Author: Robert Chapman

Save Science from Fiction

Science reporting should be about science not science fiction Fatos Selita (1), Robert Chapman (2) , Kaili Rimfeld (3) , Yulia Kovas (4) 1 – Barrister of England & Wales, Attorney and Counselor at Law of the State of New York, USA 2 – Researcher at InLab, Goldsmiths, University of London 3 – Researcher at Kings College London 4 – Professor of Genetics and Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London What is the mission of media reports on scientific research and discoveries?  An obvious answer is: to ‘inform and interest the general public and to promote science.’ However, some media...

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The Face of Genetics

Have you ever noticed faces in clouds, or in the knots in trees? Most people have a strong tendency to see faces even when there are none, and human faces tend to capture our attention considerably more than other visual stimuli. The fact this happens, and even the mechanisms behind it have been studied extensively; however, until recently noone has looked into the origins of why this happens? Could our genes be a driving force in our fascination with faces? The answer to this is doubtlessly yes as genes influence every human trait that has ever been measured, at least to some extent. But to what extent in this case? And are there specialist genes that specifically relate to this fascination? These questions have recently been asked by Nicholas Shakeshaft and Robert Plomin at King’s College London. In using the twin method they were able to separate the genetic and environmental influences in face recognition and compare these to both general intelligence (known as g to psychologists) and general object recognition (cars in this case). What they found is that there are considerable genetic influences in face recognition, and that these influences show almost no overlap with the genetic influences on either g or general object recognition. This is unusual, as genetic influences tend to be quite general (genes that relate to good reading also relate to good maths,...

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Response to Oliver James’ Article in the Daily Mail: Bit of a Dimwit? You can’t blame your genes

Much like Oliver James, when I was ten every school report I received told me that I was a nice kid, just not very bright, and not really able to apply myself. A theme that followed me throughout my schooling. I now have two degrees, have just started my PhD and am a founding member of “The Accessible Genetics Consortium”. The fact is that genes are important in the development of who we are. However, what needs to be understood is that genes are not deterministic, they interact with our environments in many different ways, and their influences change over the life-span. Treating every child as a ‘blank slate’ that will respond equally to all environmental inputs has persistently led to poor outcomes, and acknowledging the importance of our genes as well as our environments is vital in addressing this. Of course things like birth order are important, no researcher in the area of behavioural genetics would argue with this, but environmental factors like this are not the only important factors. We know this by conducting extensive studies with twins. Identical (monozygotic) twins are 100% genetically similar, non-identical twins share as much of their DNA as regular siblings (50% on average), but share as much of their environments as identical twins, and factors such as birth order can be controlled for. As such, when identical twins are found to...

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