Is your intelligence quotient determined by genetics or environment?
Posted on January 3, 2015


Is intelligence an ingrained quality determined by our genetic history, or is it something that can be nurtured over time? The matter of nurture versus nature has been a long, fiercely debated issue among researchers for many years. The question remains whether or not intelligence can be influenced by external factors. As of yet, the debate, and the research have not yielded conclusive results.

Physical traits such as height, hair and eye color, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases and/or conditions are definitely transferable from parents to offspring down through the generations. Is intelligence also passed down to our progeny? Is intelligence due solely to one’s genetic predisposition, or do environmental conditions-both socio-cultural and biological have an impact on the development of intelligence?

Today there is a consensus among psychologists that all human traits-including intelligence-are determined by both genetic and environmental factors. It seems that both nurture and nature play significant roles in determining one’s intelligence. However, the debate is complicated due to the fact that the association between an individual’s genetic predisposition and external factors varies over time, due to constant interaction among human populations. In a confusing twist, apparently even heritable traits such as eye or hair color can indeed be affected by environmental circumstances.

Environmental influences are categorized as biological and socio-cultural. Socio-cultural influences mold the mind and character of a person. The most important foundational influence is of course the family unit, or its absence. A strong family unit is most conducive to encouraging learning, and the development of intelligence as the child grows. Apart from the family, the individual’s intellectual development is formed in relationship to their peer group, and access to educational opportunities. Biological influences act on the human body. Such influences are comprised of factors involving the quality of nutrition as well as stress. Stress factors take into account the age and health of the mother, as well as exposure to toxic elements and drugs within the womb. Nutrition impacts on intelligence throughout one’s lifetime. Good nutrition however is especially crucial at the prenatal stage, as malnutrition can adversely impact neural development.

Intelligence is based not only upon what one knows, but also upon our ability to reason, judge, understand, and adapt. It’s an accepted truism that a person’s IQ is a predictor of success. The IQ test and the related SAT test can hint at the individual’s educational potential, social status and occupation, as well as overall health and length of years. Critics downplay the importance of such tests since they feel that differences in cultural parameters are not taken into account when considering what constitutes intelligence. Others feel that there may be racial elements involved in the tests since they may reflect a certain demographic.

The jury is still out about how intelligence is formulated. It appears that many intertwined elements are responsible for the development of intelligence. Einstein’s brain was removed within hours of his death. Various anomalies were discovered in the brain of this genius not normally found in the brains of mere mortals. More years of research are bound to reveal more tantalizing secrets. In the meantime, continue to eat more fish!

Tags: environment, intelligence genetics, Environmental influences, Socio-cultural, Biological, Stress factors, IQ test, Einstein,