TEDS twin Rosa talks about her interest in twin studies
TEDS twin Rosa and her twin Marge
You don't have to be an identical twin to have insight into what makes every individual unique, but it certainly helps! My interest in twin studies began with my participation in TEDS 21 years ago. Twins, I discovered, offer an elegantly simple scientific method for investigating the relative role of nature and nurture in determining traits like behaviour, personality, and health.
My degree in Human Sciences at Oxford enabled me to engage with twin research. My dissertation sought to explain why identical twins can have very different academic achievement outcomes. Identical twins have the same genetic code, but the code is expressed differently depending on chance and environmental factors, which can lead to important differences in various traits, including some affecting school achievement. In fact, twin studies offer the best evidence for the importance of the environment, which includes not only parent and classroom effects, but differences in the womb environment between a pair of identical twins. Genetics and environment combine to drive individuality. Identical twins might have early personality and health differences that cause people respond to them differently, or lead them to seek out different environments. Twin research about academic achievement is important: individual differences send children on different lifelong pathways, affecting occupation, health and mortality. It feels great to not only be a 'guinea pig', but to be contributing to research into what makes every individual unique, even when they're 'identical'.