Wilcox, Kimerly J. General College, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Bouchard, Thomas J., Jr. Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Last reviewed:April 2020
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- Chromosomes and genes
- Chromosome abnormalities
- Variations in genes
- Nature or nurture question
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The study of the hereditary factors that shape behavior. Behavior genetics, that is, the scientific investigation of the hereditary factors that influence behavior, may be studied in animals and humans. Charles Darwin, who originated the theory that natural selection is the basis of biological evolution, was persuaded by Francis Galton that the principles of natural selection applied to behavior as well as to physical characteristics. Specifically, members of a species vary in the expression of certain behaviors because of variations in their genes (Fig. 1), and these behaviors have survival value in some environments. One example of such a behavior is curiosity: some organisms are more curious than others, and curiosity is advantageous for survival in some settings. Therefore, the science of behavior genetics is an extension of the aforementioned ideas and seeks (1) to determine to what extent the variation of a trait in a population (the extent of individual differences) is due to genetic processes, to what extent it is due to environmental variation, and to what extent it is due to joint functions of these factors (heredity–environment interactions and correlations); and (2) to identify the genetic architecture (genotypes) that underlies behavior. See also: Behavioral ecology; Genetics; Human genetics; Population genetics; Psychology
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