Human Biological Variation: Is Human Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Another psychological approach studied the physical basis for emotion. LeDoux (1995, p. 209+) noted, "Scientists concerned with human nature have not been able to reach a consensus about what emotion is and what place emotion should have in a theory of mind and behavior." He proposed, however, that "findings about the neural basis of emotion might also suggest new insights into the functional organization of emotion that were not apparent from psychological findings alone. The brain, in other words, can constrain and inform our ideas about the nature of emotion." This would seem to play into any discussion of genetics vs. culture as emotion is viewed, accurately or not, as a construct of societal norms in large part. Because fear is a common part of human life, LeDoux uses it to investigate his theories. "The expression of fear is conserved to a large extent across human cultures and at least to some extent across human and nonhuman mammalian species, and possibly across other vertebrates as well" he notes, which would indicate that fear is not cultural, in fact, but physical, gene-based rather than a product of society. On the other hand, he also encompasses the familiar Pavlovian model in his thinking.

Fear conditioning is a form of Pavlovian (classical) conditioning. Pavlov is best remembered for his studies of alimentary conditioning, in which he elicited salivation in dogs by presenting stimuli that had been associated with the delivery of food (Pavlov 1927). He also determined that animals will exhibit conditioned reflexes that allow them to protect themselves against harmful stimuli by responding to warning signals. Pavlov referred to the latter as defense conditioning (LeDoux, 1995, p. 209+).

Again, this seems to argue for genotype as being less important than phenotype; on the other hand, while there is obviously a physical basis for fear to occur, the experience of fear -- when, where, why and how -- would seem to depend upon environmental -- that is, conditioning -- factors.

Writing in the same journal, Annual Review of Psychology, Suh (2002) seems to arrive at a different conclusion. Suh noted that "Ecologies shape cultures; cultures influence the development of personalities" (2002). In short, he accepts a priori that culture shaped personality; it would be a short leap from there to conclude that personality determined behavior. Thus, in that equation, phenotype does indeed determine behavior. However, does nature, then determine the characteristics of an individual separate from personality/behavior? Suh seems to regard the entire question of nature vs. nurture as somewhat absurd, or at least, given to explanation in more mechanistic terms than otherwise. He refers to a book that vigorously defends "the utility of culture and personality studies, summarized the history of this topic, and provided chapters about Mexican, Chinese, African, German, Indian, and Japanese personality, as well as studies for the improvement of interaction across cultures" (2002). In a conclusion that arguably might parallel one that might be drawn thus far from the evidence in the nature/nurture debate, Suh wrote, "it is worth noting that even if the taxonomies of personality are universal, it does not guarantee their identical usage" a finding he further attributed to Atran 1993, and Choi et al. 1997 (Suh, 2002).

To come full circle, and return to anthropological considerations of the question, an article in Theological Studies by Bonsor examined homosexual orientation and
underline!important;' target='_blank' href='' rel="follow">anthropology. While Bonsor expresses an investigatory approach, he also accepts a prior that "One's sexual orientation is discovered, not chosen," a concept that seems to uphold the narrative approach of Hausman. In the end, Bonsor does not support any specific theory of physical or cultural evolution. He concludes that:

Genetic variations, and the physical evolution to which they give rise, are a necessary but not sufficient condition for human evolution. Aquinas and contemporary anthropologists agree that physical reproduction (conception and birth) cannot cause human self-consciousness and intellect. Another mechanism is required. Anthropologists and philosophers frequently theorize that the human intellect and self-consciousness emerged with the development of language.... Speech in turn is the inheritance mechanism whereby conscious life reproduces itself (Bonsor, 1998).


Due to the difficulty of finding genetic markers in a population readily available for a study of this sort, the only determinant of genetic differences that will be used in this study is gender: men and women. In a population of college students, equal numbers of men and women who volunteer to take a survey regarding their reactions to the recent presidential election will be studied. A questionnaire will be provided asking them to indicate which candidate they voted for as well as the three main reasons they voted for that candidate. Then they will be asked to identify their parents', best friend's, most influential 'other's preference between George Bush and John Kerry. (to streamline data gathering, those who voted for Ralph Nader or any other minor or write-in candidate will be eliminated from the study.)

They will be asked to characterize their birth family's:

Affluence level

Educational level

Interest in humanitarian ideals

Interest in military service

Concept of justice

Concept of international relations

Strength of religious convictions

Character of religious convictions (conservative, liberal, moderate)

Additional questions designed to elicit the probably sort of family background that influenced their own beliefs and behavior.

They will be asked to characterize the same factors for their chosen opinion leader and best friend in an attempt to determine whether they continue to behave in the manner their birth family values would suggest.

The answers will be evaluated both qualitatively and quantitatively, a process which will be enhanced by the survey being designed as a series of responses with which the respondent may agree or disagree on a five-point Likert scale. However, verbal 'extra' responses will also be solicited and may be used in the findings/discussion sections of the study report.

This supports my desire to conduct a study of the nature vs. nurture dilemma by selecting the genetic makeup of an individual and determining how they react to the environment. This will allow comparison of the behaviors of those sharing genetics (gender) with those not sharing the same genetics. The result will be information concerning how phenotype correlates with the genotype of individuals.

The research will attempt to acknowledge the ways in which genetics affects human behavior while maintaining that environment and culture are important in determining behavior to a degree less than genetics influences behavior.

Literature Cited

Astuti, R. (2001). Are we all natural dualists? A cognitive developmental approach. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 7(3), 429. Retrieved November 19, 2004, from Questia database,

Bonsor, Jack a. 1998. Homosexual orientation and anthropology: Reflections on the category "objective disorder." Theological Studies. Retrieved November 19, 2004 from Highbeam database,

Hausman, B.L. (2000). Do boys have to be boys? Gender, narrativity, and the John/Joan case. NWSA Journal, 12(3), 114-138.

Ledoux, J.E. 1995. Emotion: Clues from the brain. Annual Review of Psychology. 46. 209+. Retrieved November 19, 2004, from Questia database,

Moore, J.…

Sources Used in Documents:

Moore, J. (2002). Some thoughts on the relation between behavior analysis and behavioral neuroscience. The Psychological Record, 52(3), 261+. Retrieved November 19, 2004, from Questia database,

Suh, Eunkook M. 2002. Cultural influences on personality. Annual Review of Psychology;

Retrieved November 19, 2004 from Highbeam database,

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