In this chapter, we tackle a problem that has been at the heart of the debate over the relative influence of genes and environments in producing cognitive competencies. Our goal is to attempt to reconcile the disparate claims of behavior genetics researchers who stress the prepotency of genes in producing intellectual competence (for example, Bouchard, Lykken, Tellegan, and McGue, 1998) with those whom Scarr (1997) refers to as “socialization theorists” because of their stance on the crucial role of the social and material environment in shaping developmental outcomes.
Our means of making this reconciliation is to describe recent efforts by diverse scholars to explain cognitive growth in terms of theories, models, and metaphors that are inherently multiplicative, more so than prior ones. We do not intend to delve into a comparative analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each model or metaphor, as that is not our goal, but instead we want to make the point that various researchers, coming from very different orientations, have found the need to postulate similar types of multiplier effects to account for cognitive growth across a wide range of attainments (reading, intelligence, mathematics, motoric).
In the treatment that follows we use the terms “proclivities,” “penchants,” and “abilities” interchangeably, to refer to basic, underlying “resource pools” that are undoubtedly biologically based. Thus, we speak of a newborn's penchant, ability, or proclivity to stare, attend, remember, and process the perceptual world.