Genetics and human behaviour have a complex interplay that has long captivated thinkers and researchers across disciplines.
Genetics is the study of genes. Our genes carry knowledge that is passed from one generation to the next. For example, genes are why one child has brown hair like the mother, while their sibling has black hair like the father. Genes also deduce why some illnesses are hereditary and whether babies will be male or female.
Human behaviour refers to the way a human acts and interacts. Human behaviour is driven by genetic and environmental factors.
We will delve into the biological viewpoint on behaviour, exploring its pivotal assumptions, methods, and implications while critically examining its limitations.
Core Tenets of Biological Approach
The biological approach views psychology as a science, employing rigorous experimental methods to unravel the physiological factors shaping human behaviour and mental processes. Some perspectives on this are:
- Biological Factors: Genes, neurotransmitters, hormones, and the anatomy of the nervous system fundamentally influence how we think, feel, and act.
- Evolutionary Adaptation: Our inherited behavioural tendencies evolved over millions of years to end in our ancestors.
- Inheritance: Many behavioural patterns have an innate component passed down through the genes across generations.
- Continuity: Given our shared evolutionary origins and physiological similarities, human behaviour follows similar genetic principles to animals.
To investigate the genetic support of behaviour, researchers employ diverse techniques:
- Controlled Lab Experiment: Isolating and manipulating specific biological factors provides insight into their behavioural effects.
- Correlational Studies: Examining statistical relationships between biological characteristics like genetics and behavioural traits reveals tentative links.
- Twin Research: Comparing behaviour in identical versus fraternal twins unpacks genetic versus environmental influences.
- Naturalistic Observation: Studying behaviour unfolding naturally in a real-world context captures nuances missed in labs.
- Cross-Cultural Research: Behavioural differences across cultures suggest flexible rather than universal human nature.
- Brain Imaging: Techniques like MRI scans probe brain regions activated during behaviours, emotions, and cognitive tasks.
Critically Evaluating the Biological Lens
The biological approach has its limits. Key critiques include:
- Reductionism: Explaining behaviour solely through physiological overlooks critical environmental, social, and cognitive influences. The human experience is multifaceted.
- Determinism: Strong biological determinism leaves little room for individual free will and conscious choice in shipping actions, which seems misaligned with lived experience.
- Lack of Agency: The view of behaviour as biologically programmed, beyond willful control, risks denying human agency and accountability.
- Dehumanisation: Reducing complex human experiences like love, creativity, and spirituality to mere physiological processes can breed pessimism about human potential.
Despite these weaknesses, the biological approach importantly acknowledges inborn behavioural instincts, integrating biological insights with environmental, social, and cognitive perspectives to allow a more holistic understanding.
Biology and Theories of Intelligence
Biological research has significantly informed our comprehension of human intelligence. Key findings include:
- Genetics and Environment: Intelligence emerges from a dynamic interplay between genes and environmental influences: neither holy determines it.
- Physiology: The physiology of the nervous system, brain anatomy, and hormones affect cognitive capacities and development.
- Comparative Physiology: Studying animal intelligence offers an evolutionary context for human cognition.
- Inheritance Patterns: While the specifics remain unclear, genetic inheritance does appear to impact general cognitive ability.
Evaluating Natural Selection Theory
Charles Darwin‘s theory of natural selection proposes evolution occurs because genes and traits enhancing survival prospects are naturally selected and become more prevalent over generations. Critically examining this:
- Population-Level Shift: Natural selection progressively shapes the capabilities of whole populations.
- Non-Survival Traits: Nevertheless, some non-adaptive traits persist over generations, indicating limitations to the theory.
- Psychological Drivers: Natural selection does not fully account for complex human behaviours driven by social, sexual, and spiritual motivations beyond survival.
The biological perspective importantly illustrates the physiological support of human behaviour and mentality. However, given the richness of human experience, it requires integration with psychological, social, cultural, and environmental perspectives.
A multifaceted understanding allows us to appreciate our shared biology and unique human experiences.
Researched by Adejoke Toye