Psychological researchers study genetics in order to better understand the biological factors that contribute to certain behaviors. Genes and the environment clearly influence the structure and function of the nervous system and therefore our thoughts, behaviors, and what makes us unique. In this chapter, we first review fundamental genetics. Then we look at how behavioral geneticists study the relative contributions of genes and environment and try to tease apart the influences of nature and nurture. We will discuss gene-environment interactions and the relatively new field of epigenetics, which studies how the environment and behaviors can cause changes in how our genes work.
- Explain the basic principles of the theory of evolution by natural selection
- Describe the differences between genotype and phenotype
- Discuss how gene-environment interactions are critical for the expression of physical and psychological characteristics
- Understand why nature–nurture questions are difficult to study empirically.
- Know the major research designs that can be used to study nature–nurture questions.
- Understand what epigenetics is and how epigenetic mechanisms can alter gene expression and impact physical and mental health