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in the Nature vs. Nurture conundrum
• Biological psychologists use the “Reductionist Approach”
• They attempt to explain behavior very simply …. By finding the
physiological (physical) reasons behind the behavior
• Principles:
• 1. There are biological basis of our behaviors
• 2. Animal research can provide insight into human behavior
• 3. Our behavior is, at least partially, based on our genes
• 4. Different parts of the brain/different neurotransmitters serve
different functions
• What do you know about biology and our behavior?
• Please go to:
• (add your class period immediately after… only the number…not
• With the people around you, discuss anything you know or have
heard about genes and behavior, evolution and behavior, our
brains, drugs and brains, etc. And post some of your thoughts on
this page. (Each person shares one group thought)
• Biological Psychologists ask questions like:
• If our universe is composed of matter and energy, what the
heck is consciousness or our mind?
• How does the brain play a role in our everyday
experiences… like hunger? Anger? Sexual desire? Sadness?
• What genes predispose some people to psychological
• How does pre-natal development affect someone’s life as an
• Is there any hope for brain damage victims?
• Why do we get goose bumps when we are afraid?
• Evolutionary Psychology:
• Emphasizes the evolutionary mechanisms that might help explain
commonalities in language learning, attention, perception, memory, sexual
behavior, reasoning, emotion, etc.
• Behavioral Genetics:
• Interdisciplinary field of study concerned with the genetic bases of
behavior and personality
• Set Point:
• The weight you stay at when you are not consciously trying to gain or lose
it…It is a biological mechanism that is genetically influenced…regulates
food intake, fat reserves, and metabolism
• Genes
• Basic unit of heredity. Each of our
46 chromosomes contain
thousands of genes, each with a
fixed location.
• Genetic Markers
• DNA segments that vary
considerably among individuals
and whose locations on the
chromosomes are already known
• Linkage studies
• look for patterns of inheritance
of genetic markers in large
families in which a particular
condition is common
• For many years, psychologists took a one sided approach to this
• Now, psychologists realize the importance of both genetics and
environment on human thought and behavior.
• Biological psychologists focus on how evolution, our genes, the
make up of our brains, and chemicals and hormones affect our
thoughts and behaviors.
• What is Evolution?
• A change in gene frequencies within a population over many
generations…how populations change.
• What is Natural Selection?
• In psychology, innate behaviors, capacities that have helped us survive,
and have thus been passed down
• The human mind evolved as a collection of specialized and
independent “modules” to handle specific survival problems
• Therefore…some qualities/behaviors are innate in us
• Meaning…they come to us with no particular effort (like language and
• What do you think? What did you learn?
• 1. Infant Reflexes
• Rooting, sucking, grasping, eyes follow moving light, turn toward familiar
• 2. Attraction to Novelty
• Being interested in new things…babies will even stop nursing is someone
new enters range of vision
• 3. A desire to explore/manipulate objects
• 4. Impulse to play and fool around
• Play teaches us how to get along with others and practice motor and
linguistic skills
• 5. Basic Mental Skills
• Basic physics…babies look longer at impossible events
• Special interests to evolutionary psychologists:
• Perceptual abilities
• Emotional expressions
• A need for sociability and attachment
• A capacity for language
• Gender differences in sexual behavior
• Review: What is perception?
• How we interpret and organize sensory objects in our brain
• Shirl Jennings – born blind, learned to adapt to environment without sight,
had surgery to correct vision, could see, was more miserable. Why?
• Blakemore and Cooper Perception study with kittens
• Feature-detector cells: in brain’s visual areas…can deteriorate or change during
critical periods
• Ethical?
• Visual Cliff studies
• (Gibson and Walk, 1960)
• Shows our innate ability to perceive depth
• Link to emotion? Does this study show that perception of emotion is
innate? Why or why not?
• Babies are especially primed to react to happy facial
expressions…they look to caregiver emotions to determine
• How does his research with primary emotions support
evolutionary psychologists’ views?
• Margaret and Harry
Harlow experiment with
Rhesus monkeys
• “Discovering Love”
• Study Summary Time!
• Failure to
• Throwback to Chomsky and others….
• No need to “beat a dead horse”
• ……enjoy the same meal?
• Chomsky
• The role of evolution and biology in the origins of gender differences in sexual
behavior is a heated debate
• Sociobiologists have influenced the evolutionary viewpoints on mating practices
• Sociobiology – interdisciplinary field that emphasizes evolutionary explanations of social
behavior in animals (including humans)
• According to Soc.Bio.s, what is the primary motivation for most social actions?
• Passing on our personal genetic code
• Evolutionary psychologists differ in that:
• They don’t think our main motive in behavior is to pass on genes
• Instead, they see it as a byproduct of natural selection…those that had more offspring
producing behaviors…had their genes carry down
• Also, take into account more human differences (sociobiologists often take animal behaviors
as metaphors for human….an insect forcing itself on a female is compared to human
rape)….psychologists recognize the many other motives of human rape
• Males and Females have faced different kinds of survival and
mating problems, so we have evolved to have different levels of
aggression and sexual strategies
• What are some stereotypes for the way men and women:
• Flirt, “court”, view relationships, view commitment, engage in sexual
• Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense for MEN to:
• Compete with other males for access to young fertile women
• Try and impregnate as many women as possible to pass on his genes (record
is 899 children)
• Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense for WOMEN to:
• Be picky…they have a limited number of eggs, so we look for the best
genetic deal…
• Gestation is 9 months and child rearing is much longer…can’t afford to make
mistakes with a genetic whack job
• Having intercourse with many different men doesn’t produce more babies
than staying with just one…so…
• Women tend to try and cling to the good ones to make the best genetic
• How do these adaptive behaviors show up today?
• Read pages 96-98 (start on the 4th full paragraph)
Think about….
How evolution might’ve effected how we behave sexually/in relationships
What critics say about evolutionary explanations and if you agree
How long of a leash do you think genes have on culture?