Heritability, causal influence and locality

Pierrick Bourrat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Heritability is routinely interpreted causally. Yet, what such an interpretation amounts to is often unclear. Here, I provide a causal interpretation of this concept in terms of range of causal influence, one of several causal dimensions proposed within the interventionist account of causation. An information-theoretic measure of range of causal influence has recently been put forward in the literature. Starting from this formalization and relying upon Woodward’s analysis, I show that an important problem associated with interpreting heritability causally, namely the locality problem, amounts, at least partly, to a low invariance and low stability between the genotype/environment and the phenotype of individuals. In light of this, I plead for a causal interpretation of heritability that takes the notions of Woodward’s invariance and stability into consideration. In doing so, I defuse naive causal interpretations of heritability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6689-6715
Number of pages27
Issue number7
Early online date4 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Causal influence
  • Causal specificity
  • Causality
  • Heritability
  • Invariance
  • Locality
  • Stability


Dive into the research topics of 'Heritability, causal influence and locality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this