Study finds genetic link between height and IQ

by Bob Yirka report

A team of researchers at Edinburgh University in Scotland has found a correlation between genes associated with height and those associated with intelligence. In their paper published in the journal Behavior Genetics, the group describes how they studied the DNA of 6,815 unrelated people and discovered what they describe as a direct correlation between height and intelligence—taller people are smarter, they say.

While the team's study results are likely to cause quite a stir, particularly among those lower in physical stature, it does add to a growing body of research that suggests there are physical, mental and in some cases emotional differences between people related to body size (both and girth). In this effort, the team used data obtained from Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study—where both medical tests and mental aptitude were tested— was measured via four basic metrics: mental reaction times, linguistic ability, processing speed and powers of recall.

In analyzing data from the study, the team found what they describe as a "significant genetic correlation" between IQ and height—between taller and shorter people. Those that were shorter were on average, found to be slightly less intelligent than their taller counterparts. It's important to note that the researchers are not suggesting that all short people are less intelligent, or that all tall people are more intelligent. Instead they are pointing out averages across a population. Also important to note is that the Family Health Study did not use standard IQ tests to measure intelligence.

The research team also claim that 70 percent of the genetic differences they found regarding IQ and height could be attributed to genetic factors—the rest could be chalked up to environment.

Other studies have found that there exists different health risks for people of different heights—some have found that shorter people, for example, are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, while taller people tend to die younger than shorter people. Studies that have looked for intelligence differences based on height, however, have been few and far between. The researchers in Scotland point out that prior studies have relied mainly on testing people related to one another—theirs, they claim, is the first study to measure people who are completely unrelated.

More information: Behavior Genetics March 2014, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 91-96. DOI: 10.1007/s10519-014-9644-z

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Predicting human body height from DNA

Nov 20, 2013

Predicting adult body height from genetic data is helpful in several areas such as pediatric endocrinology and forensic investigations. However, despite large international efforts to catalogue the genes ...

Recommended for you

Changes in scores of genes contribute to autism risk

Oct 29, 2014

Small differences in as many as a thousand genes contribute to risk for autism, according to a study led by Mount Sinai researchers and the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC), and published today in the journal Nature.

Dozens of genes associated with autism in new research

Oct 29, 2014

Two major genetic studies of autism, led in part by UC San Francisco scientists and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows ...

Genetic link to kidney stones identified

Oct 29, 2014

A new breakthrough could help kidney stone sufferers get an exact diagnosis and specific treatment after genetic links to the condition were identified.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Anonym
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 05, 2014
Finally, a sound statistically based study that accounts for the widespread observation that professional basketball players are just plain smarter than the rest of us.
dedereu
5 / 5 (3) Mar 05, 2014
"a moderate and statistically significant genetic correlation between height and general intelligence,
the phenotypic correlation between these measures was small (~0.16)"
it is not very significant.
RobertKarlStonjek
3 / 5 (4) Mar 05, 2014
Albert Einstein, 5 feet 9
Sir Isaac Newton, 5 feet 6
mathari
3.5 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2014
This is absolute nonsense. This study belongs in Star magazine not in a medical publication.
Returners
5 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2014
Albert Einstein, 5 feet 9
Sir Isaac Newton, 5 feet 6


Me: 5 feet 10.

If only this research were true.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Mar 09, 2014
Finally, a sound statistically based study that accounts for the widespread observation that professional basketball players are just plain smarter than the rest of us.


Albert Einstein, 5 feet 9
Sir Isaac Newton, 5 feet 6


Correlation is not causation. Learn the difference.
foolspoo
5 / 5 (3) Mar 09, 2014
Thank you antalias! Amazing that this still must be repeated to adults.
marko
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2014
It would make some sense that people with bigger brains have greater intellectual potential.

Taller people would correlate with bigger heads.

As for Newton and Einstein, we need to factor in the heights of typical persons in their eras due to nutrition. People were smaller in the past.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.