Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

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.

Also see the list of forums and The Psychology Wiki chat

Ideas for Topics to debate

(2) Genes involved in Depression

This could be useful for the Depression Article which we are preparing to act as an advert/example/template for the site as a whole. I'm tired now but will find the genes/references involved in the morning! Mostly Zen 00:06, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

Sorry I've been so busy, will debate this later. Mostly Zen Baby tao.jpg (talk) 23:04, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

(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)

Response to Mostly Zen

  • To what extent do you think we can use our intelligence and self control to overcome past habits of behaviour though?
    • Well, I guess I would have to say that the more we know, the more we'll be able to do. Just like a deeper understanding of things like biochemistry and pharmacology can give us a better understanding of how to prevent, treat, and cure cancer, I think a better understanding of how biology and environment interact will give us a better understanding on how to control or alter our behaviors.
      • Yes, this is pretty much what I think. As we learn how we work, both from a biopsychological/evolutionary way and in terms of environmental conditioning, we gain an abtract awareness of the processes responsible for our behaviour. With this awareness we have the potential for greater control of our behaviour, which along with self awareness and language is what distinguishes us from other animals I feel.
  • Are we stuck by our conditioning from our genetic mechanisms and social experiences to always behave in a certain way?
    • I don't prescribe to determinism, biological or environmental. I think an evolutionary perspective, though, can help illuminate the tendencies, capacities, and constraints of our behaviors.
      • I didn't really mean deterministic. I don't really like the determinism vs free will debate, as thats as silly as the Genes vs Environment perspective that I suggested earlier. I think that its an interaction between processes over which we have no control, and the emerging control over behaviour that human beings have. Consider smoking cigarettes. Does the human being smoke them of his own free will? or because he is addicted, because the cigarettes just so happen to stimulate his nicotinic receptors, and cause a dopamine release? Does the human being give up cigarettes of his own free will? I think that giving up addictive behaviour is a good example of free will/willpower.
  • We change our personalities and behaviour but how much is this possible?
    • Again, a tough one to answer. The more we know, the better we'll be able to answer that question. But I do believe we are incredibly could argue that that is one of our most adaptive traits!
      • Yes I totally agree with you here :)
  • What role do our genes and environment play in adaptability of personality and behaviour?
    • Some answers to that question may lie in hypotheses based upon theories like r/K selection theory and life-history theory.Another thing to consider is that evolutionary psychologists have traditionally ignored things like classical conditioning and operant conditioning. I think this has more to do with EP's roots in cognitive psychology and that discipline's historical animosity with behaviorism being carried over into EP than with actual epistemelogical irreconcilability. A rare exception to this unfortunate trend begins on the 22nd page of this paper, under the sub-heading "Pavlovian conditioning": [1] Jaywin 22:46, 23 June 2006 (UTC)
      • I was thinking that aspects of conditioning and an evolutionary approach are in fact different views of the same mechanisms, rather than top and bottom down approaches (as per ToK). Consider that we become conditioned to liking certain foods, such as those high in sugar and fats. From an evolutionary perspective, this is a good idea as foods like that are hard to come by, but now obviously, its not so good as those foods are easy to get. I think that liking the tastes of foods that are good for us might be instinctual, but it is entirely possible that it is in fact conditioned. Smokers actually like the smell of tobacco smoke, which most of us don't. I think that conditioning works by the organism associating certain stimuli with a pleasureable sensation, perhaps caused by dopamine release? I'll have a read of that paper you suggested. Mostly Zen 10:56, 24 June 2006 (UTC)
        • I think the distinction that your making here is between proximate causation and ultimate causation when it comes to conditioning and evolution, respectively. They're not opposing perspectives, (a mistake often made by both behaviorists and evolutionary psychologists), just different levels of anaysis that are ultimately interrelated. So I think we essentially agree here. Check out this diagram, The Four Areas of Biology. Jaywin 22:30, 24 June 2006 (UTC)
          • Good answers, and I like the diagram. Its refreshing to talk to people that like to think about the big picture and are knowledgable across different disciplines. I always approached Psychology slightly differently because of my background in Chemistry and Physics, so its good to talk to someone who is good at biology, as thats my weakest science personally. End of this debate for the time being I think :) Mostly Zen 00:06, 25 June 2006 (UTC)