Explain how twin and adoption studies help us differentiate hereditary (nature) and environmental (nurture) influences on human behavior

Assignment 1: Discussion Questions

By the due date, answer one of the discussion questions listed below. Submit your responses to the appropriate Discussion Area on the next page. Start reviewing and responding to at least two of your classmates as early in the week as possible. You can ask technical questions or respond generally to the overall experience. Be sure to be honest, clear, and concise. Always use constructive language, even in criticism, to work toward the goal of positive progress.

Peer responses are due by the end of the week.

The discussion questions for this task include:

  1. Explain how twin and adoption studies help us differentiate hereditary (nature) and environmental (nurture) influences on human behavior. In looking at your own life, which aspects do you feel are mainly the result of nature and which are more influenced by nurture?
  2. Gender differences: Studies have shown a difference between the behavior of men and women. Are these differences more of a perception than a reality? What is the difference between social expectations and physical differences? Provide examples for your conclusions.
  3. Genes have a substantial influence in determining our physical and mental traits and characteristics. However, our genes only provide us with a predisposition toward any given trait or characteristic. What other factor or factors contribute to the development of our traits and characteristics?
  4. In respect to biological rhythms and sleep, humans should receive at least 8 hours of sleep every night in order for them to function "properly" on a daily basis.
    Given that in reality, this (8-hour sleep) rarely occurs, what role/s does the circadian rhythm play in the lives of individuals and how does Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep "factor" into this? How does the lack of sleep affect humans? And, what types of sleep disorders can affect individuals? Have you (or do you know of anyone who has) experienced such sleep disorders?
  5. Left-handedness: A study showed that the average right-handed person had a life expectancy of 75 years, whereas the left-handers had only 66 years. What do you think can account for these differences in life expectancies? In addition, in reviewing the findings of this study, make an objective critique of how this particular study was designed and if the findings were valid and reliable. Discuss some of the concerns of a study if it’s improperly designed.
  6. One of the oldest debates in the field of psychology is that of “nature vs. nurture.” In other words, what is the determining factor of our behavior: our genetics (nature) or our environment (nurture)? Please provide thorough arguments for both sides of this debate and then conclude with your personal thoughts on which is more of an influence on human behavior.
  7. In the “Gender and Sexuality” section of this week’s textbook readings, we learned about the biology of gender development and how cultural influences affect our perceptions of gender differences. How do these perspectives relate to the theory of “Nature vs. Nurture?” Are we like our parents because of the culture in which we are raised or because of physically inherited characteristics?
  8. In many states, juveniles who commit violent crimes can be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Opponents of these sentences argue that because the brains of adolescents are not yet fully developed, juvenile offenders are unable to fully grasp the consequences of their actions. Supporters of these sentences believe that perpetrators of violent crimes should be held responsible for their actions regardless of age and that harsh sentences can act as a deterrent for others.
    Do you believe that juveniles who commit violent crimes should be treated like adults in the criminal justice system? Use information from the textbook on brain development in your answer.
  9. Start by taking the Hand Usage Questionnaire:
    Instructions: Please indicate which hand you normally use for each activity that is identified in the chart provided. To complete this activity you will have to download the chart, PSY1010_Wk2_Chart2.
    For each item, score a 1 for right, 2 for either, and 3 for left. Scores of 13–17 indicate right-handed, 18–32 indicate bilateral, and 33–39 indicate left-handed. One theory of the cause of left-handedness is that left-handedness results from brain damage. If the right hemisphere is damaged early in life, functions shift to the left. The more extensive the damage, the greater the shift. Varying degrees of damage would produce varying degrees of handedness and lateralization. Although some left-handers seem to have pathological sinistrality (left-handedness based on brain damage), they account for only a small percentage. At the same time, it appears clear that prenatal and perinatal (about the time of birth) influences play a role in determining hand preference. For example, some research suggests that high levels of sex hormones—specifically, testosterone—during the prenatal period, are associated with the greater likelihood of left-handedness. In addition, stresses involving reduced oxygen at birth (for example, prolonged labor, being a twin, Rh incompatibilities) are quite clearly related to left-handedness.
    The right-shift theory, on the other hand, postulates a genetic explanation. While there is no gene for handedness itself, there is one that creates a left-hemisphere advantage for language and, in the process, a bias toward left-hemisphere hand control. When this gene is missing, the brain's "natural" condition is equivalent hemispheres. Left-handed people are presumably missing a gene that in the right-handed biases the brain toward left-hemisphere control. The degree of left-handedness exhibited is then largely a matter of specific learning experiences. Much controversy surrounds genetic explanations for handedness. Data from identical twins, fraternal twins, and non-twin siblings is not supportive. If there is a genetic code that explains handedness, it is not a simple one.
    Were the results of the questionnaire accurate for you? Do you think that there is a bias in the theories about what brings about the left-handed? Are there disadvantages in being left-handed or are there advantages?


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