Asked by: Celia Mortlock, Bristol
The sorts of abilities needed to do well in IQ tests (verbal and spatial working memory, attention tasks, verbal knowledge and motor speed ability) are certainly inheritable, as many studies involving identical and fraternal twins have shown.
Particular brain regions associated with such differences in intellectual function, including the language areas known as Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, are virtually the same in identical twins. However, this begs the question of what we mean by ‘intelligence’. Psychologist Stephen Kosslyn of Harvard University, in the US, believes IQ tests measure “the kind of intelligence you need to do well in school, not what you need to do well in life”. One additional factor that isn’t included is ‘emotional intelligence’ – awareness of social interactions and people’s feelings.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.