A new study says that where we live - our geographical location - is important in determining how much our development will be affected by genetic and environmental factors.
"These days we're used to the idea that it's not a question of nature or nurture; everything, including our behaviour, is a little of both. But when we saw the maps, the first thing that struck us was how much the balance of genes and environments can vary from region to region," said Dr. Oliver Davis, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 6,700 families in the Twins Early Development Study. The study includes data from some 12,000 families of twins born between 1994 and 1996 in England and Wales. When the twins were about 12 years old, the researchers conducted a large-scale survey to assess behaviors and attitudes.
They found that both genes and the environment influence a person and that these vary geographically. The researchers have published a series of Nature-Nurture maps to demonstrate their findings.
"Take a trait like classroom behaviour problems. From our maps we can tell that in most of the UK around 60% of the difference between people is explained by genes. However, in the South East genes aren't as important: they explain less than half of the variation. For classroom behaviour, London is an 'environmental hotspot'," said Dr. Davis.
The researchers say that people will exhibit a certain trait not just because they are genetically pre-disposed to it but because the environment factors made them express it. That said even children who are twins show different characteristics showing that they respond to the same environment differently.
They found that in London, household income plays a significant role in shaping classroom behavior.
"The nature-nurture maps help us to spot patterns in the complex data, and to try to work out what's causing these patterns. For our classroom behaviour example, we realised that one thing that varies more in London is household income. When we compare maps of income inequality to our nature-nurture map for classroom behaviour, we find income inequality may account for some of the pattern," said Dr. Davis.
According to the researchers, genetic factors and environmental factors are two of the many things that shape us.
"The message that these maps really drive home is that your genes aren't your destiny. There are plenty of things that can affect how your particular human genome expresses itself, and one of those things is where you grow up," said Dr. Davis, according to The Wellcome Trust press release.