Chapter

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Individual Differences in Language and Theory of Mind: Common or Distinct?

Claire Hughes

in Why Language Matters for Theory of Mind

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780195159912
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847150 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195159912.003.0015
Genetic and Environmental Influences on Individual Differences in Language and Theory of Mind: Common or Distinct?

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This chapter presents data from two twin studies conducted at two different times in development—3;6 years and 5;0 years. Both studies showed a strong correlation between general verbal ability and theory of mind. However, the twin study design provides a unique methodological perspective from which to investigate the nature of the relationship between language and theory of mind. The first study, with a sample of three-year-old twins, showed a large influence of genetic factors on theory of mind, with these having little overlap with genetic factors influencing verbal ability. The second study revealed a substantial environmental influence on theory of mind. The association between theory of mind and verbal ability was accounted for by common effects of shared genes, and the common effects of shared environment and socioeconomic status. This chapter concludes that there may be developmental change in the relative impact of genetic and environmental factors on individual differences in theory of mind.

Keywords: twin studies; verbal ability; theory of mind; language; genetic factors; environmental factors; shared genes; shared environment; socioeconomic status; individual differences

Chapter.  9120 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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