You are on page 1of 15

Chapter 2: Evolution, Genetics, and Experience

2.1 Thinking about the Biology of Behaviour: From Dichotomies to Interactions

Zeitgeist: the general intellectual climate of our culture, which influences which personal attitudes,
opinions, behaviours and thinking patterns.
We often fall into the pattern of classifying things according to dichotomies - right/wrong,
good/bad, appealing/unappealing etc... because it is a simple, accessible and fast method for making
Two questions have been asked based on this limited mode of thinking
o Is the problem psychological OR physiological?
o Is the trait learned OR inherited?
Is it physiological or psychological?
o The idea that human processes are either physiological or psychological takes its history from
the time directly proceeding the Dark Ages.
o The truth at that time was what the church decreed to be the truth.
o During the Renaissance, emphasis was placed on art, culture, trade and education. Some
scholars resisted the notion of blindly trusting the Church and began to study the world through
observation, and modern science was born.
o Cartesian Dualism: Descartes advocated a dual view which gave a portion of the 'world' to
scientific study and a portion of the 'world' to the church. Descartes argued that the Universe is
made up of both physical and non-physical components, and that to study the differing
components of the world, one had to employ differing methods and views. Science, he claimed,
was an appropriate form of study for the physical components of the world such as the laws of
nature, the human body and physical matter and the Church was an appropriate avenue for
studying the non physical aspects of the Universe, such as the spirit, behaviour and and one's
sense of self. The church supported Descartes in this view, and thus it became widely accepted.
o Some scholars today believe that all behaviour has a physiological basis, while others believe
that there is a component of behaviour that transcends the physical.
Are human processes inherited or learned?
o Nature-Nurture Issue: The debate amongst psychologists centering around whether behaviour
is learned through experience or inherited through genes.
o Most early North-American scientists were firmly of the belief that experience was the most
important determinant of human learning, not genetics.
o Ethology: The study of animal behaviour in the wild.
o During the time that Americans were studying learning, Europeans had become more involved
in Ethology, and focused on instinctive behaviours.
o Instinctive Behaviour: Pattern of behaviour that is displayed amongst all members of the
species, even when there appears to have been no opportunity for the behaviour to have been
o They assumed that genetic and heritability factors were the primary determinants of behaviour.
o Neither the early behaviouralists nor the early ethologists were completely correct, but both had
made key insights into behaviour.

Problems with Thinking about the Biology of Behaviour in Terms of Traditional Dichotomies
There are two lines of evidence against thinking about the brain-behaviour relationship as a dualist
Many studies have shown that damage to or stimulation of the brain can radically alter a person's

Nonhuman species once thought to be incapable of psychological processes have been
demonstrated to possess traits such as self-awareness.
Asomatognosia: A deficiency in the awareness of parts of one's own body. Asomatognosia
typically affects the left side of the body and is caused by damage in the right parietal lobe.
Sufferers of asomatognosia demonstrate the connection between the brain and behaviour by
demonstrating that damage to the right parietal lobe (Right sensory cortex, I'm assuming) changes
an individual's self-awareness and perception. If psychological processes did not involve the brain,
then damage to the brain would not affect them.
Chimpanzees were proven to be self-aware through the use of mirrors. Chimpanzees were allowed
time to habituate themselves to the mirror, then a red mark was painted on their face while they
were asleep (Anesthetized). Upon waking, the chimpanzees inspected the new mark, touched it
while looking in the mirror and overall increased time looking in the mirror by a magnitude of 3.
Previously, self-awareness was believed to be too complex for the brain to handle, but animals with
simpler brains than ours are able to demonstrate self-awareness as we do. If these animals are selfaware, the brain may be more responsible for that and other psychological processes previously
thought to be metaphysical and uniquely human.

Nature-Nurture Thinking runs into Difficulty

Eventually scientists argued convincingly that behaviour is the product of both nature and nurture
together, not one or the other.
The thinking then shifted to be focused on how much influence nature has and how much influence
nurture has.
This thinking is flawed because it is the interaction between genetics and experience that produces
behaviour, they are not summed in an additive way to result in a fixed behavioural response.
Three points should be appreciated about the biology of learning
1. Neurons become active long before they are fully developed
2. The subsequent course of their development (ie. whether or not they survive, how many
branches they form) depends primarily on their activity
3. Experience continually modifies genetic expression.
A Model of the Biology of Behaviour
All behaviour is the product of the interaction between 3 things:
1. The organism's genetic endowment
2. Previous experience
3. The organism's perception of the environment
2.2 Human Evolution
The theory of evolution is the single most influential theory in biology, proposed by Charles
Darwin in 1859 in his publication On the Origin of Species
Evolve/Evolution: Species undergo gradual and orderly change over a long period of time,
eventually becoming a new species.
4 types of evidence were presented by Darwin that evolution is real
1. Documentation of fossils through progressively more recent geological layers
2. Striking similarities between living species (ie. similarity between human hand, cat's paw and
bird's wing), suggesting they shared common ancesters
3. Major changes can be brought about through selective breeding of plants and animals indoors
4. Rapid evolution of animals observed, such as the finchs observed by Darwin after a season of

drought on the Galapagos Island.

Natural Selection: The method proposed by Darwin through which evolution occurs. This theory
states that traits and behaviours that carry with them a high success rate of mating and survival will
be more likely to be passed on to the next generation. Natural selection, when applied to
generations at a time lead to highly successful methods of reproduction and survival for specific
environmental niches.
Fitness: A Darwinian term denoting an organism's ability to survive and contribute its genetic
material to the next generation.
The theory of evolution was initially resisted, but as evidence and time continued to increase, more
support was garnered. Today, most biologists feel that the evidence supporting the theory of
evolution is so substantial that it is widely regarded as fact.

Evolution and Behaviour

Some behaviours play an obvious role in passing on genes such as being able to find food, avoid
predation and defend one's young.
Some behaviors play a subtle, but still important, role in passing on genes such as social dominance
and courtship displays.
Social Dominance
Males of many species establish a stable hierarchy of social dominance
Often the hierarchy is determined through physical challenges. Sometimes the challenge involves
violence and harm, other times it involves threatening and posturing until one male backs down.
The dominant male usually wins competitions against all other males in the group.
Once a hierarchy is established, violence quickly subsides because lower ranking males quickly
learn to avoid or submit to higher ranking males.
Low ranking males tend to fight less and lower rankings of the hierarchy are typically only vaguely
Social dominance is important for many reasons
o In many species, dominant males copulate more than non-dominant males, thus maximizing the
chance their genes will be passed on.
o In species with female hierarchies, high ranking females tend to produce stronger and healthier
offspring and in higher numbers than lower ranking females
Courtship Display
Intricate displays of courtship precede copulation in many species.
Often it is the male who approaches the female and signals his desire to copulate. The female then
responds and the signals escalate back and forth until copulation ensues.
Copulation is unlikely to occur if either partner fails to respond with the appropriate signals.
Courtship displays can effect the course of evolution.
o A new species begins to branch off from the parent species when a reproductive barrier is
introduced that discourages a subset of the population from mating with the rest. The barrier
could be physical (Such as birds flocking to an island) or behavioral (Such as developing
unique courtship rituals that are performed only by a subset of the group)
o The subpopulation evolves independently from that point until reproduction with member of its
former species becomes inviable.
Conspecifics: Members of the same species.

Evolution of Vertebrates
Complex multi-cellular water-dwelling organisms appeared on Earth 600 million years ago.
About 150 million years later, the first chordates appeared.
Chordate: Multi-cellular organisms with long dorsal nerves that run the length of the back's center.
The first chordates to evolve spinal bones to protect the dorsal nerve evolved 25 million years later,
and were called Vertebrates. The first vertebrates were primitive bony fishes.
The spinal bones are called vertebrae.
A fossil was found in Canada showing the intermediary step between aquatic and land life.
Evolution of Amphibians
About 410 million years ago, fish first began to explore the land by venturing out of the water for
brief periods at a time.
The ability to survive such excursions imparted advantages that included being able to relocate
from stagnant water, and being able to take advantage or terrestrial food sources.
Amphibian: Species that spend their larval phase in in the water and their adult phase on land. ie.
Frogs, toads, salamanders
Amphibians evolved approximately 400 million years ago.
Evolution of Reptiles
Reptiles evolved approximately 300 million years ago.
Reptiles were the first to lay hard-shelled eggs that contained the watery environment for the young
to develop.
Reptiles can live far from water because their thick, dry scales prevent water from being lost.
Evolution of Mammals
About 180 million years ago, mammals began to evolve from a small branch of reptiles.
These organisms fed their young from special mammory glands in their bodies. The term Mammal
comes from the use of this gland to nurture young.
Mammals eventually stopped laying eggs, nurturing their young to physical independence inside
the watery environment of their own bodies.
The duck-billed platypus is one of the few surviving mammals that still lays eggs.
Today, over 20 unique orders of mammals are recognized. Humans are part of the order of
Primate: Primates are difficult to characterize because they possess no unique characteristics
common to all species in the order that are not found in other orders as well. Experts still agree that
there are approximately 12 families that fall into the order of primates.
Chimpanzees are the closest genetic relative to the human, sharing 99% of our genes with one
It is likely that the true creature humans evolved from is no longer existant.
Emergence of Humankind
Primates in the family that includes humans are called Hominins.
Hominins are composed of two genera: australopithecus and homo
Homo is further divided into two species: homo erectus (extinct) and homo sapiens
There is sparse evidence regarding human evolution
Fossils recently found indicate that a race of 3.5 foot tall hominins lived on an island off of
Indonesia as recently as 13 000 years ago.

A complete fossil of a 3-year-old australopithecus girls was found in Ethiopia

Most experts agree that australopithecines evolved in Africa approximately 6 million years ago.
Australopithecines are believed to be evolved from a small ape that lived in Africa at the time.
Australopithecines were only 4 feet tall, had smaller cavities for their brain and walked upright like
homo sapiens. Fossilized footprints and an examination of pelvic and leg bones supports that
australopithecines walked with an upright posture.
The first homo species is believed to have evolved approximately 2 million years ago.
The early homo species had a larger brain cavity than the australopithecines, but smaller than that of
modern humans. They used tools, created fire and coexisted with various species of
Approximately 200 000 years ago, homo sapiens began to replace the early homo species. And
approximately 50 000 years ago, homo sapiens began to migrate out of Africa.
The three key human features: large brain, upright posture and free hands with opposable thumbs,
have been evident for thousands of years. Interestingly, however, most major human
accomplishments did not appear until 40 000 years ago (Some 10 000 years after humans began to
Art was invented only 40 000 years ago, and agriculture was only invented 10 000 years ago.
Writing was invented only 3500 years ago.

Thinking About Human Evolution

Evolution does not proceed along a straight line.
Humans have little reason to claim evolutionary supremecy. We are the last surviving species of a
family that existed for only a blip in evolutionary time. (Also, we are not the only species who
represents the last surviving species of their genus)
Evolution can be slow and gradual, but severe change can force rapid evolution.
It is theorized that the rapid cooling Africa experienced around the time of the evolution of
hominins reduced the amount of forested land and increased the amount of grasslands, forcing
arboreal primates to climb down from the trees and become bipedal.
It is still debated whether humans evolved slowly and gradually or rapidly with the cooling of
African forests.
Fewer than 1% of all known species survive to this day. Evolution generally ensures that the tips of
the branches survive, but not the path of organisms that lead to the final result.
Evolution does not unfold in a preordained pattern, and many of evolution's 'solutions' are less than
ideal. For example, the scrodem is a less than perfect solution for the problem of sperm not being
able to develop at body temperature.
Spandrels: Structures or behaviours that are not themselves adaptive, but are rather by-products of
adaptive structures and behaviours. The belly button is a spandrel - it serves no adaptive purpose
other than being left over from the umbilical cord.
Behaviours or structures that were once adaptive can become unadaptive or even maladaptive
should the organism's environment change.
Exaptations: Characteristics which were evolved to perform one adaptive function, but were later
adapted to perform a second, unrelated adaptive function. For example, bird's wings are exaptations
because they were originally evolved for walking, and later adapted for flying.
Homologous Similarity: Similarities between species that result from the sharing of a common
evolutionary ancestor. For example, bird's wings and humans arms are structurally similar because
they share a common evolutionary ancestor.
Analagous Similarity: Similarities between species that result from unrelated species generating

similar solutions to the same environmental demands. For example, birds and bees both have wings
that allow them to fly, but they are structurally unsimilar and the two organisms did not share an
evolutionary ancestor.
Convergent Evolution: The phenomena of two separate and unrelated species developing similar,
but not identical, solutions to the same environmental demands, resulting in characteristics that
appear shared.

Evolution of the Human Brain

Early research on the human brain focused on its size, with the assumption that a larger brain meant
a smarter individual.
This theory was quickly disproven on the basis that elephants have larger brains than humans,
despite lacking many cognitive capabilities humans value such as the ability to learn and speak
Larger animals need larger brains to regulate the inner workings of the body. There for, the fact that
an elephant has a larger brain than a person and that a man has a larger brain than a woman
indicates only that brain size is indeed a function of body size.
A new theory suggested that the proportion of the size of brain to the size of the body be used to
correlate intelligence.
This theory was disproven since the proportional size of brain to body in humans is less than the
proportional size of brain to body of a shrew.
A more accepted approach to studying brain evolution is to study the evolution of distinct brain
Some major evolutionary changes of the brain
o It has increased in size over the course of evolution
o Most of the size increase has been in the cerebrum
o The volume of the cerebrum has been increased by increasing numbers of convolutions, folds
in the brain's surface.
There are structural differences amongst the brains of different animals, but all brains are composed
of neurons and the structures found in the brains of one species can genally be found in related
Modern human abilities seem to be modifications of abilities held be previous ancestors.
Evolutionary Psychology: Understanding Mate Bonding
In most species, mating is completely promiscuis, where any member of either gender mates with
any member of the other gender
Although promiscuity is the most common reproduction method, most mammals form mating
Its theorized that mating bonds developed between mammals because mammals give birth to fewer
young that are weaker and require more protection and time in order to reach maturity. Therefor,
natural selection has encouraged males to form bonds with the females he copulates with.
Females have also been pressured by evolution to act in ways that will encourage a mate to bond
with them because it increases the chances of passing on her genes successfully.
Polygyny: a mating arrangement in which one male mates with many females.
o The most common mating arrangement amongst mammals.
o Occurs when the females of the species make larger contributions to the development and
raising of young than the males.
o Often occurs in species where females may only produce a few offspring but males may sire

many offspring.
o Because females in these species can only produce a limitted number of young, evolutionary
pressure encourages them to mate with the most exceptionally fit male available in order to
maximize the chance of successfully passing on one's genetic code.
o In contrast, there is little pressure on males in this arrangement to develop selective bonding
since they are able to sire many children.
Polyandry: A mating arrangement whereby one female mates with many males.
o Polyandry does not occur in mammals.
o Polyandry only occurs in species in which the males make a greater contribution to the
development and rearing of young than the female.
Monogomy: A mating arrangement whereby one female mates with one male and the pair form for
o Monogomy is believed to have evolved in species where young have the best chance of survival
with undivided attention from both parents.
o In a monogomous arrangement, any behaviours exhibitted by a female that encourage a mate to
bond exclusively with her increases the likelihood of her passing on her genes.
o The behaviour of males changes as well in a monogomous arrangement. It becomes more
advantageous for males in these species to be equally selective and to pour all of their resources
into the most fit mate.
o Although many hold ourselves to the ideal of monogomy, some human cultures encourage
polygymy. Furthermore, most of us have many pairings before we select our mate and infidelity
is common in our society, particularly among men.
o Geese on the other hand are perfectly monogomous. Once a pair of geese are mated, neither will
mate any other goose.

Thinking About Evolutionary Psychology

Good theories about behavioural evolution carry predictions about current behaviour so that they
are testable.
In coming up with mating theories, researchers have tested and proven the following hypotheses
confirming previously discussed mating theories:
o Women tend to prefer men with more power and social status
o Men tend to prefer women who are younger and more beautiful
o Women's primary method for attracting a desirable mate is to increase her physical
o Men's primary method for attracting a desirable mate is to increase displays of his power and
o Men are more likely to commit adultery than women.
o Attractiveness is the best predictor in determining women who will end up with men of high
occupational status.
Behavioural tendencies shaped by evolution are there regardless of whether people are aware of
Evolutionary tendencies are always further shaped by personal experience.
2.3: Fundamental Genetics
Darwin did not understand why conspecifcs differed from one another or how parents transmitted
their successful genetic code to offspring.

Mendelian Genetics
Mendel studied inheritence in pea plants
Dichotomous Trait: genetic trait that expresses itself in one form or another, but never both or a
gradient of either. Seed colour in pea plants, for example, is a dichotomous trait because seeds can
either be brown OR white, but not both.
True-Breeding Line: a line of breeding in which interbred members always produce the same trait
(ie. Brown seeds) each generation.
Mendel studied dichotomous traits in true-bred peas to determine how genetics are passed down
from parent to offspring.
Dominant Trait: the trait of a dichotomous pair that is expressed in the phenotypes of
heterozygous individuals.
Recessive Trait: the trait of a dichotomous pair that is not expressed in the phenotypes of
heterozygous individuals. A recessive trait may be passed on from a parent who does not express
that trait but who still carries it.
Phenotype: An organism's observable characteristics.
Genotype: traits an organism has the potential to pass on to its offspring through its genetic
Gene: A unit of inheritance. For example, the section of a chromosome that controls the synthesis
of one protein.
Alleles: The two genes that control the same trait.
Homozygous: Organisms that possess two identical genes for a trait are said to be homozygous for
that trait.
Heterozygous: Organisms that possess two different genes for a trait are said to be heterzygous for
that trait.
Mendel proposed that one of the two kinds of genes always dominated over the other in organisms
with one of each gene. (Heterozygous individuals)
For each dichotomous trait, offspring randomly inherit one trait from the father and one trait from
the mother.

Chromosomes: Reproduction and Recombination

It wasn't until the 20th century that genes were found to be in chromosomes
Chromosome: thread like structure located in the nucleus of each cell. Chromosomes exist together
in matched pairs and each species has a characteristic number of chromosomes. (Humans have 23)
Gametes: egg or sperm cells, which contain half of the regular amount of genetic material.
Meiosis: The process by which gametes are generated. Chromosomes split into two so that each
gamete receives half of the usual number of chromosomes.
Zygote: A fertilized egg cell.
Genetic Recombination: The meiotic process by which pairs of chromosomes cross over one
another at random points, break apart and exchange genes. Genetic recombination also contributes
to genetic diversity.
Mitosis: Regular process of cell division which occurs in the body. Right before division by
mitosis, the regular number of chromosomes doubles so that both new cells have a full complement
of chromosomes.
Chromosomes: Structure and Replication
Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA): The double stranded, coiled molecule of genetic material. A
chromosome. Composed of nucleotide bases attached in sequence.

Nucleotide Base: A class of chemical substances that includes adenine, thymine, guanine, and
cytosine - the constituants of the genetic code.
The sequence of nucleotides determines an individual's genetic code.
The two strands of each chromosome are coiled around each other and bonded together by the
attraction of adenine for thymine and guanine for cystosine.
The two strands of DNA that are combined together are always complementary to one another. (Ie.
If adenine, guanine, thymine, cystosine were on one, then thymine, cystosince, adenine and guanine
would be on the other)
Replication: The process on which mitotic cell division relies. Replication is the process by which
a single strand of DNA creates a second copy if itself.
o A single strand of DNA begins to unravel itself into two halves.
o Complementary nucleotide bases are floating around the cell nucleus and attach themselves to
the incomplete DNA halves.
o Since DNA is always made up of its complement, two identical DNA molecules are able to be
formed from the available nucleotide bases in the nucleus of the cell.
Mutation: accidental alterations of individual genes (often introduced during replication)
o Most of the time mutations decrease the fitness of an organism and it disappears after a few
o Some mutations increase the fitness of an organism and lead to rapid evolution.

Sex Chromosomes and Sex-Linked Traits

Autosomal Chromosomes: chromosomes which come in matched pairs. The typical chromosome
Sex Chromosome: chromosome which determines the gender of the organism.
o There are two types of sex chromosomes: x and y
o Females have two x chromosomes, males have one x and one y chromosome
o Most sex-linked characteristics are on the x chromosome, since the y chromosome carries
relatively little genetic information.
o traits that are dominant on x chromosomes tend to be more prevalent in females since recessive
chromosomes would need to match in order to express the trait.
o Traits that are recessive on the x chromosome tend to be more prevalent in males since they
only have one x chromosome and must express the traits of their sole x chromosome.
The Genetic Code and Gene Expression:
Structural genes contain information about how to synthesize proteins
Proteins: long chains of amino acids.
Proteins control the physiological activity of cells and are important aspects of the cell's
Structural genes only compose a small portion of DNA.
Enhancers: stretches of DNA whose function is to determine whether particular structural genes
are used to construct proteins and at what rate the proteins are to be constructed.
Enhancers control gene expression and thus how a cell develops and what its function will be
once it matures.
Enhancers are regulators and can be turned up or down to increase or decrease the rate of
protein synthesis.
Amino Acids: the building blocks and breakdown products of proteins.

Transcription Factors: proteins that bind to DNA and influence the extent to which genes are
Most transcription factors that control enhancers are signals received by the cell from its
This is a major mechanism by which experience interacts with genetics to influence
Transcription of a structural gene:
o A small section of the chromosome that contains the structural gene unravels
o This unraveled segment of the DNA represents a template for the structural gene to be
o A strand of mRNA is constructed using available nucleotide bases to match a single-sided DNA
string, except that thymine is replaced by the nucleotide uracil.
o The strand of mRNA is then taken outside of the nucleus where it meets up with ribosomes to
begin translation.
RNA Ribonucleic Acid: A molecule that is similar to DNA except that it has the nucleotide base
uracil and a phosphate and ribose backbone. There are 3 types of RNA
o mRNA - messenger RNA
RNA transcribed in the nucleus which carries the protein code out of the nucleus and into
the rest of the cell.
Attaches itself to one of the ribosomes floating in the cytoplasm to feed it instructions on
how to translate the protein.
o tRNA - transfer RNA
Molecules that carry amino acids to the ribosome from the cytoolasm in order to form
Molecules of RNA that carry amino acids to to ribosomes during protein synthesis; each
kind of smino acid is carried by a different type of RNA molecule.
Ribosome: A structure in the cell's cytoplasm that translates the genetic code from strands of
mRNA into protein.
Codon: A group of three consecutive nucleotide bases on a DNA or mRNA strand; each codon
specifies the particular amino acid that is to be added to an amino acid chain during protein
Translation of a structural gene:
o The process by which a ribosome uses mRNA to generate a protein.
o The ribosome examines each codon to determine which of the 20 amino acids to add to the
forming protein chain.
o Amino acids are carried to the ribosome from the cytoplasm by transfer RNA.
o If the tRNA carries the appropriate amino acid, it is added to the amino acid chain, otherwise it
is released back into the cell cytoplasm.
o The ribosome continues forming the protein in this manner until a stopper protein is reached
and the protein is complete.

Occurs in the nucleus

Occurs in the cytoplasm of the cell

Creates a copy of a segment of DNA


Builds a protein based on a set of RNA

encoded instructions.

Creates a protein
Creates a string of mRNA
Uses amino acids to form proteins
Uses nucleotide bases to form mRNA
Matches groups of three nucleotide bases
Matches each individual nucleotide base. called codons.
Mitochondrial DNA
Not all DNA is located in the cell nucleus
DNA is also found inside mitochondria and is called mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondria: the energy generating structures of a cell, located in the cytoplasm. Every cell has
mitochondria, including neurons.
Human mitochondrial DNA is inherited uniquely from the mother.
Mutations develop in mitochondrial DNA at a fairly consistent rate.
Analysis of mutations in mitochondrial DNA has lent support to the theory that humans evolved in
Africa and then spread out over the globe.
Modern Genetics
Human Genome Project:
o Began in 1990 as a collaboration between Universities and independent science teams.
o Goal was to map the human genome.
o Completed its goal in 2001, marking the beginning of the modern era of genetics research
Humans have a relatively small number of genes.
Rats have the same number as we do, and corn has more.
Proteinf-encoding genes only represent 2% of human DNA
Epigenetics: Study of the mechanisms that influence gene expression without altering the genes
o Epigenetic mechanisms are assumed to be how a limited number of genes orchestrates the
development of humans and animals.
Active No gene DNA
It was once assumed that DNA's only role was to instruct protein development
Segments of DNA that did not contribute to protein synthesis were thought to be remnants of
evolution or 'junk DNA'
Many of the genes once thought to be nonactive starting to be discovered as able to influence
development and behaviour by controlling structural gene expression.
Short single strands of RNA
act on enhancers and messenger RNA
Influence brain development and synapse function
Disruption is associated with neurodegenerative disorders
Alternative Splicing
Alternative splicing occurs when some strands of messenger RNA are broken apart and the pieces

are spliced onto new segments.

This process allows a single gene to encode multiple proteins.
Alternative splicing is particularly prevalent in neural tissue.

Monoallelic Expression
In some cases, particularly in the nervous system, one of the two alleles is deactivated and the other
is expressed.
The mechanism by which one of the alleles is deactivated is still unknown.
Sometimes which of the alleles is expressed depends on whether the individual inherited the gene
from the father or from the mother.
Human Genome Map in Perspective
Many efforts to understand genetics were originaly bound by the concept that individual behavious
would be controlled by individual genes.
How genes influence behaviour will require an understanding of how multiple genes interact with
one another, with experience and with epigenetic mechanisms.
2.4: Behavioural Development: Interaction of Genetic Factors and Experience
Ontogony: The development of individuals over the life span.
Phylogeny: The evolutionary development of a species through ages.
Selective Breeding of "Maze-Bright" and "Maze-Dull" Rats
Behavioural traits can be selectively bred.
Trial on (1934) began by teaching a homogeneous group of rats to run a maze.
The half that made the fewest maze errors were bread together and called the maze-bright group.
The half that made the most maze errors were also bred together and called the maze-dull group.
When the baby rats matured, the maze-bright and maze-dull children rats were tested on their mazerunning ability.
Again, the best maze runners were mated together and the worst maze runners were mated together.
By the eighth generation there was almost no overlap in learning performance between the two
Maze-bright offspring made significantly fewer maze errors, even when bright offspring were
reared by dull parents and dull offspring reared by bright parents.
Breeding for behavioural traits often brings about unexpected behavioural traits as well that are
influenced by the same gene.
Personality tests on the rats revealed that they were not better maze runners because they were
smarter, but because they were less fearful - a trait which would be dangous for a rat in the wild.
The same experiment was performed with rats raised in either an empoverished or enriched
environment. In this experiment, bright rats only outperformed dull rats who had been raised in an
empoverished environment.
Phenylketonuria: A Single-Gene Metabolic Disorder
It is usually harder to understand the genetics of normal behavior than it is to understand the
genetics behind disordered behaviour, so disordered behaviour is often studied to gain insight into
the genetics of normal behaviour.
Phenylketonuria (PKU):
o A neurological disorder whose symptoms include vomitting, seizures, hyperactivity,

hyperirritability, mental retardation, brain damage, and high levels of phylpyruvic acid in the
o Discovered in 1934 by Norwegian scientist, Folling.
o Transmitted through a single gene mutation
o PKU gene is recessive and only approximately 1 in every 100 people of European descent carry
o PKU homozygotes lack phenylanine hydroxylase, an enzyme required to convert the amino
acid phenylalanine to tyrosine.
o As a result, phenylalanine accumulates in the body and levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter
sythesised from tyrosine, are unusually low.
o Modern infants routinely have their blood scanned for unusually high levels of phenylalanine,
and when found, placed on a phenylalanine restricted diet.
o This specialized diet reduces the level of phenylalanine in the blood and the development of
mental retardation. It does not prevent the development of subtle cognitive deficits, however.
o In order for the diet to be effective, it must be introduced during the first few weeks of the
baby's life. (Sensitive period)
Sensitive Period: The period during the development of a particular trait, usually early in life,
when a particular experience is likely to change the course of that development.

Development of Birdsong
The males of each bird species sing songs that are distinguishable from other species, and each
species also has recognizable dialects.
Learning songs in many ways parallels the process humans undergo when they learn to speak.
Studies of the development of birdsong suggest that development occurs in two stages: a sensory
phase and a sensorimotor phase.
Sensory Phase:
o Begins several days after hatching
o Birds do not sing during this phase, but they form memories of the bird songs they hear that
belong to their own species, usually songs sung by their own male relatives.
o Young male songbirds are genetically prepared to learn songs sung by adult males during this
phase of song development.
o Songbirds cannot readily remember songs of birds that are not their own species, and they
cannot acquire songs of their own species later if they do not hear them during this time.
o Males who do not hear the songs of other songbirds may later develop their own song, but it is
likely to be abnormal.
Sensorimotor Phase:
o Second phase of male song development in songbirds
o Begins when males begin to twitter partial songs, or subsongs, which are improved upon until
they sound like their adult counterparts.
o Being able to hear themselves sing is an important component to songbird development. If a
songbird cannot hear itself sing, it will not develop normal adult songs.
o Once a song has been crystallized, birds rely far less on their sense of hearing for normal song
There are two styles of songbird retention: age-limitted learners and open-ended learners.
o Species that are age-limitted learners crystallize songs in their youth and then retain them for
life without any changes.
o Species that are open ended learners are able to add new songs to their repetoire throughout the

duration of their lives.

The neural circuit involved in bird song production has two major components.
o The first component is a descending portion which runs from the high vocal center on each side
of the brain to the syrinx - the voice box.
o The second component is the pathway which leads downwards and mediates learning.
The left descending pathway is dominant and plays a more active role in song production than the
right pathway. This observation is true in humans as well.
During the period of song learning in the spring, the bird's song control area of the brain doubles in
size, and then shrinks back down once the new songs have been committed to memory.
The song production centres are twice as large in male Canaries than in females.
The increase in brain size during the spring is caused by the growth of new neurons, not by an
increase in size of existing neurons.

2.5: Genetics of Human Psychological Differences

In the development of individuals, genes and experiences are inseperable, but in the development of
differences among individuals, genetics and experiences are seperable.
Monozygotic Twins: identical twins who developed from a single zygote. They are genetically
Dizygotic Twins: fraternal twins who developed from two zygotes. No more related than any other
normal pair of siblings.
In order to determine the relative influences of genes and experience in the determinance of certain
characteristics, many psychologists study monozygotic twins.
Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart
Involved 59 pairs of identical twins and 47 pairs of fraternal twins who had been reared apart as
well as many pairs who had been reared together.
Ages of the twins ranged from 19 to 68
Each pair was brought to the University of Minnesota for approximately 50 hours of intelligence
and personality assessment.
In general, adult twins were substantially more similar to each other than fraternal twins, regardless
of whether the twins were raised together or apart.
People's misbeliefs about the origins of intelligence has led to inappropriate and discriminatory
social practises.
Heritability Estimate: Numerical estimate of the proportion of variability that occurred in a
particular trait in a given study due to the genetic variation among participants.
o Not about individual development.
o Does not describe how much of a trait is predicted by a person's genetic makeup.
o Cannot be applied to situations outside the context of the study in which the heritability
estimate was calculated.
Genetic differences may promote psychological differences because they influence the types of
experiences a person is likely to be exposed to.
There is evidence that people with similar genetic endowments will seek out similar environments
and experiences.
Multiplier Effect: A mechanism by which the behavioural effects of a gene are increased because
the gene promotes selection of experiences that also promote the same behavioural effects.
All human behavioural traits are highly heritable.

Being raised in different family environments contributes little to behavioural diversity.

Experiences outside the family environment contribute significantly to behavioural diversity.