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Study of kids finds unexpected link between artistic skills, intelligence scores, and genetics

Researchers at King's College London have found that there is a link between how children draw at age 4 and their thinking skills at 14. But, don't get too excited, parents; the association is modest, and just because you think your preschooler is Picasso doesn't mean he will be a teenage Einstein.

Study participants — 7,700 pairs of 4-year-old identical and fraternal twins in England — were asked to draw pictures of a child. Each was scored depending on the number of body parts drawn, from zero to 12. The participants also took verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests at 4 and 14.

Researchers were not shocked that children with higher drawing scores tended to do better on the intelligence tests; as NPR reports, that was expected, since the drawing test was first created in the 1920s to measure cognition. What was a surprise is that test scores for identical twins were more alike than fraternal. "We had thought any siblings who were raised in the same home would be quite similar," says Rosalind Arden, the cognitive geneticist who led the study.

While this does add to the body of evidence that suggests genes do play a role in artistic and cognitive ability, don't fret if your kid is a lousy artist. "The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly," Arden added. "Drawing ability does not determine intelligence; there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life."