Re: [xmca] reading ability is genetic!? (read this one!)

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Wed Sep 20 2006 - 03:51:52 PDT

I poked my nose into the paper and found the following, which may
explain the psycholinguistic framework they're working within.


"Another key issue that we wish to explore is the role of semantics.
One possibility that needs to be considered is that the independent
genetic variance that we have found to be associated with irregular
word reading in fact reflects the genetic effect of semantics. That
is, as irregular words activate semantics, while nonwords do not,
this semantic factor accounts for the necessity to propose
independent genetic influences on these two reading skills (a
hypothesis consistent with connectionist models such as those of
Plaut et al., 1996). This possibility can be explicitly examined
within a twin sample by separately assessing semantic performance in
addition to irregular word and nonword reading (for instance by
verbally asking subjects to define words). If irregular word reading
cannot be achieved without semantics, this measured semantic
performance should load on the same genetic factor that explains
irregular word reading. If, on the other hand, semantics is a
cognitive module independent of lexical processing, then a good fit
to these three variables should require a new, additional genetic

On 20/09/2006, at 4:58 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

> Can anyone deal with this stupidity:
> newsitems/200609/s1745337.htm
> I haven't read the research and it's not my discipline, but I heard
> the Macquarie University guy interviewed on Radio National last
> year, and his thesis is based on data comparing the reading ability
> of kids arriving at primary school, and presuming that any
> difference in ability must be genetic, because there is nothing
> between birth and arriving at school which he thinks could affect
> ability to learn to read. ... or is there so much of this rubbish
> about that it's not worth contesting? I mean these people get
> government money for purveying this stuff!
> Andy
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