International Laboratory for Cognitive Investigations and Behavioural Genetics has been established at the Department of Psychology of Tomsk State University. This has become possible as Tomsk State University has been awarded a Megagrant from the Government of the Russian Federation to set up this Laboratory (Governmental Decree # 220 “About attracting leading scientists to Russian educational establishments of higher education”).
The Laboratory is led by a British researcher Yulia Kovas who is the director of the International Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Investigations into Individual Differences in Learning (InLab) at Goldsmiths College, University of London. The focus of research of the Laboratory for Cognitive Investigations and Behavioural Genetics is the Nature and Mechanisms of Cognitive Processes as Resources for Innovative Development. This research is interdisciplinary and is a joint effort of psychologists, quantitative and molecular geneticists, mathematicians, and other experts of Russia and the UK. Apart from Yulia Kovas and TSU scientists, a research group of the Russian-British Laboratory of Behavioural Genetics at the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education contributes to the research.
Goals and Objectives of the Laboratory. Studying human abilities, mathematical abilities in particular, has great significance for modern society. High level of mathematical achievement is the foundation of the innovative development of a country as these abilities are crucial for almost all fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics itself (STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The level of STEM can be considered as an indicator of a country’s ability to sustain economic well-being and economic growth, technological progress and innovative development. However, despite a growing need for STEM-professionals and focus on mathematical training in Higher Education, the number of students applying for mathematics related fields of study has been decreasing during the last twenty years. Individual differences in mathematical abilities as well as motivation and orientation towards learning STEM subjects develop through complex processes of gene-environment interaction. Understanding the key determinants of individual differences in abilities, achievement, motivation and interest in mathematics is a major aim of this project. Investigating the mechanisms of cognitive processes underpinning mathematical abilities will allow for developing recommendations for development of accessible individual learning systems meeting the expectations and needs of the society.
The structure and logic of this research are determined by the interdisciplinary approach — genetically sensitive cognitive psychology shifting the emphasis from studying the role of heredity and environment in shaping the complex cognitive human traits (mathematical abilities) to understanding the nature of its cognitive processes (number sense, spatial abilities, memory, response time etc.) and further towards molecular genetic basis of these cognitive processes.
The research is focused on: Establishment of the Russian School Twin Registry (RSTR). Behavioural Genetic investigation of mathematical abilities and cognitive characteristics. Cross-cultural investigation of mathematical abilities and cognitive characteristics. Molecular genetic and genome investigation of cognitive characteristics of learners with different levels of mathematical abilities.