Paige Harden- Univ. of Texas
TITLE: Childhood Executive Functions: Heritability, Neurobiology, and Philosophical Luckiness
ABSTRACT: In the first half of this talk, I describe our empirical research on childhood executive functions (EFs) in the Texas Twin Project, an ongoing study of a child and adolescent twins and multiples in central Texas. EFs are supervisory cognitive processes that modulate goal-directed cognitive operations and include inhibition, switching, updating, and working memory abilities. In a series of studies of n > 800 twin children ages 8-13, we found that childhood EFs (1) are already nearly perfectly heritable by middle childhood, (2) engage the same fronto-parietal and cingulo-opercular brain networks as adults, (3) are associated with individual differences in school achievement, psychopathology, and BMI. In the second half of this talk, I describe new philosophical work on the ethical and political implications of sociogenomic research linking genetic differences between people to phenotypes, such as EFs, that are relevant for social inequality. In particular, I consider how genotypes and, more problematically, genetically-influenced phenotypes can be understood within the framework of the philosophy of luck, and sketch how the concept of "genetic luck" can be useful for understanding the compatibility of sociogenomic research with a broad spectrum of political values and ideologies.