Genetic and Environmental Influences

Genetic Influence

A genetic influence would be referred to as 'nature'. 

It does not simply refer to abilities present at birth but to any ability determined by genes, including those that appear through maturation.

An example of this in psychology is twin and adoption studies were it can be easily shown how genetics change our behaviour/personality. 

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Approaches in Psychology

The approaches in psychology help us to see the balance of genetic and environmental influences on human behaviour. 

Whilst the cognitive and psychodynamic approach are interactionist (both), the biological approach is purely nature and the behaviorist approach is purely nurture. 

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The Behaviourist Approach

The behaviourist approach explains all behaviour as being due to learning (nurture) such as classical conditioning with a stimulus response effect.

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The Biological Approach

The biological approach explains behaviour as being due to genetics (nature) such as concordance rates in twins which show the similarities between them. 

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The behaviourist and biological approaches take different sides of the debate. 

The bahviourist approach ignores the role of genes which research suggests play a key part in our behaviour.

The biological approach ignores the role of the environment in shaping behaviour. 

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The Psychodynamic Approach

The psychodynamic approach looks at innate drives such as the libido which is with us when we are born. 

Although Freud never mentioned genes, he did make the Oedipus and Electra complex theories and suggested that the differences between them are due to the genes which determine our behaviour. 

Freud talked about the environment and our upbringing and argued that events in our childhood shape our adult personalities. 

Freud theories however lacked evidence and was mostly based on case studies and subjective interpretation. 

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Bennett-Levy and Martaeu (1984)

Gives a evolutionary explanation of human behaviour. 

They said that phobias of animals can be explained through natural selection as humans are predisposed to fear animals that are ugly, slimy etc...

Fearing these types of animals leads to increased survival and higher reproduction rates.

This study suggested that the environment influences behaviour because through the process of classical conditioning we learn to associate something with fear, creating a phobia. 

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Buss (1989)

Gives a evolutionary explanation of human behaviour. 

He suggested that humans have evolved behaviour that gave our ancestors increased success at reproduction. 

Behaviours which have been naturally selected would be due to genes and evidence for this is that the same mating bahaviours occur all around the world and this behaviour is more likely to be innate. 

This study has the environmental influences of arranged marriage or influences from friends and family. 

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Gibson and Walk

Proposed that we have evolved to have depth perception.

There experiment was done on toddlers old enough to walk and so they would have had enough time to learn depth perception from the environment, decreasing the reliability of the research. 

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Genes V's Environment

Evolutionary theories suggest a different interpretation between genes and the environment. 

The environment of our ancestors has altered our genetic make up so the nature/nurture debate is unclear. 

Plomin (1994)- suggested that the environment plays an important part in bahaviour due to social pressure. 

If you look at personality, we see an interactionist effect.

Whilst twin and adoption show that variation in IQ is due to genetics, Flynn found that IQ's all over the world increased 20 points in 30 years (so due to the environment).

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In aggression, you could say that a persons biological make up creates the potencial for aggression but Bandura said that aggression is learned through vicarious reinforcement. 

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Reactive influence: would suggest that parent create a dimate, and so through intellectual stimulation a child is bound to be clever.

Passive influence: would suggest that if say, your parents had a mental disorder, then their child is also likely to develop one. 

Active influence: would say that the predisposition of a child causes them to create an environment. 

For example, when applied to schizophrenia:

Schizophrenia could be due to genetics in a family, but also through learned behaviours from parents. If a 'label' is attached to someone with schizophrenia people will talk to them differently and the predisposition of the person now affects their life. 

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Arguments for Both Explanations

Phenylketouria: this is a gentic illness. If a babies diet is changed the effects can be avoided. 

Epigenies: this refers to how experiences throughout your life can actually alter whether or not genes are ''switched'' on or off suggesting a need for both genes and the environment.  

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Both genes and the environment combined shape our behaviour. 

It is more likely that we will inherit things from our parents but also the environment will change these inherited things.

 For example, if we link to forensic psychology, people may inherit aggressive behaviour which gives them the ability to commit criminal acts, but social pressure such as that from gangs could also make someone become a criminal. 

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