Human face recognition ability is specific and highly heritable

Jeremy B. Wilmer, Laura Germine, Christopher F. Chabris, Garga Chatterjee, Mark Williams, Eric Loken, Ken Nakayama, Bradley Duchaine

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    292 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Compared with notable successes in the genetics of basic sensory transduction, progress on the genetics of higher level perception and cognition has been limited. We propose that investigating specific cognitive abilities with well-defined neural substrates, such as face recognition, may yield additional insights. In a twin study of face recognition, we found that the correlation of scores between monozygotic twins (0.70) was more than double the dizygotic twin correlation (0.29), evidence for a high genetic contribution to face recognition ability. Low correlations between face recognition scores and visual and verbal recognition scores indicate that both face recognition ability itself and its genetic basis are largely attributable to face-specific mechanisms. The present results therefore identify an unusual phenomenon: a highly specific cognitive ability that is highly heritable. Our results establish a clear genetic basis for face recognition, opening this intensively studied and socially advantageous cognitive trait to genetic investigation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5238-5241
    Number of pages4
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Volume107
    Issue number11
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2010

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