6. Behavioral Genetics I | Summary and Q&A

February 1, 2011
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6. Behavioral Genetics I

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This video discusses the different approaches in behavior genetics and their limitations. It covers the sociobiological/evolutionary psychology approach, the molecular biology approach, and the behavior genetics approach. The video highlights the importance of considering genetic components in behavior and the challenges in identifying these components. It also discusses the use of adoption studies and identical twins separated at birth as a means to study the genetic influences on behavior.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the two broad approaches discussed in the video?

The two broad approaches discussed in the video are the sociobiological/evolutionary psychology approach and the molecular biology approach.

Q: What are the limitations of the sociobiological/evolutionary psychology approach?

One limitation of this approach is that it assumes behavior evolves under the same selection pressures as physical traits, which may not be universally true. Another limitation is the reliance on assumptions about heritability and evolution that may not be well-supported.

Q: How does the molecular biology approach differ from the sociobiological approach?

The molecular biology approach focuses on understanding evolutionary change at the DNA level and how genes influence behavior. It explores mechanisms for microevolutionary change and the amplifying effects of macroevolution, supporting the idea of punctuated equilibrium.

Q: What is the field of behavior genetics about?

Behavior genetics is a field that examines the genetic influence on behavior in a heritable context. It looks for patterns of shared traits among individuals with differing degrees of shared genes and infers genetic influences based on these patterns.

Q: What is the simplest version of inferring genetic influences on behavior?

The simplest version is to look at traits that run in families and assume that the more closely related individuals are, the more genes they share in common, and thus the more likely the trait has a genetic influence.

Q: What are some criticisms of the behavior genetics field?

One criticism is that the field often makes deterministic claims about genetic influences on behavior without considering other factors such as environment. Another criticism is that some techniques used in behavior genetics research are considered nonsensical.

Q: How is the genetic component of a behavior measured in behavior genetics studies?

Genetic components are often measured by comparing the likelihood of sharing a trait among individuals with different degrees of genetic relatedness, while controlling for environmental factors.

Q: What are some challenges in behavior genetics research?

Challenges include difficulties in controlling for environmental factors, uncertainties about paternity, confounds due to non-random adoption placement, and the influence of prenatal environment.

Q: What is the idea behind adoption studies in behavior genetics?

Adoption studies involve comparing the similarities in traits between adopted individuals and their biological and adoptive parents to infer genetic influences on behavior.

Q: What are some limitations of adoption studies?

Limitations include difficulties in controlling for prenatal environment, uncertainties about paternity, and non-random adoption placement which can affect the similarities observed between individuals.


Behavior genetics is a complex field that aims to understand the genetic influences on behavior. It is important to consider both genetic and environmental factors when studying behavior. The sociobiological and molecular biology approaches provide valuable insights but have limitations. Adoption studies and identical twins separated at birth have been used to study genetic influences on behavior, but they also have their own challenges and limitations. Overall, behavior genetics is a fascinating field that continues to explore the interplay between genetics and behavior.

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