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Professional Psychology: Debating Chamber · Psychology Journals · Psychologists

In this area we can arrange for debates on particular issues of the day, inviting notable protagonists to put position papers that we can then discuss.

Ideas for Topics to debate

(1) Genetics versus Environment

They both affect psychology, but which is the more important effect? I'd immediately be inclined to think that the environment has the biggest effect, but how much over 50% is the effect of the environment? Mostly Zen 11:37, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

  • I think the way this issue should be framed has more to do with genes and environment, not genes versus environment. David Buss calls this dichotomy of genes vs environment a "false dichotomy."
I would say that genes don't create behavior, per se. Genes only create organisms and their component parts and mechanisms. Organisms interact with their environment. It is that interaction that is behavior. What genes can create that is relevant to psychology are psychological mechanisms that help the organism negotiate its environment.
The question then becomes, what is the nature of human psychological mechanisms that compose our universal cognitive architecture?
  • Evolutionary psychology traditionally posits that the human mind is composed primarily of domain-specific mechanisms that were designed by the evolutionary process to enable humans to deal with the recurrent adaptive problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
  • Human behavioral ecology assumes that human cognition evolved to optimize our inclusive fitness in our present ecological context.
  • Evolutionary developmental psychology lies in the middle of these two extremes with the assumption that humans have a combination of both domain-specific mechanisms and domain general mechanisms. EDP, however, also assumes that not only do we inherit species-typical biological traits, but species-typical aspects of our environments as well.
To use an example from the animal kingdom, goslings will attach to their mothers and follow them around as soon as they are born. This at first implies that the goslings have a mechanism that says, "imprint on mother". However, if the first living thing they see is a person, they will imprint on him/her and follow them around. This implies a mechanism that says "imprint on the first living thing you see." At first, this may seem strange until we consider that in the recurrent environments of the evolution of the gosling, the first living thing that they would reliably see was their mother. Thus, this kind of mechanism would usually be sufficient. Of course, if a predator killed their mother right before they were born, imprinting on the predator would obviously be maladaptive, despite the fact that the mechanism was functioning exactly the way it was designed to! I think conceptualizing "maladaptiveness" and "dysfunction" in a manner like this, (i.e. from an evolutionary perspective), could have a fruitful impact on clinical psychology...however that's a separate issue!
Going back to how different evolutionary-based fields approach human cognition, I should also mention that dual inheritance theory is concerned with cultural learning mechanisms, and the bidirectional influences between those mechanisms and the cultural environment. Jaywin 18:52, 21 June 2006 (UTC)
You are right of course that it is the Interaction of our genetic code and our environment that determines much of our behaviour. I would add that our personality affects our behaviour in any given moment as well, rather than it all being bio-social, but our personality is essentially constructed from the interaction of our genes and environment as well, in times past. To what extent do you think we can use our intelligence and self control to overcome past habits of behaviour though? Are we stuck by our conditioning from our genetic mechanisms and social experiences to always behave in a certain way? We change our personalities and behaviour but how much is this possible? What role do our genes and environment play in adaptability of personality and behaviour?
Lots of questions I know, but I like to see what answers other intelligent people can throw at me because it keeps me learning and my brain active. At some point I will upload my 'Theory of Everything' diagram to my userpage and you can have a look. Mostly Zen 21:22, 22 June 2006 (UTC)