Nature vs. Nurture is Nonsense: On the Necessity of an Integrated Genetic, Social, Developmental, and Personality Psychology

Barlow, F. K. (University of Queensland)

The field of behavioural genetics unambiguously demonstrates that heritable individual differences exist and are important in explaining human behaviour. Despite this, some psychological perspectives ignore this research. If we wish to comprehensively understand the impact of parenting, the environment, or any social factor, we must engage with genetics. In this paper I review research that reveals that genes affect not only our personalities, but the way that we understand and react to the social world. Studies further reveal that notable life events are in part explained by genetic variance. I detail how this could be the case through active, evocative, and passive genetic correlations, and go on to argue that all complex psychological traits are likely the result of multifaceted gene by environment interactions. A mistaken belief that genetic influence implies genetic essentialism, and is therefore tantamount to prejudice, is raised as a possible reason that heritability is often ignored in the social sciences. The article concludes with practical suggestions for how we can embrace behavioural genetics as our methods struggle to match the divine complexity of human existence. (in press, Australian Journal of Psychology).

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Reconciling Nature and Nurture Symposium