Interpreting heritability causally

Kate E. Lynch, Pierrick Bourrat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


A high heritability estimate usually corresponds to a situation in which trait variation is largely caused by genetic variation. However, in some cases of gene-environment covariance, causal intuitions about the sources of trait difference can vary, leading experts to disagree as to how the heritability estimate should be interpreted. We argue that the source of contention for these cases is an inconsistency in the interpretation of the concepts ‘genotype’, ‘phenotype’, and ‘environment’. We propose an interpretation of these terms under which trait variance initially caused by genetic variance is subsumed into a heritability for all cases of gene-environment covariance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-34
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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