COLUMBUS, Ohio, April 8 (UPI) -- Some kids take naturally to the process of formal education. Others, not so much. Bad attitudes and poor teachers may often take the blame, but as a new study points out the reality is that scholastic motivation is very much a matter of genetics.
Researchers at Ohio State University say genes are at least 40 to 50 percent responsible for a child's motivation to learn. If a middle school student is slacking off, it may simply be the genetic legacy of their parents.
Scientists arrived at their conclusion after studying the motivational differences among 13,000 twins from six different countries. A complex analysis of data from large surveys asking children to rate their interest and confidence in various learning- and school-related subjects allowed researchers to compare similarity of answers between identical twins, who share all of their genes, and fraternal twins, who only share about half. Answers given by identical twins matched more closely, suggesting a genetics affect motivation.
Both genetics and the twins' non-shared environment -- exposure to different parenting or teaching styles, for example -- were found to be the two most likely determining factors.
"The knee-jerk reaction is to say someone is not properly motivating the student, or the child himself is responsible," lead researcher Stephen Petrill, an Ohio State psychologist, said in a press release.
"We found that there are personality differences that people inherit that have a major impact on motivation," Petrill explained. "That doesn't mean we don't try to encourage and inspire students, but we have to deal with the reality of why they're different."
According to the research, shared environmental factors, such as parental relationships, only accounted for 3 percent of personality variables.
"Most personality variables have a genetic component, but to have nearly no shared environment component is unexpected," Petrill said. "But it was consistent across all six countries."
The research was published online this week in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.