I'm not sure if I formulated my question well, but I'm curious about a couple statements made by Steven Pinker and and James Heckman.

In this interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ9Ad6s8g7I&t=7m51s Steven Pinker says

"there'd be a wide variety of families I could have grown up with and had the same kinds of interests"

and in this interview with James Heckman, he says:

But anyway, Smith says people are basically born the same and at age 8 one can't really see much difference among them. But then starting at age 8, 9, 10, they pursue different fields, they specialize and they diverge. In his mind, the butcher and the lawyer and the journalist and the professor and the mechanic, all are basically the same person at age 8. This is wrong. IQ is basically formed by age 8, and there are huge differences in IQ among people. Smith was right that people specialize after 8, but they started specializing before 8.

Can anyone explain Heckman's statement that people "start specializing before 8"?

What do we know about genetic influence on interests? (Is this the right stackexchange to ask this on?)


1 Answer 1


I think the concept you are looking for is the one of heritability.

In short, heritability represents the part of the variance for a trait that is caused by the genetic variance only. For more information, you can refer to this, this, this or this post or to wiki.

This wikipedia article talks about the heritability of IQ in human. It has been measured to be around 0.7.

Of course, heritability in IQ is not the same as heritability of "interests". But I don't know about any measure concerning the heritability of "interests". Such measure will be highly dependent on how you classify interests together. Does a mathematician specialist of probability theory have the same interests than a mathematician specialist of non-linear algebra? Does a Mathematician have the same interests than a chemist? and of a engineer? and of an electrician? Does a butcher have the same interests than a backer? and of a waiter? and of a bricklayer? .. Does anyone who work in business have the same interests? The fewer groups you make, the higher will the correlation between parents and offsprings and the higher is the part of the genetic variance that explain the variance in interests choice.

  • $\begingroup$ I guess this is another nature vs nurture debate. IQ may be a heritable trait but the question is whether proclivities are also genetically heritable. $\endgroup$
    Apr 25, 2014 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ Have there been any "separated twin" studies on this? Although, speaking from informal experience, several of the twin sets I know are in completely different lines of work, if that's any measure of "interest." $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Apr 26, 2014 at 20:52

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