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Evolutionary Psychology And Behavioral Genetics

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Much debated topic among psychologist are always, whether our personality and behaviour are governed by nature or nurture. Evidence from various psychologists’ study have very much agreed that both also can influence and shape who we are. But to what extent, or which is more important is still an ongoing debate. The following contents of this essay will describe about two psychology branches: Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioural Genetics, to dwell on their root’s origin, ideology approach and methodology used of studying human behaviour and personality. In brief, Evolutionary Psychologist is to study how our behaviour and cognitive change according to evolutionary biology. Behavioural Genetics, on the other hand is a field of study how heredity, environment and evolution work together to shape our behaviour. Behavioural Genetics Psychology basically focus into what extend that nature or nurture shape our behaviour as cited in (Robert Plomin, 1998) (Douglas T. Kenrick, 2014).

Historically to trace back who is the researcher who popularised Behavioural Genetics Psychology (E. M. EAST, T. H. MORGAN, J. ARTHUR HARRIS, GEORGE H. SHULL, 1923), we owned thanks to Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) and Francis Galton (1822-1911); thanking how both contributed to genetics and biology; Mendel’s botanical study inheritance of colour of pea flower and Galton’s study about how hereditary can influence human intelligence. Mendel’s put forward that complex traits influence by various genes and environmental influence. Mendel experimented about the parental (purple pea flower -RR and white pea flower -rr) self-pollinated to have genes of Rr, also had insect to spread the pollen to produce other genes as cited in (P M Dunn, 2003) (Robert Plomin, 1998). According to ( Editors, 2014), Mendel spent easily 8 years experiments on plants which eventually come out with 2 important concepts: 1) the Law of Segregation, which indicate offspring inherit parent’s dominant and recessive traits. 2) the Law of independent Assortment, which suggest genes from parents are sorted out independently to their offspring. Mendel initially emphasized that this theory is applicable to all living things. Unfortunately received much controversy and eventually only landed as general application for foundation principles of biology. Thus, Mendel is hailed as “Father of Modern Genetics”, due to his work and theories serve as a fundamental understanding about genetic study. ( Editors, 2014) (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1998)cited Francis Galton, on the other hand contributed much to study eugenics and human intelligence, Galton drew concept from his cousin of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, directing on how human select their mate will influence intelligence. He was much labelled as eugenics due to his belief in selecting partner which has good quality of traits to reproduce better quality offspring to improve human species. Galton’s publication “Hereditary Genius (1869)”, argued that intelligence and physical features are inherited.

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) was an English naturalist, known for his evolution theory and natural selection had become the foundation for Evolutionary Psychology which emerge more than a century later. In late 19th and early 20th century, William James and William McDougall respectively also cited concepts from Darwin’s evolution theory. James’s “The Principles of Psychology (1890)” used Darwin’s Evolutionary idea to explain that human’s behaviours reflect the operation of instincts; Example of instinct action like sneezing is to cause rapid blast of air to clear away irritancies in nasal passageway. McDougall’s “An Introduction to Social Psychology (1908)” emphasised that most social behaviours are mainly driven by human instinct. (Douglas T. Kenrick, 2014)

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Strictly speaking, even though Behavioural Genetics researchers first made experiment on human in 1920s, nature as well as nurture are important factors that influence human behaviour was not widely acknowledged until 1970s. Behavioural Genetics researcher used both animals and human in their quantitative genetic methods experiments, studies using animals yield more accurate data mainly because researchers can control and manipulate both genes and environment in lab. On the other hand, researcher used quasi-experimental methods to study human twins (identical and fraternal), family and adoption. The adoption method is a quasi-experimental design which enable researcher to have better insight learning into the extent of nature and nurture influence. (Robert Plomin, 1998)

Evolutionary Psychology started in the late 1980s, exactly more than one century after naturalist Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. Evolutionary Psychology is generally a fusion ideology from different field: ethology, cognitive psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and social psychology. Therefore, Evolutionary Psychology researchers use variety of techniques which include lab experiments, field experiments, mathematical and agent-based simulations, surveys, neuroimaging and many more, as cited in (Robert Kurzban , 2007). Seemingly Evolutionary Psychology received many criticisms for their hypothesis questions; (Ketelaar, T., & Ellis, B., 2000) mentioned are the methods and strategies use to test hypothesis scientifically defensible and unfalsifiable. These criticisms also found to be backfired by a few journals which manage to justified Evolutionary psychologists’ stand and clarified the issues of testability and falsifiability, and also concludes with the discussion of limitations as cited in (Confer JC1, Easton JA, Fleischman DS, Goetz CD, Lewis DM, Perilloux C, Buss DM, 2010) (About evolutionary psychology? – The Evolution Institute, 2016) (Trafimow, D., & Gambacorta, D., 2012).

My discussion about Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioural Genetics has come to the end. Evolutionary Psychology relatively still a young field which emerged later than Behavioural Genetic Psychology, despite the origins of the ideology existed a century back ago. Both Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioural Genetic contained Darwin’s evolution and adaptation idea (biology) but focused on different area to study. Behavioural Genetic focussed on human genes and how nature and nurture play a role into shaping human behaviour. Evolutionary Psychology, on the other hand focussed on human’s adaptation and evolution from past ancestors until modern days and its role to shape why we behave as today in social and cultural point of view. But I have found a few articles which trying to combine both Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioural Genetics which become “Evolutionary Behavioural Genetics” or suggested to be unified perspective on Personality Research. (NANCY L. SEGAL and KEVIN B. MACDONALD, 1998) (Zietsch, B. P., de Candia, T. R., & Keller, M. C, 2015) mentioned how genetically informative data and methodology (Behavioural Genetic) can be used to investigate hypothesis of evolution of human behaviour (Evolutionary Psychology) and vice versa.

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Evolutionary Psychology And Behavioral Genetics. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from
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