Developmental Psychobiology: The Significance of Infancy

By Lewis P. Lipsitt | Go to book overview

3 Genetic Determinants of Infant Development: An Overstated Case

Sandra Scarr-Salapatek

University of Minnesota

Psychology seems to be in the midst of an aperiodic swing between extreme forms of environmentalism and hereditarianism. More biological assumptions, variables, methods, and conclusions have crept into child development during the past 10 years than in the preceding 25. Although a welcome corrective, this trend toward psychobiology should be critically evaluated. We must first be alert to the dangers of reductionism inherent in biological explanations of behavioral phenomena. Second, we must avoid an extreme form of genetic determinism that ignores the necessary transactions between genotypes and their environments throughout the lifespan of development and ignores the important variations that exist among individuals. A serious appraisal of contemporary biology and genetics avoids both of these errors.

Explanations of behavioral phenomena may include variables derived from other levels of analysis, but their effects must be explained at a behavioral level. Genetic effects on behavior are plausible only as the explanation incorporates biochemical pathways to morphological characteristics (e.g., brain structures) that mediate the gene-behavior links. Even if current knowledge precludes a complete explanation, the partial understanding must incorporate hypothetical links from gene constituents to the behavioral level of organization. Genes do not act directly on behavior, and theoretical statements should not be reductionist in this sense.

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Developmental Psychobiology: The Significance of Infancy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contributors ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Heart Rate: A Sensitive Tool for the Study of Emotional Development in the Infant 1
  • Acknowledgments 26
  • References 26
  • Comments on "Heart Rate: A Sensitive Tool for the Study of Emotional Development in the Infant" 32
  • References 34
  • 2: Infancy, Biology, and Culture 35
  • References 53
  • Comments on "Infancy, Biology, and Culture" 55
  • References 57
  • 3: Genetic Determinants of Infant Development: An Overstated Case 59
  • References 77
  • Comments on "Genetic Determinants of Infant Development: An Overstated Case" 80
  • References 85
  • 4: From Reflexive to Instrumental Behavior 87
  • Acknowledgments 103
  • References 103
  • Comments on "From Reflexive to Instrumental Behavior" 105
  • References 106
  • A Reply to Freedman 107
  • References 108
  • 5: Developmental Psychobiology Comes of Age: A Discussion 109
  • References 126
  • 6: Three Themes in Develomental Psychobiology 129
  • References 137
  • Author Index 139
  • Topical Index 143
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