Phenotypic and genetic evidence for a unifactorial structure of spatial abilities

Rimfeld, Kaili; Shakeshaft, Nicholas G.; Malanchini, Margherita; Rodic, Maja; Selzam, Saskia; Schofield, Kerry; Dale, Philip S.; Kovas, Yulia and Plomin, Robert. 2017. Phenotypic and genetic evidence for a unifactorial structure of spatial abilities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(10), pp. 2777-2782. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Spatial abilities encompass several skills differentiable from general cognitive ability (g). Importantly, spatial abilities have been shown to be significant predictors of many life outcomes, even after controlling for g. To date, no studies have analyzed the genetic architecture of diverse spatial abilities using a multivariate approach. We developed “gamified” measures of diverse putative spatial abilities. The battery of 10 tests was administered online to 1,367 twin pairs (age 19–21) from the UK-representative Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). We show that spatial abilities constitute a single factor, both phenotypically and genetically, even after controlling for g. This spatial ability factor is highly heritable (69%). We draw three conclusions: (i) The high heritability of spatial ability makes it a good target for gene-hunting research; (ii) some genes will be specific to spatial ability, independent of g; and (iii) these genes will be associated with all components of spatial ability.

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spatial ability, intelligence, behavioral genetics, twin studies, mental rotation

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7 March 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

05 Sep 2017 15:34

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:32

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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