Gene of the Week: DIY

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on April 1st, 2010

A British news wire service reports that "DIY [do-it-yourself] ability is in the genes, say scientists," and a more detailed article titled "DIY skills determined by DNA" can be found at the Every Investor website. The articles report on research carried out by psychologist Glenn Wilson on behalf of Halifax Home Insurance, a subsidiary of Lloyd's.

Study participants were asked to complete various spatial puzzles. The researchers observed that the participants either had an "innate understanding of shapes and mechanics," or didn't. It seems people don't improve their skills by trial and error.

This "gene of the week" is even more problematic than those on which we've commented before. In the typical case, which a study finds that a particular behavior appears to have a genetic component. The researchers speak cautiously but media headlines distort the relationship as "The Gene for X." In this case, the news articles cited neither genetic tests nor comparisons with participants' biological relatives. As far as I can tell, this study offers no reason to believe that one's ability or inability to successfully complete spatial puzzles (much less do-it-yourself projects, which require other characteristics, such as motivation and planning) is genetically determined, as opposed to learned (or not) at a younger age.

Previous Genes of the Week:

Posted in Jesse Reynolds's Blog Posts, Media Coverage, Sequencing & Genomics


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