All In The Family

We’re well into the beginning of the year and high school kids will soon be worrying about their test scores and college choices, that is if they can face the mountain of debt that they’ll be building up to get their degree. Most will have decided on their majors, often succumbing to parental pressure while the lucky ones will be following their dream.

Can you hear some saying “you must be mad to opt for that major”? But what governs our choices at what you become good at?  Teachers you get on well with of course, but things go deeper than that. What predisposition does your genetics and environment play in all this?

 Apparently, our intellectual interests are markedly influenced by the history of particular types of neuropsychiatric disorders within our close families, according to a study published by Campbell and Wang in Thursday’s issue of the Public Library of Science (1).

The correlations were uncovered by quizzing some 1077 new Princeton students, so we are dealing with high achievers. Students opting for the technical/hard sciences had a significant chance of a sibling with an autism spectrum disorder. The suggestion is that autism is a sort of super systematizing condition and that adherence to logic and detail arising from this could be an inheritable factor.

On the other hand, the humanities aspirants had a higher incidence of major depression, bipolar or substance abuse disorders. All conditions displayed by popular literary stereotypes for creative writers, artists or musicians.

As mentioned earlier, this study was of high achievers, which by definition leaves out the majority of us who are bumbling along trying to do our best in an unforgiving economy. When we look at our close familial links, we will have an explanation. What neuropsychiatric disorder among my relations would have predisposed me to be a party animal rather than a high achiever, I wonder?


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