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1.

1#Does#the#Cultural#Environment#Influence#Lifespan
Development#More#Than#Our#Genes?
Wednesday,% September% 2,%2015

Issue% Summary
Yes:

Many%believe%that%emotions%are%biologically% hardwired;%however,%researchers%compared%
facial%expressions%of%emotions%of%individuals%from%Western%and%Eastern%cultures,%finding%
differences%that%highlight%the%influence%of%culture%on%how%we%represent%emotions.

No:

Research%clearly%demonstrates%how%a%relatively%small%number%of%genes%influence%our%
environmental%learning%by%"cascading"%(genes%interact%in%various%patterns%that%account%for%
massive%number%of%developmental%outcomes)%to%determine%the%paths%of%our%behavioural%
development.

Introduction

Mendel's%theory%of%dominant%and%recessive%genes%determines%physical%
characteristics%such%as%eye%colour,%dimples,%and%tongueHcurling%ability,%but%does%not%
account%for%personality%traits%such%as%shyness%or%aggression
Epigenetics:
Examines%how%gene%expression%is%varied%by%other%DNA%activities
Looks%at%traits%not%caused%by%changes%in%DNA%sequence
Study%of%stable,%longHterm%alterations%which%may%or%may%not%be%heritable
Used%to%describe%development%as%result%of%ongoing%interaction%between%genes%
and%environment
Definition%of%"nurture"%is%unclear
Role%of%parents,%peers,%teachers,%and%coaches
Individual's%nationality,%race,%social%economic%status,%family,%college% or%
university,%or%religious%affiliation
Six%basic%emotions%are%expressed%using%same%facial%expression%across%all%cultures
Happiness,%surprise,%fear,%disgust,%anger,%sadness

Yes:%Facial%Expressions% of%Emotion%Are% Not%Culturally%Universal

East%Asians%represent%emotion%intensity%with%movements%of%eyes,%whereas%Western%
Caucasians%represent%emotional%intensity%with%other%parts%of%face
Western%Caucasians%show%emotions%with%distinct%set%of%facial%muscles,%whereas%East%
Asians%do%not
East%Asians%show%early%signs%of%emotional%intensity%with%eyes%(under%less%voluntary%
control%than%mouth)%for%fear,%disgust,%and%anger

East%Asians%represent%emotion%intensity%with%movements%of%eyes,%whereas%Western%
Caucasians%represent%emotional%intensity%with%other%parts%of%face
Western%Caucasians%show%emotions%with%distinct%set%of%facial%muscles,%whereas%East%
Asians%do%not
East%Asians%show%early%signs%of%emotional%intensity%with%eyes%(under%less%voluntary%
control%than%mouth)%for%fear,%disgust,%and%anger
Six%basic%categories%inadequate%to%represent%conceptual%space%of%emotions%for%East%
Asians
Neglect%shame,%pride,%guilt

No:%Making%the%Mind:%Why%We've% Misunderstood% the%NatureH


Nurture% Debate
Developing%brain%is%highly%plastic

How%to%Build%a%Brain

Fertilized%egg%contains%information%that%copies%into%nucleus%of%every%newly%formed%
cell% to%guide%gradual%but%powerful%process%of%shaping%each%organ
Previous%notion%of%mind%and%body%as%separate%is%wrong
Brain's%capabilities% emerge%from%its%physical%properties
Identical%twins%resemble%each%other%more%than%nonHidentical%twins%in%
personality%and%physique
Mental%disorders%are%shared%even%by%twins%reared%apart
Shaping%bodies%of%animals%often%leads%to%correlated%changes%in%behaviour
Proper%neural%wiring%depends%on%behaviour%of%individual%axons%and%dendrites
Axon%activity%governed%by%handHlike%protuberances%at%end%of%each%axon%called%
growth%cones
Growth%cones%swerve,%maneuver,%and%extend%and%retract%feelers%called%
filopodia%to%search%for%destination
Growth%cones%broadcast%signals%to%find%destinations
Some%proteins%serve%as%radio%beacons%to%guide%distant%growth%cones%(provided%
they%are%tuned%to%right%station)
Researchers%can%now%begin%to%understand%how%to%manipulate%those%genes
Rather%than%waiting%for%experience,%brains%use%complex%combination%of%genes%and%
proteins%to%create%starting%point%for%brain

Nature%and%Nurture%Redux
Beyond%the%Blueprint

Genes%seen%as%providers%of%opportunity
All%genes%have%2%functions
Serve%as%templates%for%building%particular%proteins
Each%has%regulatory%sequence%(set%of%conditions%that%guide%whether%or%not%
that%gene's%template%gets%converted%into%protein)
Each%gene%has%IF%and%THEN%(precondition%=%IF,%action%=%THEN)
IFs%responsive%to%environment%of%cells
Genes%are%dynamic%and%can%guide%cell% in%different%ways%at%different%times%based%on%

Serve%as%templates%for%building%particular%proteins
Each%has%regulatory%sequence%(set%of%conditions%that%guide%whether%or%not%
that%gene's%template%gets%converted%into%protein)
Each%gene%has%IF%and%THEN%(precondition%=%IF,%action%=%THEN)
IFs%responsive%to%environment%of%cells
Genes%are%dynamic%and%can%guide%cell% in%different%ways%at%different%times%based%on%
balance%of%molecules%in%their%environment
Single%environmental%cue%can%radically%reshape%course%of%development
High%temperature%during%development%can%lead%African%butterfly%to%become%
brightly%coloured
Low%temperature%leads%to%brown%colour
Growing%butterfly%doesn't%learn%how%to%blend%in%better
Genetically% programmed%to%develop%in%two%different%ways%in%two%different%
environments
Many%genes%have%multiple%Ifs

From%Genes%to%Behaviour

Changing%regulatory%IF%region%of%single%gene%can%have%significant%effect%on%social%
behaviour
Could%change%one%gene%to%create%mice%that:
Are%anxious%and%fearful
Increase%alcohol%consumption%under%stress
Lack%nurturing%instinct
Groom%constantly%to%point%of%baldness
Although%individual%genes%can%have%powerful%effects,%no%trait%is%consequence%of%any%
single%gene
Most%behaviours%are%product%of%multiple%interacting%system%(except%perhaps%in%
reflexes)
Genes%build%neural%structures,%not%behaviour
"Cascading"
One%gene%influences%another,%which%influences%another,%which%influences%
another
One%gene%is%precondition%for%expression%of%next

From%a%Tiny%Number%of%Genes%to%a%Complex%Brain

30,000%gene%shortage%argument%for%influencing%20%billion%cells%in%brain
Better%to%think%of%genome%as%compression%scheme%rather%than%blueprint
Trillions%of%cells%in%the%body%supervised%by%same%30,000Hgene%genome

From%Prewiring%to%Rewiring

Instead%of%asking%to%which%extent%genes%prewire%brain,%now%asking%to%which%extent%
and%how%genes%can%rewire%brain
Innateness%is%extent%to%which%brain%is%prewired
Plasticity%is%extent%to%which%brain%can%be%rewired
Some%organisms%may%be%good%at%one%but%not%the%other
Humans%wellHendowed%in%both%respects

Is%There% Common%Ground?

and%how%genes%can%rewire%brain
Innateness%is%extent%to%which%brain%is%prewired
Plasticity%is%extent%to%which%brain%can%be%rewired
Some%organisms%may%be%good%at%one%but%not%the%other
Humans%wellHendowed%in%both%respects

Is%There% Common%Ground?

Most%traits%reflect%both%genetic%and%environmental%differences
GeneHenvironment%correlations%explain%how%nature%and%nurture%may%interact
Too%much%emphasis%in%genes%and%evolutionary%psychology%=%implying%social%roles%are%
fixed%by%nature
Too%much%emphasis%in%culture%and%socialization%=%ignoring%natural%constraints%on%
behaviour%and%assuming%attitude%is%all%that%matters
Must%find%right%balance