Minnesota Twin Study: Results & Overview

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  • 0:00 Nature vs. Nurture
  • 0:47 Minnesota Twin Studies
  • 2:33 Minnesota Twin Family Study
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chris Clause
In this lesson you will learn about the Minnesota Twin Studies and the impact they have had on the nature versus nurture debate. Following completion of this lesson, you will have the opportunity to test your knowledge with a short quiz.

Nature vs. Nurture

In order to understand the importance of the Minnesota Twin Studies, you must first consider the issue of nature versus nurture. The dialogue surrounding whether nature or nurture is most influential when it comes to human and animal behavior in many ways inspired the Minnesota Twin Studies.

The general consensus amongst the scientific world is that behavior can be explained by a combination of both nature, or genetics, and nurture, or the environment. Psychologists however are not satisfied to rest on that conclusion alone. Questions remain regarding to what degree certain behavioral traits can be explained by genetics or the environment. For example, to what extent can someone's alcoholism can be explained by genetics and to what extent can it be explained by environmental influences?

Minnesota Twin Studies

The Minnesota Twin Studies were a series of studies conducted in affiliation with the University of Minnesota, designed to study the influence of genetics on personal and behavioral traits. For the purposes of this lesson, two of them in particular will be discussed.

In 1979, T.J. Bouchard, in affiliation with the University of Minnesota, began studying the similarities and differences in characteristics like personality, career interests, and a variety of personal preferences between monozygotic (identical) twins who were reared apart. Since each twin contains 100% of the genetic makeup in common with their co-twin, it was an easy way to see what impact genetics has and also what impact the environment has on a variety of personal and behavioral characteristics.

T.J. Bouchard invited all of the identical twins he could identify from all over the world to Minnesota and asked them a variety of questions about themselves. He was interested in things like their hobbies, academic abilities, vocational choices, family lives, and medical information. What he discovered was that identical twins reared apart have just about the same chance of developing key aspects of his or her personality, interests, and attitudes as if they were raised together.

These findings suggest that genetics play a strong role in the development of personal characteristics. The differences that were noted between the twins reared apart suggest the power of the environmental influences at play as well. A person's genes may serve as a blueprint for things like physical, social, and emotional development, but the influence of the environment can't be denied. If the genetics are identical between two people, then the differences in personal characteristics must be environmental. The results of this study are quite significant in that they support both the power of nature and nurture.

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