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Thread: How much do genes control our behaviour ?

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    Question How much do genes control our behaviour ?



    I was reading this article about the differences in behaviour between chimpanzees from different tribes.

    Quote Originally Posted by New Scientist
    ARE differences in chimp behaviour down to culture or genetics? Some groups of chimps use twigs to fish for termites, others don't. Some groups communicate by knuckle-knocking, others by slapping. While the accepted wisdom is that these are purely cultural differences, now it seems that genes may be involved too.

    A team of primatologists headed by Kevin Langergraber of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, pulled together behavioural data on nine wild chimpanzee groups, and analysed DNA samples from 246 individual apes. Groups that were more genetically different turned out to have significantly more differences in their behaviours (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1112).
    This made me wonder how much of human behaviour is also controlled by genes. It did not escape my notice that many babies have peculiar habits or behaviour that one of their parents also had when he or she was a baby. Whether a baby that observes a lot, prefers to crawl, sit or walk on all fours, the way of laughing, the way of playing with toys... all seem to be at least partially inherited from parents (often just one parent). As these are innate behaviours they are obviously determined by genetics.

    I think that is worth further investigating.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Taking my personal experience of life in general and as a father in particular, I feel genetics plays by far the largest part in controlling our behaviour, with environment as an influencing factor. It's the old 'nature v. nurture' debate.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    Taking my personal experience of life in general and as a father in particular, I feel genetics plays by far the largest part in controlling our behaviour, with environment as an influencing factor. It's the old 'nature v. nurture' debate.
    Well, I for one am inclined to think it's probably something similar to fifty-fifty. This means we in essence are bound by our genes, but a different education / upbringing can make a difference, but it cannot change whom you really are.

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    I believe that genetic inheritance is more important than environment. Maybe 15% to 20% of a person's behavior can be put off to environment. I have seen too many families with multiple children, raised in exactly the same way turn out too different. One friend of mine has 3 children 2 of them are university graduates with good careers and nice families, the third child is in prison serving 35 years to life for murder committed during an armed robbery.
    Another friend of mine has two children one is a PhD. doing environmental research the other is a high school drop out that can't hold a job more than 2 weeks.
    Sometimes I think that the difference might be sex linked in some way. There is a family that lives in my area whose sons universally end up in jail for petty crimes, assault and domestic violence or die young from violence or misadventure. Not just the son's of one man and wife but all the male cousins in a large family group. The girls in the family universally turn out as decent, hard working individuals. It is so bad that one of the women who is a friend of mine told me that the whole time her son was growing up she was just waiting for him to "go bad." He never did and is a nice hard working young man, but all 3 of her brothers and their sons are men of bad character.
    Last edited by Aristander; 19-08-10 at 03:01. Reason: syntax correction

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    Smile Depends...

    In general, pretty much everything about us is a result of three things: the genes passed on to us, how those genes recombine, and how they are expressed in our environment. As far as behavior specifically, I'd imagine it depends on age. It seems more reasonable to argue that a baby's temperament depends on genes more than environment than to argue that about an adult with way more experiences and exposure to "environment." Not only environment as in food and amount of sunlight, etc, but also socialization. Of course, that's not to say that what we socialize our babies into isn't influenced by genes. This is a pretty nuanced issue.

    I'm very hesitant to draw conclusions based on my personal experience. I find that it's possible to make an argument for either side depending on what we choose to take as evidence. For eg:

    I know that I was a pretty shy/quiet and intelligent child. I was always soft-spoken and very inquisitive and into my studies. I was a straight A student and nothing else was an option in my mind.

    My mother, who raised me, was more outgoing and bubbly and didn't much care for school growing up. She is far from soft-spoken or serious. And although she's relatively intelligent, she has no interest in research or academic pursuits.

    My father, who was out of my life when I was two years old, is described by my family as very serious, unfriendly, and intelligent. He was in a PhD program in engineering, has several patents, and somehow also enjoys writing poetry.

    Looking at this alone, it would seem my childhood behavior is "inherited" from my absent father, right? (I did not know much about my father as a kid, so it is unlikely that I was trying to be like him on purpose.)

    At the same time, I could argue that my mother did a great job providing stimulation early on so that I could become more intelligent (which she did), and that she instilled the value of education in me without trying (she worked as a teacher when I was born - still does), and that I performed well because I was familiar with the exact socialization practices offered at school because I was being raised by a teacher (which has been shown as a significant factor in elementary school performance). And I could have been quiet and shy because I was severely teased as a child, even in preschool. This would suggest that my behavior and intelligence level were more dependent on environmental conditions.

    An argument for both sides based on one childhood experience.

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    No single gene determines a particular behaviour. With behaviours or disorders, genes are only a part of the story. Enviromental and genetic factors are involved with the development of "traits"



    New research into "traits" is interesting but I believe it is also focusing on environment within the family.
    However I was watching a documentary regarding Professor Jenny Clack the palaeontologist and she said when growing up she came from a "modest" family and the house wasn"t particulary filled with books (although her interest in palaeontology had been stirred by a book she had been given as a child), and look at what she achieved in her field regarding the breakthrough on Acanthostega!
    Last edited by hope; 19-04-12 at 03:49.

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    I'm trying to grapple with this question for years now. I came to the conclusion that it is very difficult to calculate, and put this case in rigor of percentile. Actually two sides of the nature versus nurture can convey arguments of either one being greatly dominant. Others will go 50/50 tie, just for the convenient solution from lack of proof otherwise. So how is this possible?

    Let's take first on philosophy of 60-70ties claiming that we are born as clean sleight and what we are is the accumulation of life experiences.
    Although experimenting on humans are unethical and illegal, there were many life situations which gave us some light on human development. For example we know that if one don't learn spoken language till age 10, one won't be able to communicate in more than few words ever. If child will be blindfolded till age 2, the child would never develop sight. Pretty much we can conclude that if human being is cut off the life experiences, he or she will never develop typical human skills, even could die very quickly without external stimuli.

    So is the environment everything for us?

    Of course not. A simple proof is that without DNA we wouldn't exist in first place, not even getting a chance to learn something. So how much DNA, body or brain we need to be humans? It turns out that pretty much everything nature gave us already. Let's take a chimpanzee, the closest home sapiens' relative, with mostly identical DNA, with some of genes different only by some mutations. Let's raise the chimp like a child with all the bells and whistles. Well, it's been done by few animal lovers already, and it has turned out that these chimps couldn't compute the way people do, couldn't speak even with sign language as people do (except for 300 simple words), couldn't laugh or cry like us, play football, etc, not mentioning all extensive aspects of human social life. So, what does that mean? No human DNA, no human!

    Let it be 50/50 then....Though there are some character traits that, I think, are almost DNA dominant, like stubbornness for example. If one is born stubborn, one will die stubborn. Some of others might be: easy going, angry, lazy, careless, workaholic, addictive, optimistic, energetic, etc.

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    It`s cetainly a very interesting topic Le Brok..and your conclusion of 50/50 is basically where it stands at the moment.

    A good way to look into his has been the studies on twins. Again you can see the findings can differ even with the professionals.
    It has been seen that identical twins whilst raised in the same environment do not always have the same goals in life or always share the same values or similar types of work.
    Cappelletti ( schizophrenia in twins) states there is only minimal evidence to suggest schizophrenia is genetic. ( again it doesn`t say she rules it out you will see).
    P.Breggin says there are not enough cases of identical twins raised seperately to make a conclusive argument about genetic influences on disorders such as schizophrenia but while agreeing the percentage of both twins

    ( my post has only came up with first half...second half just gone!!) will repost later Reason for EDIT

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    Quote Originally Posted by hope View Post
    It`s cetainly a very interesting topic Le Brok..and your conclusion of 50/50 is basically where it stands at the moment.

    A good way to look into his has been the studies on twins. Again you can see the findings can differ even with the professionals.
    It has been seen that identical twins whilst raised in the same environment do not always have the same goals in life or always share the same values or similar types of work.
    Cappelletti ( schizophrenia in twins) states there is only minimal evidence to suggest schizophrenia is genetic. ( again it doesn`t say she rules it out you will see).
    P.Breggin says there are not enough cases of identical twins raised seperately to make a conclusive argument about genetic influences on disorders such as schizophrenia but while agreeing the percentage of both twins

    ( my post has only came up with first half...second half just gone!!) will repost later Reason for EDIT
    To continue: Breggin; whilst agreeing the percentage of both twins having schizophrenia are high, they are lower than the percentage among people with genetically transmitted disorders.
    A good study and more recent if you are interested is David Reiss MD ( non-shared environment and adolescent develoment project)
    To be honest I think it is a mix of both factors. Perhaps new studies will show us different.
    As you go along in life and move within different environments (work, social, study etc) I think your life experience change your outlook a bit.
    As for being stubborn, again as we get older I think most of us learn the benefits of give and take and to meet in the middle so to speak. The same for optimism, I think as you get older you are a little less optimistic than when young!
    For now I think most would agree it seems to be a bit of both.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I was reading this article about the differences in behaviour between chimpanzees from different tribes.
    didnot read it....
    but from description you quoted, i think this was improper experiment...
    if you take 9 group of monkeys with very different culture, you do actually sample 9 populations with long history of belonging to different groups... and hence 9 clusters of genetics ..... than I assume they claim say different behavior comes from genetic, but is it? correlation is not a proof for cause - consequence chain....

    not to mention that 246 samples in 9 clusters can give many false correlations...

    proper experiment is cruel, but is the only way to see - take a set of baby monkeys from those 9 groups immediately upon birth and let them group up together in a separate group... what behaviors are there? can they be mapped to cultures of origin groups? is there correlation with genetics? how small?

    I do not believe that genetics influence behavior directly... it can implicitly via health conditions....e.g. metabolism difference can cause person to be slower or faster in reaction...

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    You know this is actually a very good point how yes no 3.
    From the little bit I read it didn`t say what the environment type of the different monkey groups were eg. those with access to a certain type of food will use "tools" to get at it such as the sticks for termits but what about the food source for the other groups? Would they need to do the same if the food supply is different..therefore the differences may be "adaptation"" to environment and not a pre-determined trait.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    It is interesting how young people, who never had kids, seam to favour nurture in overall effect in shaping humans. Older of us, with kids, tend to emphasize nature and DNA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    It is interesting how young people, who never had kids, seam to favour nurture in overall effect in shaping humans. Older of us, with kids, tend to emphasize nature and DNA.
    I still like to lean towards nurture Le Brok even though I believe genes play a role.


    But I know what you mean...wonder when their opinion will change..lol.

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    I have 3 kids, fraternal twins and one year older, all girls. They had same parents, breathed same air, ate same food, wore same cloths, drunk same water, had same teachers, and yet from first months they looked different, had different personalities and characters, and mental abilities. There wasn't strong or even medium environmental influence to make them so different.
    Off course they are not totally different, they are more like a spectrum in looks and behaviours, as differences between me and my wife. This was the base of my point about older people leaning towards nature.
    The biggest argument I had was with my psychiatrist friend. She was a strong proponent of almost "clean slate" till..., she had her two kids, and they are really different, as she and her husband, lol. To really see the difference one has to have two or more kids. With one kid, common these days, parents always think that kid is exactly a product of their parenting and education. With more kids people starting realising how "little" they can influence their kids. It is a blessing in some regards, as parents stop stressing too much and overprotecting them and their future.
    Generally speaking if kid has good genes combination it will be a good and successful human being, even if being an orphan. The best we can give them is eduction, inspire them, point them in right directions, influence with tolerance, and surround them with good loving home and feelings, and yes, push them sometimes to action. The rest is up to the nature.

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    Well Le Brok you are certainly outnumbered by women in your house..lol.
    Yes, the debate of nature vs nurture has been a long one. For years the two main groups seemed to be the Nativists,who said we all had biological clocks that would switch behaviour on and off regardless... Genetic. The other side (and I suspect this is where your psychiatrist friend may have stood) were the Empiricists, who argued that love, stimulation, attention etc would make us what we are. "Tabula rasa" ..blank sheet to begin with.
    Both these theories are poles apart and to-day I think most of us agree it is, as you said before, 50/50.
    You list the things you believe is good for a child, loving home teach tolerance, etc..these are good "nurturing" aspects. I am sure by what you have written that you and your wife also created the environment to allow each child to develop in their own way and encouraged them in their own particular interests..again a good "nurturing" environment. However like yourself I too agree that genes play a role.
    I , as said before, like to lean slightly towards nurture. That said I also believe genetics play a role. I feel a child may inherit a map for development but that the environment can create or make an impact on how the directions are expressed or shaped. I feel this can be a lifelong learning procedure. Take your psychiatrist friend for example..it was not until having children did they see the side for genes, therefore the environment they were then in reshaped their previous opinion.
    Whilst it cannot be said a good nurturing environment will always produce a "decent" person, it neither can be said that because your parent was not decent it follows you will not be either.
    Last edited by hope; 22-04-12 at 16:12.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    I have 3 kids, fraternal twins and one year older, all girls. They had same parents, breathed same air, ate same food, wore same cloths, drunk same water, had same teachers, and yet from first months they looked different, had different personalities and characters, and mental abilities. There wasn't strong or even medium environmental influence to make them so different.
    living in same house is not the same as living same life
    its not the furniture or food that shape us as persons, not even having the same persons in our surrounding, but events that happen to us, the way we see them and the choices we make...and those are quite different for people born in same family..... its our right to free will that shapes us as persons....otherwise people would be just robotic copies of their parents....of course parents/family influence a lot, because they provide role models from whom most of basic behavioral patterns are adopted...

    personally, i also attribute some more generic personality features to past lives and lessons learnt there...as i tend to believe in reincarnation since it is the only way to have a meaning and fairness in life... the way i see it is that life should be some kind of school for souls to develop through gaining experience, and that it can be done only by living lot of often quite different lives - in order to experience life from quite different viewpoints...
    i suppose that we are kind of born into certain type of personality and certain context, which stresses a set of points that are problematic in our development and does not address those issues that are already figured out in past lives... so, in that perspective a part of personality comes with a role of current life, but underlying basis might be accumulated through many lifetimes...

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    I see you take a more spiritual view on this how yes no 3.
    Of course reincarnation formed the basis for a lot of cultures in the past, the Greeks and Celts for two examples.
    Oddly enough I think the Celts believed the "spirit" was kept in the head, and this was one reason they took heads. (history folk here will know better)
    Even today some far eastern cultures believe in reincarnation ie..Buddhism . I always think of Buddhism as a very wise and gentle religion..with harmony and the improvement of self to the fore.

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    It is interesting how spiritual/religious people tend to lean towards nurture. It is quite logical really, as they believe that the nurture and free will is important, even essential, in making personal choices, and us being judged for our decisions. How can we be judged if nature forced us to do stuff? The more genes rule our behaviour, the less spiritual we become, isn't it so?

    But au contraire, let's take eating for example. How does free will operates here? Do you have a choice to eat or not? People on hunger strike use free will not to eat, and they usually die.
    Nature intended us to eat, therefore nature took away free will, in big extend, to make sure people make right and only choice, choice to eat. The free will is left out for what you will eat today, or what restaurant you go. These are not really consequential choices, they don't effect your life and overall whether you procreate or not, and have next generation.
    (Keep in mind that I'm talking in general, and not about weird few, the mutants, lol, or breatharians)
    Here is an excellent example how strong the nature is, our genes in controlling us. What is the success rate of diets in general population? It's about 10 percent. The 90% doesn't have strong enough will to change their eating habits, period. Yes, almost all of them at some point, tried to change their diet, tried to exercise their free will, .... and boobkas. It is really hard, it is terribly hard to go against once nature, the programed behaviour in our genes.

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    I`m not sure, with regards to nature vs nurture debate, that all religious people automatically lean towards nurture, Le Brok, but I get the point you are making. With regard to the importance of free will, I agree.
    As for eating,yes, the body is programmed for survival and if we choose not to eat, without outside intervention we would, as you say, certainly die.
    As for dieting, well that can be any number of things really and without knowing the individual it is not easy to ascertain why they don`t loose weight or cannot stick to a diet. What I mean is what is their emotional state in first place, are they depressed or prone to comfort eat, What type of food are they choosing to eat, are they eating regular but smaller portions etc.etc the list goes on.
    I know there are many chemicals in the brain that get to work if someone diets and doesn`t get enough calories which in turn cause depression or tell the body it must eat and to do it now (what we call hunger pains)
    I think if you have a goal in mind ( I will fit into this wedding dress for August) and are determined AND IF you eat wisely of the right foods, you stand a better chance of getting there. Fad diets ruled out here.

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    How much do genes control our behaviour ?
    Maybe it's shared genes kicking in that make French and Italians go for flight over fight in wartime. Sorry just having a dig at the thread.

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    Thanks for sharing.

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    Level completed: 41%, Points required for next Level: 179
    Overall activity: 1.0%

    Y-DNA haplogroup
    I-M253 (P-109)
    MtDNA haplogroup
    H3

    Ethnic group
    Swedish (skåning)
    Country: USA - California



    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Actually, the "one gene, one behavior" hypothesis is fairly outdated, it's pretty well recognized that behavioral genetics are more complicated than that, with multiple genes influencing a particular behavior, and multiple behaviors affected by a single gene.

    Now, if you read about something like a "gene for aggression," it really means, "one of genes for aggression", and does not exclude that it might also be involved in other behaviors, such as fearfulness, maternal behavior, etc.

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