Genetic and environmental influences on human behavioral differences

Matt McGue, Thomas J. Bouchard

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


Human behavioral genetic research aimed at characterizing the existence and nature of genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in cognitive ability, personality and interests, and psychopathology is reviewed. Twin and adoption studies indicate that most behavioral characteristics are heritable. Nonetheless, efforts to identify the genes influencing behavior have produced a limited number of confirmed linkages or associations. Behavioral genetic research also documents the importance of environmental factors, but contrary to the expectations of many behavioral scientists, the relevant environmental factors appear to be those that are not shared by reared together relatives. The observation of genotype- environment correlational processes and the hypothesized existence of genotype-environment interaction effects serve to distinguish behavioral traits from the medical and physiological phenotypes studied by human geneticists. Behavioral genetic research supports the heritability, not the genetic determination, of behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual review of neuroscience
StatePublished - 1998


  • Gene-environment interaction and correlation
  • Heritability
  • Nonshared environment
  • Psychiatric genetics

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