Human nature, observed

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Science  02 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6375, pp. 510-513
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6375.510

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For nearly 30 years, two psychologists, Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, have collaborated on one of the more comprehensive and probing investigations of human development. From detailed observations of the life courses of about 1000 New Zealanders, the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study has spun out more than 1200 papers on questions from the risk factors for antisocial behavior to the long-term effects of cannabis use. The study stands out among long-term cohort studies for its high retention rate—nearly 95% of the original cohort has stayed with the study since it launched in 1972—and the intimacy of the data-gathering process, which includes not just cognitive, psychological, and health assessments, but also interviews with cohort members' teachers, families, and friends and reviews of their financial and legal records.

  • Douglas Starr is co-director of the program in science journalism at Boston University.

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