A Sampler of Human Behavioral Genetics

  • Irving I. Gottesman


A chapter devoted to a consideration of genetic and evolutionary aspects of some behavioral characters in man in a book such as this may come as a surprise to many evolutionary biologists. There is, however, a ferment in the behavioral sciences. Any temptation to invoke Samuel Johnson’s simile of a woman’s preaching and a dog’s walking on its hind legs, followed by his comment—“It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”—might be suppressed by awareness of the array of energies devoted to the demonstration and elucidation of heritable variations in animal and human behaviors. Organisms subjected to behavior genetic analyses range from Schizophora (Hirsch and Erlenmeyer-Kimling, 1962; Dobzhansky and Spassky, 1967) to schizophrenics (Gottesman and Shields, 1966a,b,c; Huxley et al., 1964). Evolutionary thinking is slowly but surely returning to a deservedly seminal position in the formulations of some behavioral scientists (e.g., Erlenmeyer-Kimling and Paradowski, 1966; Freedman, 1967; Ginsburg and McLaughlin, 1966; Gottesman, 1965, 1967) after the near extinction that followed its emotional abandonment in the wake of injuries from social Darwinism and insults from the Third Reich (cf. Dunn, 1962; Haller, 1963). Simpson has said that the modern theory of evolution “... reinstates behavior not merely as something to which evolution has happened but as something that is itself one of the essential determinants of evolution” (Simpson, 1958, p. 9). Psychology as a whole, however, is not alone in its reluctance to embrace evolution. “There are vast areas of modern biology, for instance biochemistry and the study of behavior, in which the application of evolutionary principles is still in the most elementary stage.” (Mayr, 1963, p. 9)


Behavioral Trait Behavioral Genetic Twin Data Polygenic Model Primary Mental Ability 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irving I. Gottesman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Behavioral GeneticsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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