Arguably, no psychological variable has received more attention from behavioral geneticists than what has been called "general cognitive ability" (as well as "general intelligence" or "g"), and for good reason. GCA has a rich correlational network, implying that it may play an important role in multiple domains of functioning. GCA is highly correlated with various indicators of educational attainment, yet its predictive utility is not limited to academic achievement. It is also correlated with work performance, navigating the complexities of everyday life, the absence of various social pathologies (such as criminal convictions), and even health and mortality. Although the causal basis for these associations is not always known, it is nonetheless the case that research on GCA has the potential to provide insights into the origins of a wide range of important social outcomes. In this essay, our discussion of why GCA is considered a fundamentally important dimension of behavior on which humans differ is followed by a look at behavioral genetics research on CGA. We summarize behavioral genetics research that has sought to identify and quantify the total contributions of genetic and environmental factors to individual differences in GCA as well as molecular genetic research that has sought to identify genetic variants that underlie inherited effects.
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© 2015 The Hastings Center.