Unit 3C: Genetics, Evolutionary Psychology, and Behavior
  1. Introduction
    1. People are both very different in many ways and very similar in many ways.
    2. Some things seem universal to people, regardless of their race or culture – perceiving facial expressions, building relationships, conformity, formation of social rankings, grieving, celebrating, worshiping, and playing.
  2. Genes: our codes for life
    1. Every cell in our bodies holds our master genetic code. This is in our chromosomes – a normal person has 46 chromosomes, 23 from our mother and 23 from our father.
    2. Chromosomes hold our genes which holds our DNA, our genetic coding.
      1. Genes are either active or inactive, “expressed” or “repressed”.
      2. People are remarkably similar genetically, regardless of race or ethnicity.
      3. Geneticists are interested in those few differences, however, that make us so different.
  3. Twin and adoption studies
    1. Studying genetics of humans brings up many ethical questions. Experiments are really not an option. So, researchers turn to twins and adopted children.
    2. The question centers on the nature-vs.-nurture discussion – which is more powerful?
      1. Twins can have identical genes but might be raised in different environments. Any variations or similarities then would be influenced by genetics.
      2. Adopted children can have different genes but be raised in a very similar environment. Any variations or similarities then would be influenced by the environment.
    3. There are several groups we’re interested in here…
      1. Identical twins which have identical DNA since they formed from a single zygote (fertilized egg). They have identical DNA and their environment is very similar – they have the same birthday, often share the same room, start school at the same time, experience things like moving to a new home at the same age, etc.
      2. Fraternal twins are simply siblings formed from two zygotes. Their genetics are not identical but are close since they’re siblings, and like identical twins, their environment is very similar.
      3. Siblings who are simply brothers/sisters or both. Being siblings, they have close genetics. But, since they’re normally at least one year apart in age, usually more, they have a slightly less common environment. Changes and experiences happen at different ages and thus may have differing influences.
      4. Virtual twins” are non-related children of the same age, like step-brothers or step-sisters. Being non-related, genetics are no more similar than any two people. But being virtual twins, the environment is very similar.
    4. The research seems to show that genetics play the larger role in the nature-nurture battle. The more close the genes, the more close the people. The “ranking of similarity” then, from most to least similar, is…
      1. Identical twins raised together.
      2. Identical twins raised separately. There have been freakish similarities.
      3. Fraternal twins raised together.
      4. Siblings raised together.
      5. Siblings and fraternal twins raised separately.
      6. Virtual twins raised together.
    5. With the “power of genes” evident, what’s the role of the environment? The research shows that the way a child is raised matters in a huge way.
      1. Genetics influence personality and physical attributes (but so does the environment, such as a junk-food family or a health-food family).
      2. The environment influences things like attitudes, beliefs, religion, politics, and manners.
      3. Adopted children thrive in their adopted homes.
        1. Adoptive parents are screened thoroughly. Thus, they’re likely to be better educated parents and live more stable lives – good things for children.
        2. Adopted children often “do better” and score higher on IQ tests as compared to their biological siblings who stay with their biological parents.
  4. Heritability
    1. Heritability is the mathematical likelihood that differences between people is due to genetics.
      1. This does not show the likelihood that the genes caused a certain trait.
      2. This shows the percent likelihood of variations among people based on genetics.
    2. Heritability depends on how alike or unlike two people’s environments are.
      1. If two people grow up in an exactly similar environment, heritability is high. This is because any differences are likely due to genes.
      2. If two people grow up in very different environments, heritability is low. This is because any differences may very well be due to the environment rather than genes.
    3. It’s likely inaccurate to apply an individual’s heritability to groups of people as a whole.
  5. Gene-environment interaction
    1. It’s only fair to say that both genetics and the environment interact to create who we are. From the day we’re born, our environment shapes us.
  6. The new frontier: molecular genetics
    1. Molecular genetics tries to single out how specific genes influence the body or behavior. Examples might be genes that govern body weight or how outgoing a person is.
    2. To single out these genes, researchers start with families that have a trait that runs through generations, say alcoholism. They take blood samples or cheek swaps. Then they compare their genes with those of “normal” people and look for differences.
    3. Because we can “see into the future”, ethical issues arise.
      1. Millions of female fetuses are aborted in China and India because males are more desired.
      2. Fetuses might have a problem that shows up in their DNA. Many debate whether it would be okay to abort that pregnancy.
      3. Some wonder, if parents don’t like the child’s genetic make-up, is it okay to abort the child and “try again”? What if the DNA shows a brown haired child and the parents wanted a blonde, okay then?
  7. Natural selection and adaptation
    1. For all the mileage he got out of it, Charles Darwin’s 19th century theory of evolution is rather simple. The theory holds these beliefs…
      1. A species has variations.
      2. Those variations sometimes help it to live and/or to reproduce.
      3. If it lives and reproduces, its genes get passed on to the next generation (those that did not live and reproduce, will not get passed on).
    2. Some researches wondered how long it would take to domesticate a fox. After 30 generations of breeding the most tame fox-parents (forty years), the result was a loving and affectionate fox.
    3. The evolution theory believes that genetic mutations, random chance changes, sometimes help a species to survive and/or reproduce.
    4. The evolution theory believes that humans have both genetic changes as well as the ability to use our minds and change ourselves to our environments.
  8. Evolutionary success helps explain similarities
    1. Regardless of face, humans are genetically at least 95% similar.
    2. People love to eat junk food – fatty and sweet food that makes us fat. In the old days, these treats were rare, but they staved off famines.
  9. An evolutionary explanation of human sexuality
    1. Men and women are different, in case you hadn’t noticed.
      1. Men are seen as seeking sex more often than women.
      2. Women are traditionally seen as viewing sex as a relationship (that they are in it for the long haul).
      3. An evolutionary psychologist would say, “A man wants to spread his genes as often as possible (have a lot of sex), but a woman wants a man that sticks around to help raise the kids.”
    2. Men find women attractive who are young (20s), healthy-looking, athletically built, and smooth-skinned. These things add up to several child-bearing years ahead.
    3. Women are attracted to somewhat older men – those who are mature, dominant, confident, like a successful businessman.
  10. Critiquing the evolutionary perspective
    1. Evolutionary psychology is often criticized as being somewhat narrow-minded. It perceives people as acting under one, and only one, impulse – the desire to survive and pass on genes.
    2. Many wonder, “As human beings, isn’t there something more to us than this animalistic drive?”
  11. Reflections on nature and nurture
    1. Simply put, both our genes and the environment in which we’re raised both make us who we are.
    2. Our genes deal us our cards, the environment influences how we play those cards.

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