Science published a neat little paper examining links between specific human DNA sequences and educational attainment. The paper, which is a bit shorter than the list of authors who worked on the project, examined a total sample of more than 120,000 participants who had their entire genome sequenced for a number of small clusters of repeating nucleotides (single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs). They then examined all the SNPs and their associations with the level of educational attainment of each of the participants in the sample. After controlling for bias, in that a genome wide study performs thousands of significance tests, three SNPs emerged as significant predictors of educational attainment.
I find this study very interesting because there are a number of provocative ways to interpret the results of this study, and most of those would be incorrect! In what follows, I highlight four (wrong) ways to interpret the results of this study.
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