Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford


  • Kate E. LynchEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_41-1



Heritability is the statistical metric that estimates the relative influence of genetic variation (measured as genetic variance) on phenotypic variation (phenotypic variance), relative to the influence of environmental differences (environmental variance).


Heritability is a statistical parameter that is often used in discussions of genetic causation and the nature versus nurture debate. The heritability of a trait, represented by either H2 (for broad heritability) or h2 (for narrow heritability) is between 0 and 1. Traits with a high heritability are generally seen as genetically influenced, and those with a low heritability as environmentally caused (Lynch and Bourrat 2017).

The heritability concept most often invoked in psychological science is broad sense heritability. Broad sense heritability estimates the proportion of phenotypic variance (VP) that can be accounted for by genetic variance (VG), relative to the...
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bratko, D., Butković, A., & Vukasović Hlupić, T. (2017). Heritability of personality. Psychological Topics, 26(1), 1–24.Google Scholar
  2. Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Cannon, M., McClay, J., Murray, R., Harrington, H., …, & Poulton, R. (2005). Moderation of the effect of adolescent-onset cannabis use on adult psychosis by a functional polymorphism in the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene: longitudinal evidence of a gene X environment interaction. Biological Psychiatry, 57(10), 1117–1127.Google Scholar
  3. Edvardsen, J., Torgersen, S., Røysamb, E., Lygren, S., Skre, I., Onstad, S., & Øien, P. A. (2008). Heritability of bipolar spectrum disorders. Unity or heterogeneity? Journal of Affective Disorders, 106(3), 229–240.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Falconer, D. S., & McKay, R. (1996). Introduction to quantitative genetics (3rd ed.). Burnt Mill: Longman.Google Scholar
  5. Flynn, J. R. (1984). The mean IQ of Americans: Massive gains 1932 to 1978. Psychological Bulletin, 95(1), 29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hilker, R., Helenius, D., Fagerlund, B., Skytthe, A., Christensen, K., Werge, T. M., …, & Glenthøj, B. (2018). Heritability of schizophrenia and schizophrenia spectrum based on the nationwide Danish twin register. Biological Psychiatry, 83(6), 492–498.Google Scholar
  7. Jaffee, S. R., & Price, T. S. (2007). Gene–environment correlations: A review of the evidence and implications for prevention of mental illness. Molecular Psychiatry, 12(5), 432.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kaebnick, G. E. (2006). Behavioral genetics and moral responsibility. In E. Parens, A. R. Chapman, & N. Press (Eds.), Wrestling with behavioral genetics: Science, ethics, and public conversation. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Keller, E. F. (2010). The mirage of a space between nature and nurture. Durham and London: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Lewontin, R. C. (1974). Annotation: The analysis of variance and the analysis of causes. American Journal of Human Genetics, 26(3), 400.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Lush, J. (1937). Animal breeding plans. Iowa: Iowa State College Press.Google Scholar
  12. Lynch, K. E. (2017). Heritability and causal reasoning. Biology and Philosophy, 32(1), 25–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lynch, K. E., & Bourrat, P. (2017). Interpreting heritability causally. Philosophy of Science, 84(1), 14–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Meek, S. E., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Jahromi, L. B., & Valiente, C. (2013). A review of gene–environment correlations and their implications for autism: A conceptual model. Psychological Review, 120(3), 497.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Parens, E., Chapman, A. R., & Press, N. (Eds.). (2006). Wrestling with behavioral genetics: Science, ethics, and public conversation. Baltimore, Maryland: JHU Press.Google Scholar
  16. Plomin, R., & Bergeman, C. S. (1991). The nature of nurture: Genetic influence on “environmental” measures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 14(3), 373–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Plomin, R., & Spinath, F. M. (2004). Intelligence: Genetics, genes, and genomics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(1), 112.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Plomin, R., DeFries, J. C., & Loehlin, J. C. (1977). Genotype-environment interaction and correlation in the analysis of human behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 84(2), 309.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Power, R. A., & Pluess, M. (2015). Heritability estimates of the Big Five personality traits based on common genetic variants. Translational Psychiatry, 5(7), e604.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rutter, M., & Silberg, J. (2002). Gene-environment interplay in relation to emotional and behavioral disturbance. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1), 463–490.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rutter, M., Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2006). Gene–environment interplay and psychopathology: Multiple varieties but real effects. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47(3–4), 226–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sauce, B., & Matzel, L. D. (2018). The paradox of intelligence: Heritability and malleability coexist in hidden gene-environment interplay. Psychological Bulletin, 144(1), 26.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sullivan, P. F., Neale, M. C., & Kendler, K. S. (2000). Genetic epidemiology of major depression: Review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(10), 1552–1562.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tabery, J. (2014). Beyond versus: The struggle to understand the interaction of nature and nurture. cambridge massachusetts: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Tick, B., Bolton, P., Happé, F., Rutter, M., & Rijsdijk, F. (2016). Heritability of autism spectrum disorders: A meta-analysis of twin studies. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(5), 585–595.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Turkheimer, E. (2000). Three laws of behavior genetics and what they mean. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9(5), 160–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Gayle Brewer
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of Central LancashirePrestonUK