins reared apart (MZA twins)
          on any trait is therefore a direct estimate of the heritability of that
          trait. It turns out that, for most traits, MZA twins resemble one another
          just about as much as do MZ twins reared together (MZT twins). This fact
          has two important implications. First, it indicates that being reared together
          in the same home does not usually serve to make siblings more alike psychologically
          when they are assessed as adults. This implication is confirmed by studies
          of unrelated adoptive siblings reared together who, as adults, do not resemble
          one another psychologically more than do random pairs of people.

          The second implication of the fact that MZA and MZT twins are about
          equally similar is that, since MZA correlations directly estimate trait
          heritability, we can also use MZT correlations for this purpose. MZA twins
          are rare and very expensive to study, while there are nearly a million
          pairs of MZT twins in just the United States and they tend to be wonderfully
          cooperative about participating in research.

          Estimating heritability directly from MZT correlations is not only convenient
          but also conservative. As we shall see later in this chapter, not all polygenic
          effects are additive but some, instead, are configural in the sense that
          the effect on the trait of certain genes may depend on the presence or
          absence of certain other genes. MZ twins, who share all their genes, will
          also share all such configural or emergenic traits while DZ twins,
          or parents and children, who share only half their polymorphic genes, may
          be unlikely to share the full set in the required configuration and are
          therefore unlikely to share the trait in question (Lykken et al.
          1992). This means that MZ correlations, which measure the within-pair similarity
          of the twins, will reflect all sources of genetic similarity while DZ correlations,
          which reflect mainly just the additive genetic effects, will not tend to
          reveal the genetic basis of traits that depend on gene configurations.

          A Are psychological traits influenced by genetic differences?

          Nearly all psychological traits or tendencies that can be reliably measured
          turn out to have heritabilities ranging from about 25 to 75 per cent (e.g.,
          Bouchard, et al., 1990). That is, among persons of European ancestry—for
          IQ, extroversion, neurotic tendency, musical talent, creativity, scientific
          and other interests, even for religiousness, authoritarianism, and for
          happiness itself—from one to three-fourths of the variation from person
          to person is associated with genetic differences between those persons.

          How do we know this? In the case of IQ, countless studies have shown
          that the correlation between pairs of related individuals is proportional
          to their genetic correlation. MZ twins, whose genetic correlation is 1.0,
          are twice as similar within pairs in IQ as are DZ twins, whose genetic
          correlation is .50 and the IQ correlation for DZ twins, in turn, is about
          four times that of first cousins, whose genetic correlation is .125. Moreover,
          pairs of unrelated adoptive siblings reared together, once they are grown
          and out of the adoptive home, correlate in IQ about zero (Bouchard &
          McGue, 1981). Perhaps the best evidence we have of the heritability of
          IQ among adults of European ancestry comes from five studies of MZA twins,
          done in Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and in the United States and totaling
          163 of these rare twin pairs. The MZA IQ correlations in these studies
          (each one a direct estimate of heritability) ranged from .64 to .78 and
          the grand average correlation was .75 (see McGue et al., 1993).

          Extroversion, considered to be one of the handful of basic traits of
          temperament, for more than 500 pairs of adult MZT twins from the Minnesota
          Twin Registry, was correlated .54, indicating a heritability of at least
          50 per cent. Neurotic tendency or neuroticism showed an MZT correlation
          of .48 in the same sample. Similar results were found in the Minnesota
          Study of Twins Reared Apart (Bouchard et al., 1990). About half
          of the variance in measures of creativity has been shown by the Minnesota
          studies to derive from genetic variation (Bouchard & Lykken, in press).
          Self-rated musical talent correlated .69 among these 512 pairs of adult
          MZT twins but the correlation was smaller, only .44, among the Minnesota
          MZA twins, suggesting perhaps that this is one trait for which shared family
          experience does make a difference, augmenting the genetic influence. Strength
          of scientific interests, in contrast, correlated .45 among MZT and .57
          among MZA twins. Interest in religious matters produced correlations above
          .50 in both groups as did a measure of commitment to traditional values
          (Lykken et al. 1993; Tellegen et al. 1988). Altemeyer’s well-validated
          measure of right-wing authoritarianism produced correlations of about .60
          in both MZT and in MZA twins. Finally, self-report measures of happiness
          or subjective well-being show a heritability approaching 50 per cent (Lykken
          and Tellegen 1995).

          B How do genetic differences produce psychological differences?

          We cannot yet begin to trace the many steps that intervene between the
          protein-making activities in which the genes are directly engaged and their
          ultimate influence upon individual differences in complex psychological
          traits. We assume that behavioral differences are associated with nervous
          system differences. Some of the later undoubtedly are ´hard-wired,’
          biological differences. We can imagine, for example, that some brains work
          faster or more consistently than others or that the inhibitory mechanisms
          that enable focused concentration are biologically stronger or more reliable
          in some brains than in others. But surely many of the brain differences
          that account for differences in personality, interests, and attitudes are
          differences in the ´software,’ are the result of learning and experience.
          Yet, if nurture or experience is the proximal cause of individual differences
          in these traits, how can one explain the strong association between these
          differences and genetic variation (i.e., nature)?

          A major insight of behavior genetics is that one important way in which
          the genome exerts its influence upon the brain is indirect; the genes help
          to determine the effective environment of the developing child through
          the correlation or the interaction of genes with environment (Plomin et
          al
          . 1977; Scarr and McCartney 1983) Passive gene-environment correlation
          is exemplified by the example of John Stuart Mill, mentioned earlier; bright
          parents tend to give their children both ´bright genes’ and intellectual
          stimulation. Children reared by athletic biological parents are likely
          to receive strong bodies as well as athletic encouragement and example.
          Partly for genetic reasons, some infants are fussy and irritable whereas
          others are happy and responsive; these differences elicit different responses
          from their adult caretakers. This process, which of course continues throughout
          life as our (primarily social) environment reacts differentially to our
          innate temperament, talents, and physical appearance, is called reactive
          or evoked gene-environment correlation. Partly for genetic reasons,
          different children attend to different aspects of their environment, and
          seek out or create environments attuned in some way to their genetic makeup.
          These are examples of active gene-environment correlation. The first
          day in school or a first roller-coaster ride will be a pleasurable excitement
          for some children, stimulating growth and self-confidence, but a terrifying
          and destructive experience for other children; that is, the same fire that
          melts the butter hardens the egg—this is gene-environment interaction.

          As suggested earlier, a mother’s face is an instinctive source of fascination
          to the non-autistic infant, her smiles are gratifying, and her vocalizations
          stimulate an innate urge to imitate. These genetic proclivities set the
          occasion for the learning of language and other essential social skills.
          As we shall see, the great mathematician, Carl Gauss, taught himself to
          calculate; when only three, he was able to correct his father’s sums and,
          at age 10, to amaze his teacher. These manifestations of his genetic gifts
          led the adults in little Gauss’s environment to provide him educational
          opportunities but, even more important, we must assume that the exercise
          of these gifts was inherently so gratifying that it became canalized. We
          have as yet not a clue as to the structure of the mental module that facilitates
          numerical manipulation, but it is easy to see how a module as facile as
          Gauss’s would both create the opportunity and stimulate the effort required
          to learn the ´software’ of mathematical sophistication.

          C An illustrative example[5]

          A distinguished amateur ornithologist was relieved to learn, at age
          11, that he was adopted; this discovery explained for him why he was so
          different from his parents and their relatives. His adoptive parents did
          not read or own books but the boy always had a library card and used it
          regularly. The parents had no talent for nor interest in sports but the
          youngster, in summer, always carried his baseball mitt with him in case
          of the chance for a game and won recognition for his prowess at basketball
          and tennis. This man’s biography is a chronicle of active gene-environment
          correlation, and his quest for experiences compatible with his innate proclivities
          contrasts with his failure to respond to influences that were readily available
          but to which he did not resonate. One interest that the other members of
          his adoptive family shared was in religion but our acquaintance never joined
          with them in this.

          In his late middle-age, this man undertook to discover his biological
          parentage. He found that his parents had married after he had been given
          up for adoption and they had produced several other children, his full-siblings,
          who he discovered to be well educated, active, and successful people like
          himself. One uncle had been Dean of my university’s graduate school. This
          man’s adoptive parents, like most parents, were ´permissive’ in the
          sense that they did not determinedly or effectively shape his behavior
          nor influence him by their provocative or charismatic example. They might
          have prevented him from engaging in sports but they merely did not encourage
          these activities. Had they been readers themselves with quick minds and
          lively intellectual interests, they might have given different or additional
          directions to his reading and thought. Had their religious practices been
          either emotionally or intellectually stimulating, he might well have been
          more interested in them.

          Had this man, in adulthood, found that he had an MZA twin reared by
          a different set of similarly ´permissive’ adoptive parents in some
          other American town, I believe they would have discovered that they shared
          not only similar aptitudes and interests, but similar developmental histories
          as well. Had the cotwin been adopted by the father of John Kennedy or of
          John Stuart Mill, however, or by Dickens’ Fagin, or a Mafia Godfather,
          then, having traveled markedly different environmental paths, the cotwins’
          differences might have been as interesting as their residual similarities.

          A Emergenesis: Genetic traits that do not run in families

          B Secretariat

          Old-fashioned hereditarians used to make much of the notion of breeding,
          a concept that has been pushed to the extreme by exponents of the sport
          of horse racing. Through careful breeding in the early part of the 19th
          century, the Thoroughbred race horse got steadily stronger and faster and
          the record times recorded at old English race courses steadily fell. Along
          about 1900, however, this curve leveled off as the initial additive variance
          was bred out of the line. The modest improvements in performance over the
          next 70 years or so are largely attributed to better training, nutrition,
          and veterinary techniques.

          And then along came Secretariat, a great red American stallion who lay
          down and took a nap on the day of his Kentucky Derby[6]
          and then got up and broke the course record, not by just a whisker but
          by seconds. He did the same thing at Pimlico and then won the Belmont—and
          the Triple Crown—by more than 30 lengths. Put out at once to stud, where
          only the most promising mares could afford his fees, Secretariat sired
          more than 400 foals— most of them disappointments, none of them remotely
          in their sire’s class. Secretariat had a distinguished lineage, of course,
          although none of his forebears could have run with him, but whatever he
          received at the great lottery of his conception could not be easily passed
          on in random halves. It seems a reasonable conjecture that Secretariat’s
          qualities were configural, emergenic.

          At last, in 1988, one of Secretariat’s sons, Risen Star, finished third
          in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness, and then won the Belmont by some
          14 lengths, albeit a full two seconds behind his sire’s record pace. After
          more than 400 attempts, Secretariat managed to produce a winner; although
          emergenic traits do not ´run in families,’ they are more likely to
          reappear in a carrier family than in a random lineage. No doubt Risen Star’s
          dam contributed key elements of the emergenic configuration.

          Although running speed is, of course, a metrical variable, Secretariat
          so far exceeded the limits of the normal distribution as to suggest a qualitative
          difference, a new natural class or taxon. The arena of human achievement
          appears to offer many similar examples, singular individuals whose accomplishments
          so far exceed the norm that we classify them separately from the common
          herd. An important example of such an emergenic class includes those people
          we call ´geniuses.’

          A Genius

           

            ´How did it come about that a man born poor, losing his mother
            at birth and soon deserted by his father, afflicted with a painful and
            humiliating disease, left to wander for twelve years among alien cities
            and conflicting faiths,… suspected of crime and insanity, and seeing,
            in his last months, the apotheosis of his greatest enemy—how did it come
            about that this man, after his death, triumphed over Voltaire, revived
            religion, transformed education, elevated the morals of France, inspired
            the Romantic movement and the French Revolution, influenced the philosophy
            of Kant and Schopenhauer, the plays of Schiller, the novels of Goethe,
            the poems of Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelly, the socialism of Marx, the
            ethics of Tolstoy, and, altogether, had more effect upon posterity than
            any other writer or thinker of that eighteenth century in which writers
            were more influential than they had ever been before? Here, if anywhere,
            the problem faces us: what is the role of genius in history…?’

            In this celebrated first sentence of their Rousseau and revolution,
            Will and Ariel Durant (1967) pose as well the psychological problem of
            genius itself, its mysterious irrepressibility and its ability to arise
            from the most unpromising of lineages and to flourish even in the meanest
            of circumstances.

            Human genius has always been a problem for both environmentalists and
            hereditarians to understand. There have been families of genius, of course,
            the Bernoullis and the Bachs, the Darwins and the Huxleys, the musical
            Marsalis family; but it is the solitary genius, rising like a great oak
            in a forest of scrub and bramble, who challenges our understanding. Carl
            Friedrich Gauss, ranked with Archimedes and Newton as one of the ´Princes
            of Mathematics,’ had uneducated parents, his mother was illiterate, yet
            the boy had taught himself to read and to do simple arithmetic by the time
            he was three years old (Buhler 1981). When Gauss was 10, the village schoolmaster
            thought to keep his large class occupied by computing the sum of the integers
            from one to 100. Moments later he was startled to see little Carl at his
            desk with just a single number on his slate; ´there ’tis,’ said the
            boy and then sat with his hands folded while the rest of the class toiled
            on. In the end, only Carl had the correct answer (Dunnington 1955). The
            boy had at once perceived that the problem reduced to (1+100) + (2+99)
            + … + (50+51) = 50(101) = 5050. To believe that some extraordinary accident
            of experience created this Prince out of ordinary clay is to believe in
            magic.

            The great Hindu mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, whom Mark Kac called
            a ´magical genius’ (Kolata 1987), was reared in a one-room adobe
            hut in southern India and his mathematical education consisted primarily
            of two books, both in a foreign language (J.Borwein and P.Borwein 1988).
            In 1913, with the help of a better-educated friend, Ramanujan wrote from
            Madras to the great G.H. Hardy at Cambridge, asking his opinion of some
            120 theorems which were enclosed. Hardy reports that some of these were
            classical though obscure; others were in Hardy’s own area and he managed
            to prove them himself:

             

              ´though with a good deal more trouble than I had expected….
              The formulae 110–113 are on a different level and obviously both difficult
              and deep…. I had never seen anything the least like them before. A single
              look at them is enough to show that they could only be written down by
              a mathematician of the highest class. They must be true because, if they
              were not true, no one would have had the imagination to invent them.’

              G. H. Hardy 1940

              Suppose that Gauss or Ramanujan had been born with a healthy MZ twin
              who was spirited away to be reared by some country parson in Oxfordshire.
              Barring cholera or other accident, is it not likely that the parson’s surname
              too would now be immortal? Ramanujan died young without offspring; his
              parents and one brother apparently were unexceptional. Although Gauss provided
              rich stimulation and opportunity for his six offspring (by two different
              and highly cultivated wives), none of them distinguished themselves.[7]
              But if the genius of these men was prefigured in their genes, why was it
              never manifested elsewhere in their lineage? The answer is, I think, that
              genius consists of unique configurations of attributes that cannot be transmitted
              in half-helpings.

              Michael Faraday, the premier experimental scientist of his generation,
              was the self-taught son of a humble blacksmith. Knight refers to Faraday’s
              ´curious mixture, or perhaps we should say compound, of humility
              and pride.’ (Knight 1985); biographers of people of genius often allude
              in this way to interactions or configurations of their subjects’ attributes.
              We know that Shakespeare, too, came from undistinguished stock, that this
              foremost wordsmith in our history had numerous siblings and several children,
              none of whom left any trace—or any word —behind them (Parrott 1938).
              An American genius, Benjamin Franklin, was one of a large family and sired
              two children of his own, all of them members of the common generality of
              humankind (Garfield 1982). The configurality of genius is dramatically
              illustrated in the life’s work of another extraordinary American, Gutzon
              Borglum, the sculptor, engineer, inventor, entrepreneur who carved Mount
              Rushmore (Shaff 1985). However one evaluates the esthetic or the ecological
              impact of transforming a mountain into a frieze of presidential heads,
              this prodigious monument will survive the millennia because of the configuration
              of prodigious talents, each of them essential to the project, that were
              combined in this singular individual. One of the luminaries of 20th Century
              science, John von Neumann, was capable of such extraordinary intellectual
              feats that some of his colleagues were led to suggest that von Neumann’s
              brain ´might be an emergent organ, of a different order of complexity
              than those of ordinary mortals.’ (Campbell 1988, p.103). Genius of this
              caliber seems to be not just an abundance of one or several components
              such as IQ, but rather a harmony of attributes, a compound rather than
              merely a mixture.

              A Exceptional endowment or exceptional endeavor?

              On reading Hereditary genius, by his cousin, Francis Galton,
              Charles Darwin wrote: ´You have made a convert of an opponent in
              one sense, for I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did
              not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think
              [this] is an eminently important difference.’ Thomas Edison, too, believed
              that genius was ninety-nine per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration
              and he ´often work[ed] as many as 112 hours a week’ (McAuliffe 1995).
              Isaac Newton, asked how he made his remarkable discoveries, replied: ´I
              keep the subject constantly before me and wait until the first dawnings
              open little by little into the full light’ (Andrade 1956).

              Hardy told of a visit he made to Ramanujan ´when he was lying
              ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi-cab No. 1729, and remarked that the
              number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not a bad
              omen. “No,” he replied, “it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest
              number expressible as a sum of two cubes in two different ways”‘ (Newman
              1956). It was said of Ramanujan that every number was his friend and he
              had plainly thought about and stored away many interesting facts about
              most of the lower integers. At the age of 10 or 12 he could recite the
              values of pi and the square root of two to any number of decimal
              places. Because mathematics was his only interest as a boy, he had failed
              his scholarship examinations in India. Could it be that Ramanujan’s exceptional
              achievements resulted, not from exceptional endowments but, rather, from
              the fact that, like Newton, he had kept the one subject of his interest
              constantly before him since his childhood?

              In 1960, at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
              in Palo Alto, Dutch psychologist Adrian de Groot, an expert on the psychology
              of chess and a chess master himself, simultaneously played and defeated
              20 chess duffers like myself. He was not allowed even to see one chess
              board presided over by two of the Center Fellows who thought themselves
              to be relatively accomplished players. Well into the game, after they announced
              the next move they had decided on, de Groot pointed out that their proposed
              move was impossible; although they had the chess pieces arrayed before
              them while he had only his mental image to rely on, they got it wrong while
              he got it right. De Groot himself had played—and been easily beaten—by
              the future grand master, Bobby Fisher, when Fisher was a boy of twelve.
              De Groot was careful to point out, however, that even by that early age
              Fisher had played many thousands of chess games and had derived from this
              experience a vast armamentarium of chess positions and strategy.

              The late Richard Feynman frequently disconcerted physicist colleagues
              by interrupting their explanations of new findings, to which they had devoted
              weeks or months of work, and quickly scrawling on a blackboard a more general
              result of which theirs was just a special case. Was this lightening-like
              calculation or was Feynman able to draw upon a ´storehouse of previously
              worked-out—and unpublished—knowledge’? Feynman’s biographer, James
              Gleick, describes a 1960s Caltech seminar at which astrophysicist Willy
              Fowler proposed that the recently discovered quasars were supermassive
              stars.

               

                ´Feynman immediately rose, astonishingly, to say that such
                objects would be gravitationally unstable. Furthermore, he said that the
                instability followed from general relativity. The claim required a calculation
                of the subtle countervailing effects of stellar forces and relativistic
                gravity. Fowler thought he was talking through his hat. A colleague later
                discovered that Feynman had done a hundred pages of work on the problem
                years before. The Chicago astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar independently
                produced Feynman’s result—it was part of the work for which he won a
                Nobel Prize twenty years later. Feynman himself never bothered to publish.
                Someone with a new idea always risked finding, as one colleague said, “that
                Feynman had signed the guest book and already left.”‘

                (Gleick 1992)

                K.A. Ericsson (1990; Ericsson and Charness 1994; see also the chapter
                by Lehmann and Ericsson in this volume) has shown that remarkable feats
                of memory can be achieved by apparently unremarkable people after extensive
                practice. He has also shown, as the above examples attest, that most examples
                of exceptional performance, including those by people known as geniuses,
                are preceded by years of intense and single-minded application and practice.

                Ericsson and his colleagues have amassed a truly impressive body of
                evidence in support of their view that it is deliberate and intensive practice—rather
                than differences in native ability—that separates elite performers from
                the rest of us. With hundreds of hours of guided practice spaced over weeks
                or months, ordinary college students can learn to increase their digit
                span—the number of digits correctly repeated after hearing them read
                only once at a rate of one per second—by 10 times. There are techniques
                of calculation with which, after extensive practice, one can accomplish
                feats of mental arithmetic impossible for the untrained mind. The conditioning
                and practice of elite athletes changes their muscle strength, aerobic capacity,
                the speed of their reflexes, the size of their hearts, and even the relative
                proportions of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers, and it is these practice-produced
                effects rather than just native ability that is responsible for extraordinary
                athletic performance. The celebrated violinist at last night’s concert
                almost certainly practices more intensely and consistently than the members
                of the orchestra’s violin section. Elite performers tend to do less well
                as they get older but many of them also tend to practice less intensely
                as they age.

                Ericsson believes not only that genius and exceptional performance generally
                depends upon intensive years of practice but, moreover, that most of us,
                given the same teachers and similar preparation, could do as well as these
                elite performers do. Ericsson and Charness (1994, p.744) are willing to
                acknowledge that genetic differences in temperament and ´preferred
                activity level’ may determine which of us go for the gold but, curiously,
                they cling to the assumption that individual genetic differences in both
                physical and mental capacities are not important, perhaps nonexistent.
                This would require us to believe that most children could acquire perfect
                pitch and the ability to reproduce compositions after a single hearing
                if only we listened to music as long and as intently as Blind Tom and Leslie
                Lemke did, or draw from memory a construction site after a brief glance,
                as Sack’s savant Steven did. We should have to suppose, as Lewontin seems
                to imply, that almost any of our children could become world-class athletes,
                given the right training and the appropriate temperament. We must also
                accept the proposition that little Gauss’s ability to correct his father’s
                arithmetic at three and confound his school master at ten resulted, not
                from extraordinary mental hardware, but from mental software acquired through
                self-directed practice in an intellectually unstimulating environment.

                Those of us who have studied MZ twins reared apart from one another
                find these assumptions, which are the concept of radical environmentalism
                in different clothes, incredible. We cannot believe that MZA twins correlate
                .75 in IQ merely because, in their separate environments, their similarities
                in temperament led them to indulge in very similar amounts of practice
                on very similar topics. One set of Bouchard’s MZA triplets each were on
                their high school’s wrestling team before they ever knew of each other’s
                existence. I think this was because they shared a configuration of genetic
                traits, physical and mental, that made them interested in—and good at—this
                particular sport. More generally, I think that one reason, although not
                the only reason, that most elite performers engage in the dedicated pursuit
                of excellence in their specialty is that they are naturally good at it
                from the start so that their early efforts are rewarded by early success.

                I think we must agree with Ericsson, however, that works of genius tend
                to be the product of minds enriched by years of concentrated effort. Isaac
                Newton often became so caught up in cerebration that he would forget to
                eat or sleep. Edwin Land, inventor of the instant Polaroid camera and of
                a sophisticated computational theory of color vision, sometimes worked
                at his desk for 36 hours or more, unaware of the passage of time until
                he felt faint on standing up. Similar stories were told of Edison. It does
                not follow, however, that these were ordinary minds to begin with.

                Edison, Feynman, Land, and Newton all from their boyhood had intense
                curiosity, an enthusiasm or zeal for discovery and understanding. Each
                of them was able to take seriously hypotheses that others thought to be
                implausible (or had not thought about at all). All four possessed a kind
                of intellectual arrogance that permitted them to essay prodigious tasks,
                to undertake to solve problems that most of their contemporaries believed
                to be impossible. And each of them had quite extraordinary powers of concentration.
                Even Darwin, plagued as he was by physical miseries that would have invalided
                most men, somehow mustered mental energy enough to pursue the painstaking
                researches that yielded the thousands of facts with which he built his
                theory and defended it against so many critics.

                B Mental energy

                What is this ´mental energy’ that powers minds of genius, from
                Newton to Mozart to Ramanujan? Surely it is partly a function of motivation.
                I can think longer and harder about ideas that interest me or, to phrase
                it differently, about problems I see to be steps toward some goal that
                I covet. But I cannot think long and hard about Fermat’s Last Conjecture
                because I haven’t a clue about how to solve that problem, no matter how
                much I should enjoy being the one to achieve that objective. If, as a boy,
                I had been able to run faster or kick a football further than my fellows
                could, I might have worked long and hard on improving those talents. But
                I could not and I did not. Who can doubt that one reason Bobby Fisher played
                so many games of chess so young was that he found from the start that he
                had a gift for the game? Yet, mental energy is not entirely a function
                of motivation and a sense of making progress. I have an eminent colleague,
                the psychologist Paul Meehl, who has always been able to read at least
                six books to my one. He does not read faster than I do nor with greater
                initial interest. I do not believe that he is more strongly motivated than
                I am to learn what the books have to teach (although, with his superior
                memory, he does have the advantage of knowing that more of what he reads
                will stay with him!). The fact is that, although I am probably his equal
                in physical energy, while reading technical material my eyelids begin to
                droop long before his do. I have spent in my life untold hours happily
                reading, writing, analyzing data, writing computer programs, full of the
                sense of enjoyable accomplishment—but never for more than four or five
                hours at a stretch, 10 or 12 hours in a day. It is inconceivable that I
                could work productively at any intellectual task for 36 consecutive hours,
                not if my life depended on it.

                Most recognized geniuses, in contrast, seem to possess remarkable powers
                of concentration. Archimedes’s ´awesome mathematical talent was augmented
                by an ability to devote himself single-mindedly to any problem at hand
                in extraordinary periods of intense, focused concentration. At such times,
                the more mundane concerns of life were simply ignored. We learn from Plutarch
                that Archimedes would:

                 

                  “forget his food and neglect his person, to that degree that when
                  he was occasionally carried by absolute violence to bathe or have his body
                  anointed, he used to trace geometrical figures in the ashes of the fire,
                  and diagrams in the oil on his body, being in a state of entire preoccupation,
                  and, in the truest sense, divine possession with his love and delight in
                  science.”‘
                  (Dunham 1990).

                  Referring to Newton, John Maynard Keynes has said:

                   

                    ´His peculiar gift was the power of holding continuously in
                    his mind a purely mental problem until he had seen straight through it.
                    I fancy his preeminence is due to his muscles of intuition being the strongest
                    and most enduring with which a man has ever been gifted. Anyone who has
                    ever attempted pure scientific or philosophical thought knows how one can
                    hold a problem momentarily in one’s mind and apply all one’s powers of
                    concentration to piercing through it, and how it will dissolve and escape
                    and you find that what you are surveying is a blank. I believe that Newton
                    could hold a problem in his mind for hours and days and weeks until it
                    surrendered to him its secret. Then being a supreme mathematical technician
                    he could dress it up, how you will, for purposes of exposition, but it
                    was his intuition which was pre-eminently extraordinary—“so happy in
                    his conjectures”, said de Morgan, “as to seem to know more than he could
                    possibly have any means of proving.”‘
                    — J. M. Keynes 1956

                     
                    Psychologists are not yet able to measure individual differences in mental
                    energy, independent of motivational factors, but there can be no doubt
                    at all that some people have more of this resource than others do and I
                    am confident that these are differences in native endowment. If I seem
                    to be claiming here to know, like Newton, more than I possibly have any
                    means of proving, let me explain how I do know it. There is no doubt that
                    now, at age 67, my own stores of mental energy—my poor ´muscles
                    of intuition’—are considerably weaker now than they were at 27. In his
                    A Mathematician’s Apology (1969), G.H. Hardy remarks that ´mathematics,
                    more than any other art or science, is a young man’s game…I do not know
                    an instance of a major mathematical advance initiatied by a man past fifty.’
                    (p.78). It seems a reasonable postulate that powers which vary within an
                    individual at different times must also vary between individuals at any
                    time. Quoting Hardy again, Newton’s ´greatest ideas of all, fluxions
                    and the law of gravitation, came to him about 1666, when he was twenty-four.’
                    (p.78). Surely Newton’s mind, at fifty, was even more enriched by years
                    of concentrated effort than it was at twenty-four, yet he had given up
                    mathematics by age fifty, presumably because some power(s?) of mind, already
                    in full flood at twenty-four, had ebbed.

                    If Edison, Fineman, Gauss, and Newton had all been intensely tutored
                    from the age of three by brilliant parents, as J.S. Mill was, then I might
                    at least consider the possibility that my own mental muscles might have
                    been stronger if my own parents had been more demanding. But they were
                    not and I will not. ´When you see [Edison’s] mind at play in his
                    notebooks, the sheer multitude and richness of his ideas makes you recognize
                    that there is something that can’t be understood easily—that we may never
                    be able to understand.’ (historian Paul Israel, quoted in McAuliffe 1995).
                    I think what lies at the heart of these mysteries is genetic, probably
                    emergenic. The configuration of traits of intellect, mental energy, and
                    temperament with which, during the plague years of 1665–6, Isaac Newton
                    revolutionized the world of science were, I believe, the consequence of
                    a genetic lottery that occurred about nine months prior to his birth, on
                    Christmas day, in 1642. 

                    REFERENCES

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                    Vol.I. (ed J. Newman) Simon & Schuster, New York.

                    Borwein, J.M., and Borwein, P.B. (1988). Ramanujan and pi. Scientific
                    American, 258, 112-17.

                    Bouchard, T.J.Jr., & Lykken, D.T. (in press). Genetic and environmental
                    influence on correlates of creativity. In 1995 Henry B. & Joselyn
                    Wallace National Symposium on Talent Development (ed N.C. Colangelo
                    & S.G. Assouline) pp. nnn-nnn. Iowa City, Iowa:

                    Bouchard, T.J.Jr., & McGue, M. (1981). Familial studies of intelligence:
                    A review. Science, 212, 1055-1059.

                    Bouchard, T.J.Jr., Lykken, D.T., McGue, M., Segal, N.L., & Tellegen,
                    A. (1990). Sources of human psychological differences: The Minnesota Study
                    of Twins Reared Apart. Science, 250, 223-228.

                    Buhler, W.K. (1981). Gauss: A biographical study. Springer-Verlag,
                    Berlin.

                    Campbell, J. (1988). Grammatical man. Simon & Schuster, New
                    York. Degler, C. N. (1991). In search of human nature. Oxford University
                    Press.

                    Dunham, W. (1990). Journey through genius”. John Wiley &
                    Sons, New York.

                    Dunnington, G.W. (1955). Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of science.
                    Hafner, New York.

                    Ericsson, K. A. (1990). Theoretical issues in the study of exceptional
                    performance. In Lines of thinking. Vol. 2. (ed K. Gilhooly, M. Keane,
                    R. Logie, and G. Erdospp), pp. 5-28. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., London.

                    Ericsson, K.A. and Charness, N. (1994). Expert performance: Its structure
                    and acquisition. American Psychologist, 49, 725-47.

                    Freeman, D. (1992). Paradigms in collision. Academic Questions, 5,
                    23-33.

                    Garfield, E. (1982). Benjamin Franklin: Philadelphia’s Scientist Extraordinaire.
                    Current Contents, #40, 5-12.

                    Gleick, J. (1992). Genius: The life and science of Richard Feynman.
                    New York: Pantheon Books.

                    Hardy, G.H. (1940). Ramanujan: Twelve lectures suggested by his life
                    and work. Cited by Newman, J.R. (1956). Srinivasa Ramanujan. In The
                    world of mathematics Vol.I. (ed. J. Newman) pp. 368-80. Simon &
                    Schuster, New York.

                    Hardy, G.H. (1969). A mathematician’s apology. Cambridge: Cambridge
                    University Press.

                    Keynes, J. M. (1956). Newton the man. In The world of mathematics
                    Vol.I. (ed J.R.Newman) Simon & Schuster, New York.

                    Knight, D.M. (1985). In Faraday rediscovered. (ed D. Gooding
                    and F. James) Stockton, New York.

                    Kolata, G. (1987). Remembering a ‘magical genius.’ Science, 236,
                    1519-21.

                    Lewontin, R. C. (1992). Human diversity. Scientific American
                    Books, New York.

                    Lewontin, R.C., Rose, S., & Kamin, L.J. (1984). Not in our genes.
                    New York: Pantheon.

                    Lykken. D. T. (1995). The antisocial personalities. Lawrence
                    Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.

                    Lykken, D. T., Bouchard, T. J., McGue, M., and Tellegen, A. (1992).
                    Emergenesis: genetic traits that do not run in families. American Psychologist,
                    47, 1565-77

                    Lykken, D. T., Bouchard, T. J., McGue, M., and Tellegen, A. (1993).
                    Heritability of interests: A twin study. Journal of Applied Psychology,
                    78, 649-61.

                    Lykken, D. T., and Tellegen, A. (1996). Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon.
                    Psychological Science

                    McAuliffe, K. (1995). The undiscovered world of Thomas Edison. The
                    Atlantic Monthly, December, 80-93.

                    McGue, M., Bouchard, T.J.Jr., Iacono, W.G. & Lykken, D.T. (1993).
                    Behavior genetics of cognitive ability: A life-span perspective. In Nature,
                    nurture & psychology. (ed R. Plomin & G.E. McClearn ), pp.59-76.
                    Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                    Mead, M. (1949). Male and female. William Morrow, New York,

                    Newman, J. R. (1956). Scrinivasa Ramanujan. In The World of Mathematics.
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                    Parrott, T. M. (1938). Shakespeare. Scribner’s Sons, New York.

                    Plomin, R., DeFries, J.C., and Loehlin, J. C. (1977). Genotype-environment
                    interaction and correlation in the analysis of human behavior. Psychological
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                    Sacks, (1995). An anthropologist on Mars. Knopf, New York.

                    Scarr, S. and McCartney, K. (1983). How people make their own environments:
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                    424-35.

                    Shaff, H. (1985). Six wars at a time: The life and times of Gutzon
                    Borglum. Permelia, Darien, CN.

                    Solomon, A. (1996). Questions of genius. The New Yorker, August
                    26, 112-123.

                    Tellegen, A., Lykken, D.T., Bouchard, T., Wilcox, K., Segal, N. and
                    Rich, S. (1988). Personality similarity in twins reared apart and together.
                    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1031-39.

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                    Wilson, E. O. (1978). On human nature. Harvard University Press,
                    Cambridge, MA.


                    [1] 
                    Portions of this chapter were modified, with permission, from: Lykken
                    et al., (1992) and from Lykken (1995).

                    [2]
                    Although radical environmentalism often is adopted for political or ideological
                    reasons, “radical” in this context is used in the sense of “extreme.”

                    [3]
                    For a sophisticated modern assertion of the Marxist opposition to
                    “biological determinism” see Lewontin, Rose, and Kamin (1984).

                    [4]
                    The question about Newton would be meaningful if we had measures,
                    in standard score form that permits comparisons with people in general,
                    of his genetic potentials and of his environmental influences.

                    [5]
                    This man, an acquaintance of my colleague, J.J. Bouchard, Jr., was kind
                    enough to provide our research group with an outline of his autobiography.

                    [6]
                    The Kentucky Derby, the Pimlico, and the Belmont Stakes comprise the three
                    great annual events—the “crowning” events—of American Thoroughbred
                    flat-racing

                    .[7]
                    Gauss’s second son, Eugene, emigrated to the United States in 1830, enlisted
                    in the army, and later went into business in Missouri. Eugene is said to
                    have had some of his father’s gift for languages and the ability to
                    perform prodigious arithmetic calculations, which he did
                    for recreation after his sight failed him in old age.

      http://cogprints.org/611/1/genius.html

      THE GENETICS OF GENIUS

      Lykken, David.  The Genetics of Genius to appear
      in: A. Steptoe (Ed.), Genius and the Mind: Studies of Creativity and
      Temperament in the Historical Record
      . Copyright Oxford University Press. 



       

      THE GENETICS OF GENIUS

      David T. Lykken
       

       

      Professor David T Lykken
      Department of Psychology
      Elliott Hall
      University of Minnesota
      Minneapolis
      MN 55455
      USA

      Tel:  (612) 625-6331

      e-mail: dlykken@tfs.psych.umn.edu

      Chapter Heading – The Genetics of Genius[1]

       

      ´Since each individual produced by the sexual process
      contains a unique set of genes, very exceptional combinations of genes
      are unlikely to appear twice even within the same family. So if genius
      is to any extent hereditary, it winks on and off through the gene pool
      in a way that would be difficult to measure or predict. Like Sisyphus rolling
      his boulder up to the top of the hill only to have it tumble down again,
      the human gene pool creates hereditary genius in many ways in many places
      only to have it come apart in the next generation.’
      — E. O. Wilson
      1978

      Psychologists once thought, simplistically, that genius was nothing
      more than high general intelligence, the capacity measured by the intelligence
      quotient
      or IQ. IQ scores of 140 and above, attained by perhaps four
      in every thousand youngsters, were classified as in the ´genius range.’
      Stanford University’s Lewis Terman, who was responsible for revising and
      standardizing the first individually-administered IQ test, the Stanford-Binet,
      identified some 1500 gifted children with IQs in this range and Terman’s
      gifted group have now been followed through middle age. Most of them have
      led relatively successful lives but none of them, so far as I am aware,
      would be classified as geniuses today.

      At the other end of the IQ scale, a rare few of retarded or autistic
      persons, known as savants, can quickly specify the day of the week
      on which any date in history fell or, although unable to read music, can
      play on the piano any composition after just a single hearing. These highly
      specialized abilities seem all the more remarkable in people whose general
      intelligence may be so low that they are dependent on others for their
      care and sustenance. Autistic savants are not geniuses either, of course,
      but these remarkable people seem to me to illustrate an important fact
      about the structure of mind.

      A Autism and the modular brain

      Autism was first described in 1944 and is extremely variable in its
      manifestations. Some autists seem to be profoundly retarded and never develop
      language. Others, often labeled Asperger’s syndrome, have normal or superior
      IQs. One common theme in autism is an extraordinary lack of social motivation
      and social intelligence. Most autistic children are unresponsive to people,
      even to their mothers, and dislike being held or fondled. Unlike normal
      children, they do not seem to see other members of their species as especially
      interesting, to be studied and imitated. This may explain why even high-level
      autists tend to be slow in language development and why, in spite of sometimes
      high general intelligence, they remain insensitive to social cues. Asperger
      children seem to be unable to identify with other persons and therefore
      unable to anticipate how others will react to what they do. Another rare
      congenital abnormality, Williams’ syndrome, presents the antithesis of
      autism. Children with Williams’ syndrome are verbally and socially precocious,
      they ´often appear exceptionally self-possessed, articulate, and
      witty, and only gradually is their mental deficit borne in on one.’ (Sacks
      1995, p. 223)

      A normal child has an innate fear of snakes and spiders, a reaction
      not shown to guns or electric sockets although the latter are more dangerous.
      Evolutionary psychologists point out that human toddlers back in the Pleistocene
      who instinctively avoided snakes and spiders were somewhat more likely
      in consequence to live to maturity and to become our ancestors. Since natural
      selection works slowly, such a reaction to electric sockets has not yet
      evolved. In a similar way, it was adaptive for ancestral infants to be
      fascinated by their mother’s faces, to recognize an affinity with other
      creatures like themselves, to study and imitate them. This special-purpose
      ´mental module’ facilitated learning language and the other skills
      required for social living. It would appear that this social-intelligence
      module is well-developed in Williams’ syndrome, in spite of low general
      intelligence, but poorly developed in Asperger’s syndrome even when general
      intelligence is normal.

      Retarded or autistic savants seem to betoken the existence of other
      special-purpose modules that are capable of efficient functioning even
      in the presence of a low IQ. Neurologist Oliver Sacks describes some of
      these prodigies, such as Jedediah Buxton, a simpleminded laborer, who was
      a prodigious calculator. ´When asked what would be the cost of shoeing
      a horse with 140 nails if the price was one farthing for the first nail,
      then doubled for each remaining nail, he arrived at the figure of 725,958,096,074,907,868,531,656,993,638,851,106
      pounds, 2 shillings and 8 pence.’ (Sacks, p. 191). When asked to square
      this number, he produced the 78-digit answer after 10 weeks’ time during
      which he did his work, held conversations, lived his life, while his astonishing
      calculating engine continued to grind away at the problem. A savant studied
      by Sacks personally could recite the entire nine volumes of Grove’s 1954
      Dictionary of Music and Musicians which had been read to him once
      by his father.

      ´Blind Tom’, a slave child, was born in the 1850s nearly blind
      and he was unable to speak until age five or six, yet from the age of four,
      ´seated at the piano, he would play beautiful tunes, his little hands
      having already taken possession of the keys, and his wonderful ears of
      any combination of notes they had once heard.’ (Sacks, p. 189). Tested
      at age 11 by musicologists, who played for him two entirely new compositions,
      13 and 20 pages in length, Tom ´reproduced them perfectly and with
      the least apparent effort.’ Like Mozart, Tom could perform on the piano
      with his back to the keyboard and his hands inverted. It is important to
      understand that the gifts of these autistic prodigies seem to go far beyond
      extraordinary rote memory. Leslie Lemke, a modern ´Blind Tom’, who
      also is congenitally blind and retarded, ´is as renowned for his
      improvisational powers as for his incredible musical memory. Lemke catches
      the style of any composer, from Bach to Bartok, after a single hearing,
      and can thereafter play any piece or improvise, effortlessly, in that style.’
      (Sacks, p.224). The autistic man who could recite all of Grove’s Dictionary
      was also a musical prodigy. Martin, although retarded, ´had a musical
      intelligence fully up to appreciating all the structural rules and complexities
      of Bach, all the intricacies of contrapuntal and fugal writing; he had
      the musical intelligence of a professional musician.’ (Sacks, p.222).

      Sacks also describes artistic prodigies such as Nadia, who ´suddenly
      started drawing at the age of three and a half, rendering horses, and later
      a variety of subjects, in a way that psychologists considered ‘not possible.’
      Her drawings, they felt, were qualitatively different from those of other
      children; she had a sense of space, an ability to depict appearances and
      shadows, a sense of perspective such as the most gifted normal child might
      only develop at three times her age.’ (Sacks, p.194). Stephen, a profoundly
      autistic child, was consigned at age four to a London school for the developmentally
      disabled. When he was five, Stephen began drawing, primarily cars and sometimes
      ´wickedly clever’ caricatures of his teachers. At age seven, he began
      to specialize in drawing buildings, such as St.Paul’s Cathedral ´and
      other London landmarks, in tremendous detail, when other children his age
      were just drawing stick figures. It was the sophistication of his drawings,
      their mastery of line and perspective, that amazed me—and these were
      all there when he was seven.’ (Sacks, p.199). Steven could draw from memory
      a complex scene (e.g., a construction site) viewed only for a few seconds
      but he also had an intuitive grasp for artistic and architectural style.
      Repeated drawings from memory of Sacks’ house over the period of a year
      varied considerably in detail but not at all in style. Similar repeated
      renderings of Matisse paintings varied also, proving that he was not ´merely’
      faithfully copying a vivid visual memory but, rather, that he was improvising
      Ă  la Matisse.

      Examples like these have led psychologists to postulate the existence
      of numerous special intelligences which are seen in these savant cases
      in especially stark relief against a background of general intellectual
      poverty. It is of great importance to realize that such savant-like talents
      can also co-exist with high intelligence and in the absence of autism.
      The young concert pianist, Evgeny Kissin, “the most phenomenal prodigy
      of our time” (Solomon, 1996, p. 113), at 11 months, spontaneously sang
      an entire Bach fugue that his older sister had been practicing. At 30 months,
      “Genya sat down at the old Bechstein on which his mother taught and picked
      out with one finger some of the tunes he had been singing. The next day,
      he did the same again, and on the third day he played with both hands,
      using all his fingers…Chopin’s ballades he would play with those little
      hands, as well as Beethoven sonatas and Liszt rhapsodies.” (p.115). The
      literary genius, Vladimir Nabokov, possessed ´a prodigious calculating
      gift, but this disappeared suddenly and completely, he wrote, following
      a high fever, with delirium, at the age of seven.’ (Sacks, p.226). The
      intellectually normal Chinese artist, Yani, displayed her artistic powers
      as early as did Nadia or Stephen and Sacks describes another gifted young
      man, now doing fundamental research in chemistry, who could read fluently
      and with comprehension at age two or repeat and even harmonize with any
      melody at the same age, and who did remarkable drawings with perspective
      at age three. Thus, it does not seem to be the case that savant-like gifts
      result from the conscription of all intellectual resources in the service
      of a single function.

      This idea of a modular intelligence contrasts with the view of the brain
      as merely a general-purpose computer. the power of which can be assessed
      just by a single number, the IQ. Yet general intelligence is both real
      and important. Its role may be like that of the conductor of an orchestra
      in which the brass, percussion, strings, and woodwinds are the special-purpose
      modules. Like the best orchestral conductors, the computer-intelligence
      knows all of the parts but cannot play the flute as well as the flutist
      can; the conductor’s function is to evaluate and to coordinate. Temple
      Grandin, a highly intelligent autistic woman and a college professor, learned
      to use her general intelligence to compensate for her deficient social
      sensitivity (Grandin 1986).

      There is a useful analogy between the domains of mental and physical
      talent. Each Olympic sport makes different demands on different muscle
      groups, reaction times, gross or fine motor coordination, and so on. Because
      of their different genetic endowment, it is unlikely that any world-class
      distance runner could have become instead a world-class sprinter or weight-lifter
      or gymnast. Yet all world-class athletes have an unusual degree of general
      athletic ability. That is, if we were to construct a series of special
      tests designed to tap each athlete’s special abilities, it is likely that
      the scores on all these tests would intercorrelate positively—would form
      what is called a ´positive manifold’, both for the mixed group of
      world-class athletes and also for people in general. If we were to construct
      a soccer team of Olympic runners, sprinters, pole-vaulters, gymnasts, and
      boxers, they would likely beat any other scratch soccer team—except one
      comprised of potential world-class soccer players.

      If we were to construct special tests for each of the several varieties
      of savant, tests designed to quantify their remarkable special abilities,
      we can be confident that, when administered to a sample of the general
      population, scores on these tests also would form a positive manifold.
      Good tonal memory would tend to go with good visual and conceptual memory
      as well as with the ability for mental computation (this correlation among
      the strengths of the mental modules is far from perfect, however; I know
      people no smarter than I am who have much better memories, for example).
      Retarded savants are remarkable not just because of a particular gift but
      also because of the absence of the related gifts that normally go with
      it.

      Every acknowledged human genius seems to have had at least a good general
      intelligence together with an assortment of other gifts or attributes
      which, in mutually facilitating cohabitation, led to the extraordinary
      achievements that are the ultimate basis for classification into this special
      category. One of the ingredients in the recipe for genius, and which I
      believe may be as essential as general intelligence, is an exceptional
      degree of mental energy, permitting protracted periods of intensely focused
      concentration on the project in hand. Our question in this chapter has
      to do with the origins of these interacting attributes. Is it true that
      ´genius must be born and never can be taught’, as Dryden claimed?
      Or, can genius be achieved? Is genius something that a doting parent can
      ´thrust upon’ an otherwise ordinary child?

      First, however, we need to address the curious fact that there are many
      people, including social scientists, even some geneticists—highly educated
      people who ought to know better—who believe that the human nervous system,
      unlike that of any other mammal, is unaffected by the same heritable variation
      that is obvious in the body’s morphology. It follows from this postulate
      of radical environmentalism[2]
      that every normal human infant, however distinctive in size, shape, and
      appearance, must arrive equipped with a brain that is essentially identical
      in structure and capacity with every other new brain, just as all new Macintosh
      computers are essentially identical when they arrive from the factory.
      What differences in intellect, interests, character, or personality are
      to be found later in the adult must, in this view, be attributable solely
      to differences in subsequent experience or programming.

      A Radical environmentalism

      During the middle half of the 20th century, most social scientists and
      many intellectuals came to ´hold these truths to be self-evident,
      that all men are created equal…’ and to interpret this fine phrase to
      mean biological equality. The fact is, however, that Jefferson modeled
      this first sentence of the American Declaration of Independence
      after the language of the constitution that had just been drafted for the
      state of Virginia. That document read like this: ´That all men are
      born equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights…’
      Jefferson kept the music but changed the words slightly for rhetorical
      effect. No practical man of that period would have given credence to the
      notion that all humans are biologically equal.

      Charles Darwin (1809–82) was a scientist and scientists have to be
      practical people because they study the world of nature rather than the
      mistier realm of philosophy. Darwin knew that the offspring tend to resemble
      the parents. The great controversy over Darwin’s Origin of Species and
      … the Descent of Man
      was not about whether people’s physiognomy and
      character tended to reflect their ancestry; like the invention of the wheel,
      the origins of that idea date back to prehistory. Animal breeders well
      knew that temperament, as well as running speed in horses or milk production
      in cows, reflected the animal’s parentage and every dog fancier was aware
      that terriers were aggressive and sheep dogs inclined to herd things and
      that these behavioral traits tended to breed true.

      Throughout most of human history, people have assumed that the same
      thing is true of our species, that smart parents tend to have smart children,
      that the offspring of athletes tend to enjoy sports, that mean parents
      often have mean offspring. But certain European philosophers, not being
      practical men, did entertain the notion, following John Locke (1632–1704),
      that the minds of human babies begin as identical blank slates to be written
      on solely by experience. One important radical environmentalist was the
      British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806–73), a contemporary of Darwin.

      C John Stuart Mill

      Mill was the eldest child of James Mill, a brilliant Scots historian
      and philosopher, and James educated his firstborn son himself. Little John
      Stuart was reading by the age of three, he was reading Greek at five, and
      by the age of eight he had read all of Herodotus and all of Plato’s Dialogues
      in the original. By the ripe old age of 12, John Stuart had mastered algebra
      and Euclid’s geometry; he had read all the standard Greek and Latin classics
      in those languages, and he was beginning the serious study of Adam Smith,
      Ricardo, and other political economists.

      It is perhaps not surprising that, in his later life, Mill was inclined
      to attribute his own intellectual achievements to that extraordinary and
      intensive early training. What Mill failed to take into account, however,
      was that he had benefited, not only from his father’s determined and ambitious
      educational efforts, but also from having received a half-helping of his
      brilliant father’s genes.

      It was not until the 20th century, however, that large numbers of intellectuals
      took up radical environmentalism as an article of faith. They arrived at
      this common delusion from different starting points and for a variety of
      reasons.

      B Marxism

      Karl Marx wanted to refute the prevailing assumption that the existing
      class structure of society was somehow preordained by God or human nature.
      Like many non-Marxist economists of today, he saw human individuals as
      interchangeable pawns at the mercy of economic forces and his utopian vision
      required that these same pawns, arrayed on a different board with different
      rules, would all behave alike and in their mutual interest. Lamarck’s (1744–1829)
      belief that acquired characteristics might be passed along genetically
      from parent to child provided what appeared to be a mechanism for achieving
      a new world order and became a part of neo-Marxist dogma. The Marxist scientists
      who still lead the attack on what they regard as the hereditarian heresy
      are too sophisticated to espouse Lamarckian ideas, but they cling to the
      egalitarian dream because they cannot imagine achieving the greatest good
      for the greatest number unless that dream is true.[3]

      B Liberalism

      Political liberals, too, were concerned about the evils of oppression,
      both political and economic, and they believed that the achievements of
      the privileged classes were largely a consequence of that privilege rather
      than of some innate superiority. They reacted especially against Herbert
      Spencer’s (1820–1903) Social Darwinism and his claim that the structure
      of Victorian society reflected the ´survival of the fittest,’ the
      workings of a natural law which we cannot change and with which we should
      not tamper. Upper class white males took for granted the genetic superiority
      of their race and gender and considered their dominant social position
      to be a birth right. The liberals believed, quite reasonably, that, with
      better living conditions and equivalent education, many children from the
      lower classes could excel in life’s race over many scions of the aristocracy.

      B Anthropology and Margaret Mead

      American cultural anthropology, led by Franz Boas (1858–1942), ´declared
      war on the idea that differences in culture derived from differences in
      innate capacity.’ (Degler, p. 62). By 1915, Alfred Kroeber, one of Boas’
      leading students, was asserting that: ´heredity cannot be allowed
      to have acted any part in history.’ (Degler, p.84). This position was most
      clearly articulated by another Boas disciple, Margaret Mead, whom he sent
      as a graduate student to the South Pacific with the aim of demonstrating
      that adolescence was less stormy and stressful in Samoa than in the United
      States because of cultural differences and, in particular, because of the
      greater sexual freedom allegedly enjoyed by young Samoans. Mead’s (1928)
      book, Coming of age in Samoa, the most widely read anthropological
      treatise ever published, propelled her into the front rank of social thinkers
      and her views were strongly stated and widely influential. ´We are
      forced to conclude,’ she wrote later, ´that human nature is almost
      unbelievably malleable, responding accurately and contrastingly to contrasting
      cultural conditions.’ (Degler, p.134). In her book Male and female,
      Mead explicitly asserted the radical environmentalist credo: ´Learned
      behaviors have replaced the biologically given ones.’ (Mead 1949, p. 216).

      Part of the impetus for Mead’s work throughout her distinguished career
      was her conviction that prevailing assumptions about psychological sex
      differences were mistaken and that cultural stereotypes, rather than innate
      genetic factors, play an important (she would say a decisive) role. We
      now know that Mead’s Samoan research was superficial and that her conclusions
      were based largely upon innocent deceptions practiced upon her by her young
      female Samoan informants (Freeman 1992). On the other hand, there is no
      doubt that there are marked differences in sexual attitudes and practices
      across human cultures and Mead was assuredly correct in insisting upon
      both the malleability of human culture and the important role that the
      culture plays in affecting human behavior. Her mistake, it seems to me,
      was in conflating human culture, which is relatively easy to change, with
      human nature, which is not.

      B Behaviorism

      The middle half of the 20th century was the heyday of behaviorism and
      many behaviorists tended to be radical environmentalists. One obvious reason
      for this tendency was the reluctance of behaviorists to theorize about
      mental mechanisms; if there are no theoretical constructs referring to
      the brain or mind, if one deals only with S–R (stimulus-response) relationships
      rather than with S–O–R relationships (where O stands for the organism
      or person), then it is difficult to account for individual differences,
      much less genetically determined differences. The founder of the movement,
      J. B. Watson, is famous for his claim:

       

        ´Give me a dozen healthy infants, well formed, and my own
        specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one
        at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor,
        lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless
        of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and the race
        of his ancestors.’
        (Watson 1924, p. 128).

        Nearly 60 years after Watson, the geneticist, Richard Lewontin, made
        an even more extravagant claim:

         

          ´Our genetic endowments confer a plasticity of psychic and
          physical development, so that in the course of our lives, from conception
          to death, each of us, irrespective of race, class, or sex, can develop
          virtually any identity that lies within the human ambit’
          (Lewontin
          1992, from author’s prĂŠcis on the book jacket).

           
          By claiming nearly limitless plasticity for both psychic and physical development,
          Lewontin suggested that ambitious parents can make their child not only
          into a doctor, lawyer, or, no doubt, a genius, at will, but also into a
          tennis champion or a basketball superstar, if that is what the child aspires
          to. Watson had only hubris and wishful thinking to back up his assertions.
          Lewontin’s challenge was greater because he had 60 years’ accumulation
          of data to contend with, most of it adverse to his startling hypothesis.
          That he chose to state it anyway is a triumph of ideology over reason and
          evidence. If it were true, Lewontin’s claim would impose a heavy burden
          of guilt on the parents of children who fail to achieve whatever ´identity’
          they hoped for; because it is not true, it seems to me that Lewontin’s
          claim is a kind of scandal.

          B Nazi Racism

          The views and deeds of Adolf Hitler may have had more influence on the
          nature–nurture question than Marx or Mead or any other thinker. Nazi notions
          about racial differences and Aryan superiority, the cruel experiments on
          twins conducted by Dr. Mengele and, above all, the barbaric ´final
          solution’ for the millions alleged to be genetically inferior, made it
          difficult for an entire generation of civilized people to be dispassionate
          about the role of heritable differences in human affairs. Radical environmentalism
          was no longer just an arguable scientific hypothesis but, rather, it became
          an article of antifascist faith, no longer debatable in politically correct
          society, not even on University campuses.

          B The Decline and Fall of Radical Environmentalism

          The long night of radical environmentalism seems, however, to be coming
          to an end. Throughout the period, occasional studies appeared showing that
          adoptees resembled psychologically their biological parents more than they
          resembled the adoptive parents who reared them. Twin and family studies
          accumulated, showing that the degree of resemblance of pairs of related
          individuals tends to parallel their degree of genetic relatedness. In recent
          years there has been a crescendo of twin and adoption studies with mutually
          corroborative results, and the pendulum of informed public opinion seems
          to be swinging in the direction toward which these findings point.

          It is once again possible for reasonable, educated people to acknowledge
          not only that we humans differ remarkably from one another in nearly every
          way imaginable but, moreover, that life would be unbearable, perhaps impossible,
          if this were not so. ´Individual differences are what make horse
          races’ as Mark Twain pointed out and of course he meant ´horses races’
          as a metaphor for all of social living. There are still some elderly survivors
          of the Long Dark lurking about; geneticist Lewontin, psychologist Leon
          Kamin, and paleontologist Stephen Gould are three of the better known examples.
          The dawn light hurts their eyes and they want to cling to the old egalitarian
          dream. They might finally awaken if they were to try seriously to imagine
          a world populated exclusively by genetic clones of themselves. If every
          other person had precisely my own innate gifts and limitations I know that
          life would be hell. In a world comprised of Gould’s, or Kamin’s, or Lewontin’s
          clones—of anyone’s clones—not just the state but civilization itself
          would wither quickly away. Our species since the earliest times has been
          dependent for its survival upon a division of labor within social groupings;
          an organization of specialists being more efficient than a mere congeries
          of individuals, the extended-family bands formed by our ancestors were
          therefore greater than just the sum of their component members. Our humanoid
          division of labor, in turn, has been especially successful because of our
          within-group differences in talents and interests.

          A The human genome

          The human genome, the book of instructions for the fabrication of an
          individual, consists of some 100,000 pairs of genes strung out rather like
          beads along the DNA molecules packed within each of our 23 pairs of chromosomes.
          This complete genetic blueprint is contained within the nucleus of nearly
          every cell of the body. Genes serve as patterns for making enzymes and
          other proteins. Each cell is like a chemical factory in which the enzymes
          are the chemists that synthesize the special molecules required for life.
          Most of the genes in the human genome are identical in all normal persons;
          they constitute the instructions that caused us to develop into Homo sapiens
          rather than into chimpanzees or butterflies or toadstools. Perhaps one-fourth
          of our genes are polymorphic; from one person to another in the
          human population there may be two to 20 or more slightly different genes,
          different alleles that can occupy the locus of a given polymorphic
          gene. For example, there is one pair of genes, located on homologous loci
          of one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human genome, that primarily
          determines eye color and there are two different alleles that can occur
          in that polymorphic locus. If both of your eye-color genes are of the blue
          type, then your eyes will be predominantly blue (although other genes will
          influence the particular shade of blue). If either or both of your eye-color
          genes are of the brown type, then your eyes will be predominantly brown.
          The brown-eye gene is said to be dominant over the blue type.

          Most traits that are of psychological interest, however, are metrical
          traits that vary in degree from person to person, as stature does. Metrical
          traits such as stature are polygenic, which means they are determined
          by the combined activity of many polymorphic genes. Your stature is the
          sum of the lengths of your head, your neck, your trunk and the long bones
          of your legs. Each of these components is designed by a different group
          of genes, some of them polymorphic, so that people differ from one another
          genetically in the lengths of each component part. Other polymorphic genes,
          such as those that determine the manufacture of the pituitary’s growth
          hormone, influence the length of all the parts so that the components are
          correlated in respect to size; people with long heads tend to have long
          femurs also. For these reasons, we say that stature, which is the sum of
          these component lengths, is determined by the additive action of many different
          polymorphic genes. As we shall see, most metrical psychological traits
          also owe an important portion of their variation among people to polygenic
          variation within the breeding group.

          C The great genetic lottery

          At conception, the mother’s ovum contains in its nucleus one gene more-or-less
          randomly selected from each of the approximately 100,000 gene pairs in
          her genome. The fertilizing sperm similarly contains some 100,000 single
          genes, one from each of the father’s complete set of gene pairs. At fertilization,
          these two random halves of the two parents’ genomes combine to form the
          genome of the child. If only 1000 of the 100,000 gene pairs in the human
          genome were polymorphic, the number of different, genetically unique offspring
          from all possible matings would exceed 10 followed by more than 600 zeros
          (21000 x 21000). From this we can safely conclude
          that each child produced by the great lottery of conception possesses a
          genetic blueprint that differs in at least some respects from any heretofore
          seen on earth.

          B Twins

          On the other hand, fortunately for science, there are twins. After conception,
          the fertilized ovum divides into two identical daughter cells each of which
          then divides again, and those four daughters again divide—beginning the
          embryological process that will lead to the creation of a human fetus.
          About four times in every 1000 conceptions, at one of these early cell
          divisions during the first two weeks or so, the embryo splits into two
          equal and separately viable parts. These two half-embryos will continue
          to develop into separate fetuses and, ultimately, two separate children
          who, because they began as a single zygote or fertilized egg, are
          known as monozygotic (MZ) twins. Because of their origins, MZ twins
          share the same genome and are genetically identical.

          Dizygotic (DZ) or fraternal twins occur when, for reasons still
          as obscure as the causes of MZ twinning, the mother produces more than
          one fertile ovum in the same ovulation period. When two (or more) ova are
          present, each can be fertilized by a different sperm and begin to develop
          into pairs (or more) of siblings who are genetically related just like
          ordinary siblings, each of them possessing different random halves of each
          parent’s genome so that, on the average, they will share about half of
          their polymorphic genes. DZ twins, like ordinary siblings, can share many
          more than half of their parent’s polymorphic genes and thus be remarkably
          similar, or they may share many fewer than half, and thus be genetically
          quite different. I have a photograph of one pair of DZ twins, young men
          who participated in one of our twin studies, who do not appear to be even
          from the same generation; one looks like the ´swinger’ nephew while
          the other might be his twin’s staid, accountant uncle.

          Because of their genetic identity, we know that differences within-pairs
          of MZ twins must be due to environmental causes. Environmental influences,
          of course, begin well before birth. Indeed, when one considers the almost
          unimaginable complexity of the steps involved in fabricating a child, it
          is astonishing that the building process hews as closely as it normally
          does to the blueprint provided in the genome. MZ twin babies differ in
          size, often in handedness, and sufficiently in other little ways so that
          their parents and close friends can generally tell them apart—and these
          small differences all are due to idiosyncratic environmental differences
          during development. As they grow up, however, MZ twins usually prove to
          be remarkably similar in temperament, in aptitudes, and interests, more
          so than pairs of DZ twins while the latter are generally more similar,
          both physically and psychologically, than random pairs of unrelated people.
          It was Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, who first realized
          the possibilities of using twins to study the heritability of psychological
          characteristics.

          B Heritability

          It is meaningless to ask whether Isaac Newton’s genius was due more
          to his genes or his environment, as meaningless as asking whether the area
          of a rectangle is due more to its length or its width. But if a certain
          group of rectangles vary in width between 1 and 10 inches but vary in length
          from 1 to 100 inches, then we can say, for the group, that the variation
          in their areas is more affected by the variation in their lengths than
          by the lesser variation in their widths.[4]
          Similarly, for people in general, it is meaningful to ask whether their
          genetic differences are more or less important than their differences in
          experience in producing the variation we observe in the traits involved
          in genius. The proportion of the total variation in any trait that is associated
          with genetic variation is called the heritability of that trait.

          It is important to understand that the heritability of most psychological
          traits tells us as much about the given culture as it does about human
          nature. It is likely (although we cannot be sure of this) that the amount
          of genetic variability among people within each human culture or breeding
          group is about the same. But environmental opportunities vary widely both
          within and between cultures. We would not expect to find a literary genius
          in a preliterate tribe in Papua New Guinea. In the Middle Ages, peasant
          children had much less opportunity to develop their intellectual capacities
          than the children of princes and the heritability of IQ then would have
          been decreased by this large amount of environmental variation. On the
          other hand, the fact that the heritability of IQ among the citizens of
          modern western democracies is on the order of 75 per cent suggests that
          these cultures have succeeded in providing environmental opportunity that
          is tolerably equal for all their children (at least for their white children;
          we are less sure about the heritability of IQ among, e.g., African Americans,
          for whom the relevant environmental variation may be greater).

          C Estimating Heritability

          As Galton anticipated, we can make use of both the social experiment
          of adoption and the biological experiment of twinning to estimate the heritability
          of traits. Children reared from infancy by adoptive parents will resemble
          their biological parents solely for genetic reasons. If the adoptive placements
          are random—if the adoptive parents are unrelated to the biological parents
          and are not selected to resemble them—then any similarity between the
          children and their adoptive parents will be due solely to environmental
          influences provided by the adoptive home. Twins reared together will resemble
          each other both for genetic reasons and because of their shared rearing
          experiences. If we assume that these environmental influences are the same
          for both MZ and DZ twins, then the greater similarity within MZ than DZ
          pairs must be due to the fact that MZ twins share all their polymorphic
          genes while DZ twins share, on average, only 50 per cent of theirs. A standard
          formula computes the heritability of a trait from twice the difference
          between the correlations of MZ and DZ twins on that trait. As explained
          below, however, the home environment has surprisingly little lasting effect
          on most traits so that a more accurate estimate of heritability is provided
          directly by the correlation between adult MZ cotwins.

          Twins who are adopted away in infancy and reared apart represent a rare
          and valuable combination of Galton’s two methods; apart from shared pre-natal
          influences, reared-apart twins resemble one another solely for genetic
          reasons. The correlation within pairs of MZ twins reared apart (MZA twins)
          on any trait is therefore a direct estimate of the heritability of that
          trait. It turns out that, for most traits, MZA twins resemble one another
          just about as much as do MZ twins reared together (MZT twins). This fact
          has two important implications. First, it indicates that being reared together
          in the same home does not usually serve to make siblings more alike psychologically
          when they are assessed as adults. This implication is confirmed by studies
          of unrelated adoptive siblings reared together who, as adults, do not resemble
          one another psychologically more than do random pairs of people.

          The second implication of the fact that MZA and MZT twins are about
          equally similar is that, since MZA correlations directly estimate trait
          heritability, we can also use MZT correlations for this purpose. MZA twins
          are rare and very expensive to study, while there are nearly a million
          pairs of MZT twins in just the United States and they tend to be wonderfully
          cooperative about participating in research.

          Estimating heritability directly from MZT correlations is not only convenient
          but also conservative. As we shall see later in this chapter, not all polygenic
          effects are additive but some, instead, are configural in the sense that
          the effect on the trait of certain genes may depend on the presence or
          absence of certain other genes. MZ twins, who share all their genes, will
          also share all such configural or emergenic traits while DZ twins,
          or parents and children, who share only half their polymorphic genes, may
          be unlikely to share the full set in the required configuration and are
          therefore unlikely to share the trait in question (Lykken et al.
          1992). This means that MZ correlations, which measure the within-pair similarity
          of the twins, will reflect all sources of genetic similarity while DZ correlations,
          which reflect mainly just the additive genetic effects, will not tend to
          reveal the genetic basis of traits that depend on gene configurations.

          A Are psychological traits influenced by genetic differences?

          Nearly all psychological traits or tendencies that can be reliably measured
          turn out to have heritabilities ranging from about 25 to 75 per cent (e.g.,
          Bouchard, et al., 1990). That is, among persons of European ancestry—for
          IQ, extroversion, neurotic tendency, musical talent, creativity, scientific
          and other interests, even for religiousness, authoritarianism, and for
          happiness itself—from one to three-fourths of the variation from person
          to person is associated with genetic differences between those persons.

          How do we know this? In the case of IQ, countless studies have shown
          that the correlation between pairs of related individuals is proportional
          to their genetic correlation. MZ twins, whose genetic correlation is 1.0,
          are twice as similar within pairs in IQ as are DZ twins, whose genetic
          correlation is .50 and the IQ correlation for DZ twins, in turn, is about
          four times that of first cousins, whose genetic correlation is .125. Moreover,
          pairs of unrelated adoptive siblings reared together, once they are grown
          and out of the adoptive home, correlate in IQ about zero (Bouchard &
          McGue, 1981). Perhaps the best evidence we have of the heritability of
          IQ among adults of European ancestry comes from five studies of MZA twins,
          done in Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and in the United States and totaling
          163 of these rare twin pairs. The MZA IQ correlations in these studies
          (each one a direct estimate of heritability) ranged from .64 to .78 and
          the grand average correlation was .75 (see McGue et al., 1993).

          Extroversion, considered to be one of the handful of basic traits of
          temperament, for more than 500 pairs of adult MZT twins from the Minnesota
          Twin Registry, was correlated .54, indicating a heritability of at least
          50 per cent. Neurotic tendency or neuroticism showed an MZT correlation
          of .48 in the same sample. Similar results were found in the Minnesota
          Study of Twins Reared Apart (Bouchard et al., 1990). About half
          of the variance in measures of creativity has been shown by the Minnesota
          studies to derive from genetic variation (Bouchard & Lykken, in press).
          Self-rated musical talent correlated .69 among these 512 pairs of adult
          MZT twins but the correlation was smaller, only .44, among the Minnesota
          MZA twins, suggesting perhaps that this is one trait for which shared family
          experience does make a difference, augmenting the genetic influence. Strength
          of scientific interests, in contrast, correlated .45 among MZT and .57
          among MZA twins. Interest in religious matters produced correlations above
          .50 in both groups as did a measure of commitment to traditional values
          (Lykken et al. 1993; Tellegen et al. 1988). Altemeyer’s well-validated
          measure of right-wing authoritarianism produced correlations of about .60
          in both MZT and in MZA twins. Finally, self-report measures of happiness
          or subjective well-being show a heritability approaching 50 per cent (Lykken
          and Tellegen 1995).

          B How do genetic differences produce psychological differences?

          We cannot yet begin to trace the many steps that intervene between the
          protein-making activities in which the genes are directly engaged and their
          ultimate influence upon individual differences in complex psychological
          traits. We assume that behavioral differences are associated with nervous
          system differences. Some of the later undoubtedly are ´hard-wired,’
          biological differences. We can imagine, for example, that some brains work
          faster or more consistently than others or that the inhibitory mechanisms
          that enable focused concentration are biologically stronger or more reliable
          in some brains than in others. But surely many of the brain differences
          that account for differences in personality, interests, and attitudes are
          differences in the ´software,’ are the result of learning and experience.
          Yet, if nurture or experience is the proximal cause of individual differences
          in these traits, how can one explain the strong association between these
          differences and genetic variation (i.e., nature)?

          A major insight of behavior genetics is that one important way in which
          the genome exerts its influence upon the brain is indirect; the genes help
          to determine the effective environment of the developing child through
          the correlation or the interaction of genes with environment (Plomin et
          al
          . 1977; Scarr and McCartney 1983) Passive gene-environment correlation
          is exemplified by the example of John Stuart Mill, mentioned earlier; bright
          parents tend to give their children both ´bright genes’ and intellectual
          stimulation. Children reared by athletic biological parents are likely
          to receive strong bodies as well as athletic encouragement and example.
          Partly for genetic reasons, some infants are fussy and irritable whereas
          others are happy and responsive; these differences elicit different responses
          from their adult caretakers. This process, which of course continues throughout
          life as our (primarily social) environment reacts differentially to our
          innate temperament, talents, and physical appearance, is called reactive
          or evoked gene-environment correlation. Partly for genetic reasons,
          different children attend to different aspects of their environment, and
          seek out or create environments attuned in some way to their genetic makeup.
          These are examples of active gene-environment correlation. The first
          day in school or a first roller-coaster ride will be a pleasurable excitement
          for some children, stimulating growth and self-confidence, but a terrifying
          and destructive experience for other children; that is, the same fire that
          melts the butter hardens the egg—this is gene-environment interaction.

          As suggested earlier, a mother’s face is an instinctive source of fascination
          to the non-autistic infant, her smiles are gratifying, and her vocalizations
          stimulate an innate urge to imitate. These genetic proclivities set the
          occasion for the learning of language and other essential social skills.
          As we shall see, the great mathematician, Carl Gauss, taught himself to
          calculate; when only three, he was able to correct his father’s sums and,
          at age 10, to amaze his teacher. These manifestations of his genetic gifts
          led the adults in little Gauss’s environment to provide him educational
          opportunities but, even more important, we must assume that the exercise
          of these gifts was inherently so gratifying that it became canalized. We
          have as yet not a clue as to the structure of the mental module that facilitates
          numerical manipulation, but it is easy to see how a module as facile as
          Gauss’s would both create the opportunity and stimulate the effort required
          to learn the ´software’ of mathematical sophistication.

          C An illustrative example[5]

          A distinguished amateur ornithologist was relieved to learn, at age
          11, that he was adopted; this discovery explained for him why he was so
          different from his parents and their relatives. His adoptive parents did
          not read or own books but the boy always had a library card and used it
          regularly. The parents had no talent for nor interest in sports but the
          youngster, in summer, always carried his baseball mitt with him in case
          of the chance for a game and won recognition for his prowess at basketball
          and tennis. This man’s biography is a chronicle of active gene-environment
          correlation, and his quest for experiences compatible with his innate proclivities
          contrasts with his failure to respond to influences that were readily available
          but to which he did not resonate. One interest that the other members of
          his adoptive family shared was in religion but our acquaintance never joined
          with them in this.

          In his late middle-age, this man undertook to discover his biological
          parentage. He found that his parents had married after he had been given
          up for adoption and they had produced several other children, his full-siblings,
          who he discovered to be well educated, active, and successful people like
          himself. One uncle had been Dean of my university’s graduate school. This
          man’s adoptive parents, like most parents, were ´permissive’ in the
          sense that they did not determinedly or effectively shape his behavior
          nor influence him by their provocative or charismatic example. They might
          have prevented him from engaging in sports but they merely did not encourage
          these activities. Had they been readers themselves with quick minds and
          lively intellectual interests, they might have given different or additional
          directions to his reading and thought. Had their religious practices been
          either emotionally or intellectually stimulating, he might well have been
          more interested in them.

          Had this man, in adulthood, found that he had an MZA twin reared by
          a different set of similarly ´permissive’ adoptive parents in some
          other American town, I believe they would have discovered that they shared
          not only similar aptitudes and interests, but similar developmental histories
          as well. Had the cotwin been adopted by the father of John Kennedy or of
          John Stuart Mill, however, or by Dickens’ Fagin, or a Mafia Godfather,
          then, having traveled markedly different environmental paths, the cotwins’
          differences might have been as interesting as their residual similarities.

          A Emergenesis: Genetic traits that do not run in families

          B Secretariat

          Old-fashioned hereditarians used to make much of the notion of breeding,
          a concept that has been pushed to the extreme by exponents of the sport
          of horse racing. Through careful breeding in the early part of the 19th
          century, the Thoroughbred race horse got steadily stronger and faster and
          the record times recorded at old English race courses steadily fell. Along
          about 1900, however, this curve leveled off as the initial additive variance
          was bred out of the line. The modest improvements in performance over the
          next 70 years or so are largely attributed to better training, nutrition,
          and veterinary techniques.

          And then along came Secretariat, a great red American stallion who lay
          down and took a nap on the day of his Kentucky Derby[6]
          and then got up and broke the course record, not by just a whisker but
          by seconds. He did the same thing at Pimlico and then won the Belmont—and
          the Triple Crown—by more than 30 lengths. Put out at once to stud, where
          only the most promising mares could afford his fees, Secretariat sired
          more than 400 foals— most of them disappointments, none of them remotely
          in their sire’s class. Secretariat had a distinguished lineage, of course,
          although none of his forebears could have run with him, but whatever he
          received at the great lottery of his conception could not be easily passed
          on in random halves. It seems a reasonable conjecture that Secretariat’s
          qualities were configural, emergenic.

          At last, in 1988, one of Secretariat’s sons, Risen Star, finished third
          in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness, and then won the Belmont by some
          14 lengths, albeit a full two seconds behind his sire’s record pace. After
          more than 400 attempts, Secretariat managed to produce a winner; although
          emergenic traits do not ´run in families,’ they are more likely to
          reappear in a carrier family than in a random lineage. No doubt Risen Star’s
          dam contributed key elements of the emergenic configuration.

          Although running speed is, of course, a metrical variable, Secretariat
          so far exceeded the limits of the normal distribution as to suggest a qualitative
          difference, a new natural class or taxon. The arena of human achievement
          appears to offer many similar examples, singular individuals whose accomplishments
          so far exceed the norm that we classify them separately from the common
          herd. An important example of such an emergenic class includes those people
          we call ´geniuses.’

          A Genius

           

            ´How did it come about that a man born poor, losing his mother
            at birth and soon deserted by his father, afflicted with a painful and
            humiliating disease, left to wander for twelve years among alien cities
            and conflicting faiths,… suspected of crime and insanity, and seeing,
            in his last months, the apotheosis of his greatest enemy—how did it come
            about that this man, after his death, triumphed over Voltaire, revived
            religion, transformed education, elevated the morals of France, inspired
            the Romantic movement and the French Revolution, influenced the philosophy
            of Kant and Schopenhauer, the plays of Schiller, the novels of Goethe,
            the poems of Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelly, the socialism of Marx, the
            ethics of Tolstoy, and, altogether, had more effect upon posterity than
            any other writer or thinker of that eighteenth century in which writers
            were more influential than they had ever been before? Here, if anywhere,
            the problem faces us: what is the role of genius in history…?’

            In this celebrated first sentence of their Rousseau and revolution,
            Will and Ariel Durant (1967) pose as well the psychological problem of
            genius itself, its mysterious irrepressibility and its ability to arise
            from the most unpromising of lineages and to flourish even in the meanest
            of circumstances.

            Human genius has always been a problem for both environmentalists and
            hereditarians to understand. There have been families of genius, of course,
            the Bernoullis and the Bachs, the Darwins and the Huxleys, the musical
            Marsalis family; but it is the solitary genius, rising like a great oak
            in a forest of scrub and bramble, who challenges our understanding. Carl
            Friedrich Gauss, ranked with Archimedes and Newton as one of the ´Princes
            of Mathematics,’ had uneducated parents, his mother was illiterate, yet
            the boy had taught himself to read and to do simple arithmetic by the time
            he was three years old (Buhler 1981). When Gauss was 10, the village schoolmaster
            thought to keep his large class occupied by computing the sum of the integers
            from one to 100. Moments later he was startled to see little Carl at his
            desk with just a single number on his slate; ´there ’tis,’ said the
            boy and then sat with his hands folded while the rest of the class toiled
            on. In the end, only Carl had the correct answer (Dunnington 1955). The
            boy had at once perceived that the problem reduced to (1+100) + (2+99)
            + … + (50+51) = 50(101) = 5050. To believe that some extraordinary accident
            of experience created this Prince out of ordinary clay is to believe in
            magic.

            The great Hindu mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, whom Mark Kac called
            a ´magical genius’ (Kolata 1987), was reared in a one-room adobe
            hut in southern India and his mathematical education consisted primarily
            of two books, both in a foreign language (J.Borwein and P.Borwein 1988).
            In 1913, with the help of a better-educated friend, Ramanujan wrote from
            Madras to the great G.H. Hardy at Cambridge, asking his opinion of some
            120 theorems which were enclosed. Hardy reports that some of these were
            classical though obscure; others were in Hardy’s own area and he managed
            to prove them himself:

             

              ´though with a good deal more trouble than I had expected….
              The formulae 110–113 are on a different level and obviously both difficult
              and deep…. I had never seen anything the least like them before. A single
              look at them is enough to show that they could only be written down by
              a mathematician of the highest class. They must be true because, if they
              were not true, no one would have had the imagination to invent them.’

              G. H. Hardy 1940

              Suppose that Gauss or Ramanujan had been born with a healthy MZ twin
              who was spirited away to be reared by some country parson in Oxfordshire.
              Barring cholera or other accident, is it not likely that the parson’s surname
              too would now be immortal? Ramanujan died young without offspring; his
              parents and one brother apparently were unexceptional. Although Gauss provided
              rich stimulation and opportunity for his six offspring (by two different
              and highly cultivated wives), none of them distinguished themselves.[7]
              But if the genius of these men was prefigured in their genes, why was it
              never manifested elsewhere in their lineage? The answer is, I think, that
              genius consists of unique configurations of attributes that cannot be transmitted
              in half-helpings.

              Michael Faraday, the premier experimental scientist of his generation,
              was the self-taught son of a humble blacksmith. Knight refers to Faraday’s
              ´curious mixture, or perhaps we should say compound, of humility
              and pride.’ (Knight 1985); biographers of people of genius often allude
              in this way to interactions or configurations of their subjects’ attributes.
              We know that Shakespeare, too, came from undistinguished stock, that this
              foremost wordsmith in our history had numerous siblings and several children,
              none of whom left any trace—or any word —behind them (Parrott 1938).
              An American genius, Benjamin Franklin, was one of a large family and sired
              two children of his own, all of them members of the common generality of
              humankind (Garfield 1982). The configurality of genius is dramatically
              illustrated in the life’s work of another extraordinary American, Gutzon
              Borglum, the sculptor, engineer, inventor, entrepreneur who carved Mount
              Rushmore (Shaff 1985). However one evaluates the esthetic or the ecological
              impact of transforming a mountain into a frieze of presidential heads,
              this prodigious monument will survive the millennia because of the configuration
              of prodigious talents, each of them essential to the project, that were
              combined in this singular individual. One of the luminaries of 20th Century
              science, John von Neumann, was capable of such extraordinary intellectual
              feats that some of his colleagues were led to suggest that von Neumann’s
              brain ´might be an emergent organ, of a different order of complexity
              than those of ordinary mortals.’ (Campbell 1988, p.103). Genius of this
              caliber seems to be not just an abundance of one or several components
              such as IQ, but rather a harmony of attributes, a compound rather than
              merely a mixture.

              A Exceptional endowment or exceptional endeavor?

              On reading Hereditary genius, by his cousin, Francis Galton,
              Charles Darwin wrote: ´You have made a convert of an opponent in
              one sense, for I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did
              not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think
              [this] is an eminently important difference.’ Thomas Edison, too, believed
              that genius was ninety-nine per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration
              and he ´often work[ed] as many as 112 hours a week’ (McAuliffe 1995).
              Isaac Newton, asked how he made his remarkable discoveries, replied: ´I
              keep the subject constantly before me and wait until the first dawnings
              open little by little into the full light’ (Andrade 1956).

              Hardy told of a visit he made to Ramanujan ´when he was lying
              ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi-cab No. 1729, and remarked that the
              number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not a bad
              omen. “No,” he replied, “it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest
              number expressible as a sum of two cubes in two different ways”‘ (Newman
              1956). It was said of Ramanujan that every number was his friend and he
              had plainly thought about and stored away many interesting facts about
              most of the lower integers. At the age of 10 or 12 he could recite the
              values of pi and the square root of two to any number of decimal
              places. Because mathematics was his only interest as a boy, he had failed
              his scholarship examinations in India. Could it be that Ramanujan’s exceptional
              achievements resulted, not from exceptional endowments but, rather, from
              the fact that, like Newton, he had kept the one subject of his interest
              constantly before him since his childhood?

              In 1960, at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
              in Palo Alto, Dutch psychologist Adrian de Groot, an expert on the psychology
              of chess and a chess master himself, simultaneously played and defeated
              20 chess duffers like myself. He was not allowed even to see one chess
              board presided over by two of the Center Fellows who thought themselves
              to be relatively accomplished players. Well into the game, after they announced
              the next move they had decided on, de Groot pointed out that their proposed
              move was impossible; although they had the chess pieces arrayed before
              them while he had only his mental image to rely on, they got it wrong while
              he got it right. De Groot himself had played—and been easily beaten—by
              the future grand master, Bobby Fisher, when Fisher was a boy of twelve.
              De Groot was careful to point out, however, that even by that early age
              Fisher had played many thousands of chess games and had derived from this
              experience a vast armamentarium of chess positions and strategy.

              The late Richard Feynman frequently disconcerted physicist colleagues
              by interrupting their explanations of new findings, to which they had devoted
              weeks or months of work, and quickly scrawling on a blackboard a more general
              result of which theirs was just a special case. Was this lightening-like
              calculation or was Feynman able to draw upon a ´storehouse of previously
              worked-out—and unpublished—knowledge’? Feynman’s biographer, James
              Gleick, describes a 1960s Caltech seminar at which astrophysicist Willy
              Fowler proposed that the recently discovered quasars were supermassive
              stars.

               

                ´Feynman immediately rose, astonishingly, to say that such
                objects would be gravitationally unstable. Furthermore, he said that the
                instability followed from general relativity. The claim required a calculation
                of the subtle countervailing effects of stellar forces and relativistic
                gravity. Fowler thought he was talking through his hat. A colleague later
                discovered that Feynman had done a hundred pages of work on the problem
                years before. The Chicago astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar independently
                produced Feynman’s result—it was part of the work for which he won a
                Nobel Prize twenty years later. Feynman himself never bothered to publish.
                Someone with a new idea always risked finding, as one colleague said, “that
                Feynman had signed the guest book and already left.”‘

                (Gleick 1992)

                K.A. Ericsson (1990; Ericsson and Charness 1994; see also the chapter
                by Lehmann and Ericsson in this volume) has shown that remarkable feats
                of memory can be achieved by apparently unremarkable people after extensive
                practice. He has also shown, as the above examples attest, that most examples
                of exceptional performance, including those by people known as geniuses,
                are preceded by years of intense and single-minded application and practice.

                Ericsson and his colleagues have amassed a truly impressive body of
                evidence in support of their view that it is deliberate and intensive practice—rather
                than differences in native ability—that separates elite performers from
                the rest of us. With hundreds of hours of guided practice spaced over weeks
                or months, ordinary college students can learn to increase their digit
                span—the number of digits correctly repeated after hearing them read
                only once at a rate of one per second—by 10 times. There are techniques
                of calculation with which, after extensive practice, one can accomplish
                feats of mental arithmetic impossible for the untrained mind. The conditioning
                and practice of elite athletes changes their muscle strength, aerobic capacity,
                the speed of their reflexes, the size of their hearts, and even the relative
                proportions of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers, and it is these practice-produced
                effects rather than just native ability that is responsible for extraordinary
                athletic performance. The celebrated violinist at last night’s concert
                almost certainly practices more intensely and consistently than the members
                of the orchestra’s violin section. Elite performers tend to do less well
                as they get older but many of them also tend to practice less intensely
                as they age.

                Ericsson believes not only that genius and exceptional performance generally
                depends upon intensive years of practice but, moreover, that most of us,
                given the same teachers and similar preparation, could do as well as these
                elite performers do. Ericsson and Charness (1994, p.744) are willing to
                acknowledge that genetic differences in temperament and ´preferred
                activity level’ may determine which of us go for the gold but, curiously,
                they cling to the assumption that individual genetic differences in both
                physical and mental capacities are not important, perhaps nonexistent.
                This would require us to believe that most children could acquire perfect
                pitch and the ability to reproduce compositions after a single hearing
                if only we listened to music as long and as intently as Blind Tom and Leslie
                Lemke did, or draw from memory a construction site after a brief glance,
                as Sack’s savant Steven did. We should have to suppose, as Lewontin seems
                to imply, that almost any of our children could become world-class athletes,
                given the right training and the appropriate temperament. We must also
                accept the proposition that little Gauss’s ability to correct his father’s
                arithmetic at three and confound his school master at ten resulted, not
                from extraordinary mental hardware, but from mental software acquired through
                self-directed practice in an intellectually unstimulating environment.

                Those of us who have studied MZ twins reared apart from one another
                find these assumptions, which are the concept of radical environmentalism
                in different clothes, incredible. We cannot believe that MZA twins correlate
                .75 in IQ merely because, in their separate environments, their similarities
                in temperament led them to indulge in very similar amounts of practice
                on very similar topics. One set of Bouchard’s MZA triplets each were on
                their high school’s wrestling team before they ever knew of each other’s
                existence. I think this was because they shared a configuration of genetic
                traits, physical and mental, that made them interested in—and good at—this
                particular sport. More generally, I think that one reason, although not
                the only reason, that most elite performers engage in the dedicated pursuit
                of excellence in their specialty is that they are naturally good at it
                from the start so that their early efforts are rewarded by early success.

                I think we must agree with Ericsson, however, that works of genius tend
                to be the product of minds enriched by years of concentrated effort. Isaac
                Newton often became so caught up in cerebration that he would forget to
                eat or sleep. Edwin Land, inventor of the instant Polaroid camera and of
                a sophisticated computational theory of color vision, sometimes worked
                at his desk for 36 hours or more, unaware of the passage of time until
                he felt faint on standing up. Similar stories were told of Edison. It does
                not follow, however, that these were ordinary minds to begin with.

                Edison, Feynman, Land, and Newton all from their boyhood had intense
                curiosity, an enthusiasm or zeal for discovery and understanding. Each
                of them was able to take seriously hypotheses that others thought to be
                implausible (or had not thought about at all). All four possessed a kind
                of intellectual arrogance that permitted them to essay prodigious tasks,
                to undertake to solve problems that most of their contemporaries believed
                to be impossible. And each of them had quite extraordinary powers of concentration.
                Even Darwin, plagued as he was by physical miseries that would have invalided
                most men, somehow mustered mental energy enough to pursue the painstaking
                researches that yielded the thousands of facts with which he built his
                theory and defended it against so many critics.

                B Mental energy

                What is this ´mental energy’ that powers minds of genius, from
                Newton to Mozart to Ramanujan? Surely it is partly a function of motivation.
                I can think longer and harder about ideas that interest me or, to phrase
                it differently, about problems I see to be steps toward some goal that
                I covet. But I cannot think long and hard about Fermat’s Last Conjecture
                because I haven’t a clue about how to solve that problem, no matter how
                much I should enjoy being the one to achieve that objective. If, as a boy,
                I had been able to run faster or kick a football further than my fellows
                could, I might have worked long and hard on improving those talents. But
                I could not and I did not. Who can doubt that one reason Bobby Fisher played
                so many games of chess so young was that he found from the start that he
                had a gift for the game? Yet, mental energy is not entirely a function
                of motivation and a sense of making progress. I have an eminent colleague,
                the psychologist Paul Meehl, who has always been able to read at least
                six books to my one. He does not read faster than I do nor with greater
                initial interest. I do not believe that he is more strongly motivated than
                I am to learn what the books have to teach (although, with his superior
                memory, he does have the advantage of knowing that more of what he reads
                will stay with him!). The fact is that, although I am probably his equal
                in physical energy, while reading technical material my eyelids begin to
                droop long before his do. I have spent in my life untold hours happily
                reading, writing, analyzing data, writing computer programs, full of the
                sense of enjoyable accomplishment—but never for more than four or five
                hours at a stretch, 10 or 12 hours in a day. It is inconceivable that I
                could work productively at any intellectual task for 36 consecutive hours,
                not if my life depended on it.

                Most recognized geniuses, in contrast, seem to possess remarkable powers
                of concentration. Archimedes’s ´awesome mathematical talent was augmented
                by an ability to devote himself single-mindedly to any problem at hand
                in extraordinary periods of intense, focused concentration. At such times,
                the more mundane concerns of life were simply ignored. We learn from Plutarch
                that Archimedes would:

                 

                  “forget his food and neglect his person, to that degree that when
                  he was occasionally carried by absolute violence to bathe or have his body
                  anointed, he used to trace geometrical figures in the ashes of the fire,
                  and diagrams in the oil on his body, being in a state of entire preoccupation,
                  and, in the truest sense, divine possession with his love and delight in
                  science.”‘
                  (Dunham 1990).

                  Referring to Newton, John Maynard Keynes has said:

                   

                    ´His peculiar gift was the power of holding continuously in
                    his mind a purely mental problem until he had seen straight through it.
                    I fancy his preeminence is due to his muscles of intuition being the strongest
                    and most enduring with which a man has ever been gifted. Anyone who has
                    ever attempted pure scientific or philosophical thought knows how one can
                    hold a problem momentarily in one’s mind and apply all one’s powers of
                    concentration to piercing through it, and how it will dissolve and escape
                    and you find that what you are surveying is a blank. I believe that Newton
                    could hold a problem in his mind for hours and days and weeks until it
                    surrendered to him its secret. Then being a supreme mathematical technician
                    he could dress it up, how you will, for purposes of exposition, but it
                    was his intuition which was pre-eminently extraordinary—“so happy in
                    his conjectures”, said de Morgan, “as to seem to know more than he could
                    possibly have any means of proving.”‘
                    — J. M. Keynes 1956

                     
                    Psychologists are not yet able to measure individual differences in mental
                    energy, independent of motivational factors, but there can be no doubt
                    at all that some people have more of this resource than others do and I
                    am confident that these are differences in native endowment. If I seem
                    to be claiming here to know, like Newton, more than I possibly have any
                    means of proving, let me explain how I do know it. There is no doubt that
                    now, at age 67, my own stores of mental energy—my poor ´muscles
                    of intuition’—are considerably weaker now than they were at 27. In his
                    A Mathematician’s Apology (1969), G.H. Hardy remarks that ´mathematics,
                    more than any other art or science, is a young man’s game…I do not know
                    an instance of a major mathematical advance initiatied by a man past fifty.’
                    (p.78). It seems a reasonable postulate that powers which vary within an
                    individual at different times must also vary between individuals at any
                    time. Quoting Hardy again, Newton’s ´greatest ideas of all, fluxions
                    and the law of gravitation, came to him about 1666, when he was twenty-four.’
                    (p.78). Surely Newton’s mind, at fifty, was even more enriched by years
                    of concentrated effort than it was at twenty-four, yet he had given up
                    mathematics by age fifty, presumably because some power(s?) of mind, already
                    in full flood at twenty-four, had ebbed.

                    If Edison, Fineman, Gauss, and Newton had all been intensely tutored
                    from the age of three by brilliant parents, as J.S. Mill was, then I might
                    at least consider the possibility that my own mental muscles might have
                    been stronger if my own parents had been more demanding. But they were
                    not and I will not. ´When you see [Edison’s] mind at play in his
                    notebooks, the sheer multitude and richness of his ideas makes you recognize
                    that there is something that can’t be understood easily—that we may never
                    be able to understand.’ (historian Paul Israel, quoted in McAuliffe 1995).
                    I think what lies at the heart of these mysteries is genetic, probably
                    emergenic. The configuration of traits of intellect, mental energy, and
                    temperament with which, during the plague years of 1665–6, Isaac Newton
                    revolutionized the world of science were, I believe, the consequence of
                    a genetic lottery that occurred about nine months prior to his birth, on
                    Christmas day, in 1642. 

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                    [1] 
                    Portions of this chapter were modified, with permission, from: Lykken
                    et al., (1992) and from Lykken (1995).

                    [2]
                    Although radical environmentalism often is adopted for political or ideological
                    reasons, “radical” in this context is used in the sense of “extreme.”

                    [3]
                    For a sophisticated modern assertion of the Marxist opposition to
                    “biological determinism” see Lewontin, Rose, and Kamin (1984).

                    [4]
                    The question about Newton would be meaningful if we had measures,
                    in standard score form that permits comparisons with people in general,
                    of his genetic potentials and of his environmental influences.

                    [5]
                    This man, an acquaintance of my colleague, J.J. Bouchard, Jr., was kind
                    enough to provide our research group with an outline of his autobiography.

                    [6]
                    The Kentucky Derby, the Pimlico, and the Belmont Stakes comprise the three
                    great annual events—the “crowning” events—of American Thoroughbred
                    flat-racing

                    .[7]
                    Gauss’s second son, Eugene, emigrated to the United States in 1830, enlisted
                    in the army, and later went into business in Missouri. Eugene is said to
                    have had some of his father’s gift for languages and the ability to
                    perform prodigious arithmetic calculations, which he did
                    for recreation after his sight failed him in old age.

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