Does Your Family Make You Smarter?


Does Your Family Make You Smarter?
Nature, Nurture, and Human Autonomy
By James R. Flynn
Cambridge University Press – £16.99

Does Your Family Make You Smarter? Hmm, now there’s a thought.

Poorer, perhaps. In some cases fatter – well according to some! But smarter? One can only surmise that such a question is reliant upon so many varying factors.

The opening of this essentially scientific book reads as follows: ”Who is correct? Those who believe that our family history and decisions affect our cognitive abilities, or those who cite twin studies to show that our intelligence is largely the product of our genes? This is really a debate about the limits of human autonomy” (‘Twins and autonomy’).

This is an interesting thought: Is ”our intelligence largely the product of our genes”? Does this mean that no matter how much we read or study, or how many exams we endeavour to take, our intelligence is still anchored to that our family genes?

Wasn’t it Graham Greene who once said ”England made me?”

Divided into two parts (Part I: Human autonomy and Part II: Intelligence), these 244 pages – excluding References and Index – is an altogether dense read, steeped within the gambit of such headings as ”Partitioning IQ variance,” ”Greek astronomy and its concepts” and ”A Valid investment hypothesis;” a great deal of which really does need to be read at least twice in order for any pennies to drop.

For example, in chapter four (‘Slow and quick decay of family effects’), author James R. Flynn posits: ”How can we estimate the gap between those at various percentiles of performance and the percentiles of the cognitive quality of their families? As a preliminary, before the age at which the matching of an individual’s genes with current environment begins (perhaps age 3 or 4), I posit that family determines virtually all of performance variance […].”

Replete with a number of graphs and more tables than an IKEA convention, Does Your Family Make You Smarter? Nature, Nurture, and Human Autonomy resolutely argues that intelligence is influenced by human autonomy – genetics and family notwithstanding – whereby we all have the capacity to choose to enhance our cognitive performance.

David Marx


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