Gene–environment interaction in expertise: The importance of childhood environment for musical achievement.

Both genes and the environment are important for individual differences in expertise, but little is known about gene–environment interactions underlying domain-specific achievement. Here we explored this issue in a large Swedish twin cohort (N = 6,610), using moderator modeling with musical expertise as a model domain. Specifically, we tested whether musical enrichment of the childhood environment moderates adult musical achievement, as well as the magnitude of genetic and nongenetic influences on individual differences in achievement. Musical achievement was measured using the Creative Achievement Questionnaire and enrichment of the childhood environment was indexed with a principal component derived from the number of music records in the family home, number of individuals in the family environment playing an instrument, frequency of concert visits, and music education before the age of 12. As expected, we found a positive association between childhood musical enrichment and musical achievement in adulthood. Interestingly, however, the total variance in musical achievement as well as the relative importance of genetic influences increased with a higher level of musical enrichment. Estimates of genetic and environmental influences as well as the magnitude of the environmental moderation differed for men and women. These findings suggest that, in line with recent multifactorial models of expert performance, a musically enriched childhood environment amplifies individual differences, an effect which is largely driven by an increase in the importance of genetic factors. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)