Open Questions: Genes and Behavior

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See also: Evolutionary psychology

Introduction


Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books

Introduction



Recommended references: Web sites

Site indexes


Sites with general resources

Human Nature
A "hot topics" collection of articles from New Scientist. Major areas of focus are the concept of human nature, free will, and sexual stereotypes.
Genes & Behavior
Good collection of resources on the topic -- external links, magazine articles, and books.


Surveys, overviews, tutorials

A Biological Understanding of Human Nature: A Talk with Steven Pinker
September 2002 interview with Steven Pinker published on Edge. It covers the general ideas of Pinker's book, The Blank Slate.
Genes with attitude?
June 2001 news article about how genes may affect opinions and attitudes.
No sense of humour? Blame your parents.
April 2000 news article about the lack of effect of genes on sense of humor.
Boy bullies' bad genes to blame
March 1999 news article about differences in the effect of genes on bullying in males and females.


Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

The Genetics of Cognitive Abilities and Disabilities
Robert Plomin, John C. DeFries
Scientific American, May 1998, pp. 62-69
Twin studies suggest that about half the variation among people in verbal and spatial ability is genetic. Investigations are under way to identify specific genes that may be involved.
Understanding the Genetic Construction of Behavior
Ralph J. Greenspan
Scientific American, April 1995, pp. 72-78
Studies of courtship and mating in fruit flies show there is genetic control of behavior. But even in the fruit fly it is a complex process, many genes are involved -- and genetic influence on human behavior is likely to be even more complicated.


Recommended references: Books

Matt Ridley – Nature via Nature: Genes, Experience, & What Makes Us Human
HaperCollins, 2003
Ridley, an eminent science writer, takes up the classic issue of heredity vs. environment. He argues for the sensible position that neither heredity nor environment alone "determine" behavior. Instead, they play complementary roles. Genes largely determine the structure of the brain and provide the mechanism for learning. Experience in turn impresses on this substrate particular choices of behavioral alternatives than an individual human wil tend to favor. The narrative employs many examples from sexual identity, political behavior, and psychopathology.
William R. Clark; Michael Grunstein -- Are We Hardwired? The Role of Genes in Human Behavior
Oxford University Press, 2000
Clark dependably writes good books on topics in biology and medicine, using solid genetic science to develop his thesis. This is no exception. It tackles the thorny qustion of how genes, through mediating chemistry such as neurotransmitters and pheromones, affect many forms of behavior -- aggression, sexual preferences, learning and memory, and mental function.
William Wright -- Born That Way: Genes, Behavior, Personality
Routledge, 1999
The author is a non-scientist with a keen and long-standing interest in the relation of genetics to behavior and personality. In this book he provides an account for the general reader of both the science of behavioral genetics, twin studies in particular, and the political controversies that the field attracts.
Dean Hamer; Peter Copeland -- Living with Our Genes: Why They Matter More Than You Think
Doubleday, 1998
Hamer is Chief of Gene Structure and Regulation at the U. S. National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Biochemistry. He applies his expertise in molecular biology to the question of how genetics influences behavior. The book deals with a variety of topics at the intersection of biology and psychology -- such as emotions, anger, sex, addiction, thinking, and temperament.
Lawrence Wright -- Twins: And What They Tell Us about Who We Are
John Wiley & Sons, 1997
Extensive studies of twins, especially identical twins, have provided some of the best evidence for the existence of biological, genetic factors affecting personality and behavior. The author, a science writer, presents a brief yet informative account of what the evidence shows.

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