Advertisement

Using Variation in Heritability Estimates as a Test of G × E in Behavioral Research: A Brief Research Note

  • Kasey D. Fowler-FinnEmail author
  • Brian Boutwell
Brief Communication

Abstract

Better characterization of the sources of phenotypic variation in human behavioural traits—stemming from genetic and environmental influences—will allow for more informed decisions about how to approach a range of challenges arising from variation, ranging from societal issues to the treatment of diseases. In particular, understanding how the environment moderates genetic influence on phenotypes (i.e., genotype–environment interactions, or G × E) is a central component of the behavioral sciences. Yet, understanding of this phenomenon is lagging somewhat, due in part to the difficulties of detecting G × E. We discuss the logic behind one of the primary ways to detect G × E: comparing heritability estimates across environments. Then, we highlight some pitfalls, with an emphasis on how very strong G × E can sometimes be undetectable using this method when high heritability is present in multiple environments. We conclude by forwarding some initial, yet tentative, suggestions for how best to address to the problem.

Keywords

Gene by environment interaction Heritability Quantitative genetics Behavioral genetics 

Notes

Acknowledgements

A Spark Microgrant from Saint Louis University provided funding for this project. Feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript (however, any errors and omissions are the product solely of the authors): RL Rodriguez, R Tinghitella, and A Burt.

Funding

This project was funded by a SPARK microgrant from Saint Louis University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Kasey D. Fowler-Finn and Brian B. Boutwell declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement of human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.

References

  1. Barnes JC, Wright JP, Boutwell BB, Schwartz JA, Connolly EJ, Nedelec JL, Beaver KM (2014) Demonstrating the validity of twin research in criminology. Criminology 52(4):588–626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bradshaw AD (1965) Evolutionary significance of phenotypic plasticity in plants. Adv Gener 13:115–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carlson CS, Matise TC, North KE, Haiman CA, Fesinmeyer MD, Buyske S, Schumacher FR, Peters U, Franceschini N, Ritchie MD, Duggan DJ, Spencer KL, Dumitrescu L, Eaton CB, Thomas F, Young A, Carty C, Heiss G, Marchand LL, Crawford DC, Hindorff LA, Kooperberg CL, Page Consortium (2013) Generalization and dilution of association results from European GWAS in populations of non-European ancestry: the PAGE study. PLoS Biol 11(9):e1001661CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caspi A, McClay J, Moffitt TE, Mill J, Martin J, Craig IW, Taylor A, Poulton R (2002) Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science 297(5582):851–854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chabris CF, Lee JJ, Cesarini D, Benjamin DJ, Laibson DI (2015) The fourth law of behavior genetics. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 24(4):304–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Conley D (2016) Socio-genomic research using genome-wide molecular data. Ann Rev Sociol 42:275–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davey Smith G, Hemani G (2014) Mendelian randomization: genetic anchors for causal inference in epidemiological studies. Human Mol Genet 23(R1):R89–R98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dick DM (2011) Gene–environment interaction in psychological traits and disorders. Annu Rev Clin Psychol 7:383–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Duncan LE, Keller MC (2011) A critical review of the first 10 years of candidate gene-by-environment interaction research in psychiatry. Am J Psychiatry 168(10):1041–1049CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Falconer DS, Mackay TFC (1996) Introduction to quantitative genetics, 4th edn. Longman, HarlowGoogle Scholar
  11. Ghalambor CK, McKay JK, Carroll SP, Reznick DN (2007) Adaptive versus non-adaptive plasticity and the potential for contemporary adaptation in new environments. Funct Ecol 21(3):394–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ingleby FC, Hosken DJ, Flowers K, Hawkes MF, Lane SM, Rapkin J, Dworkin I, Hunt J (2013) Genotype-by-environment interactions for cuticular hydrrocarbon expression in Drosophila simulans. J Evolution Biol 26:94–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Karlsson K, Eroukhmanoff F, Svensson EI (2010) Phenotypic plasticity in response to the social environment: effects of density and sex ratio on mating behaviour following ecotype divergence. PLoS ONE 5(9):e12755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Plomin R, Deary IJ (2015) Genetics and intelligence differences: five special findings. Mol Psychiatry 20(1):98–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Plomin R, DeFries JC, Loehlin JC (1977) Genotype–environment interaction and correlation in the analysis of human behavior. Psychol Bull 84(2):309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Plomin R, DeFries JC, Knopik VS, Neiderheiser J (2013) Behavioral genetics, 6th edn. Worth Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Polderman TJ, Benyamin B, De Leeuw CA, Sullivan PF, Van Bochoven A, Visscher PM, Posthuma D (2015) Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies. Nat Genet 47(7):702–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Purcell S (2002) Variance components models for gene–environment interaction in twin analysis. Twin Res Human Genet 5(6):554–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ritchie S (2015) Intelligence: all that matters. Hodder & Stoughton, HachetteGoogle Scholar
  20. Roff DA (1997) Evolutionary quantitative genetics. Chapman and Hall, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Scarr-Salapatek S (1971) Race, social class, and IQ. Science 174(4016):1285–1295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schlichting C, Pigliucci M (1998) Phenotypic evolution: a reaction norm perspective. Sinauer Associates, SunderlandGoogle Scholar
  23. Sesardic N (1993) Heritability and causality. Philos Sci 60(3):396–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tucker-Drob EM, Bates TC (2016) Large cross-national differences in gene × socioeconomic status interaction on intelligence. Psychol Sci 27(2):138–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Turkheimer E (2000) Three laws of behavior genetics and what they mean. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 9(5):160–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Via S, Gomulkiewicz R, De Jong G, Scheiner SM, Schlichting CD, Van Tienderen PH (1995) Adaptive phenotypic plasticity: consensus and controversy. Trends Ecol Evol 10:212–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. West-Eberhard MJ (1989) Phenotypic plasticity and the origins of diversity. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 20:249–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. West-Eberhard MJ (2003) Developmental plasticity and evolution. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologySaint Louis UniversitySaint LouisUSA
  2. 2.Criminology and Criminal JusticeSaint Louis UniversitySaint LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics (Secondary Appointment), College for Public Health & Social JusticeSaint Louis UniversitySaint LouisUSA
  4. 4.Department of Family & Community Medicine (Secondary Appointment), School of MedicineSaint Louis UniversitySaint LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations