With reference to relevant research studies, to what extent does genetic inheritance influence behaviour?

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G&B 2: With reference to relevant research studies, to what extent does genetic inheritance influence behaviour?

Evolution is a theory initiated by Charles Darwin, primarily in his book, Origin of the Species. It contains fundamental principles including natural selection, survival of the fittest and competition. Natural Selection suggests that advantageous genes are passed down through to subsequent generations and in psychology,  it is important to consider that it describes the mechanisms of behaviour (MoB) rather than the behaviours themselves. A MoB is the observable response made to a situation and the unconscious processes underlying it. Survival of the fittest favours organisms that are best adapted to a certain environment.Evolution of the brain can be observed in both humans and animals. Some common trends include the appearance of a hindbrain amongst reptiles, the limbic system amongst mammals as well as the frontal lobe in higher mammals.

Fessler (2006) aimed to investigate whether disgust sensitivity in the first trimester of pregnancy was as elevated as predicted. He also hypothesised that disgust helps to compensate for the suppressed immune system of a pregnant mother. Data were collected using a Web-based questionnaire through the participation of 691 healthy, pregnant females between the ages of 18-50 years. 155 of which were in their first trimester, 183 in the second trimester, and 158 in the third trimester. Their mean age was 28.1 years. They were recruited through postings to pregnancy-related web sites. Participation was anonymous, and no compensation was offered.  On the Web-based questionnaire, the participants indicated their current level of nausea using a 16-point scale and answered questions to test their disgust sensitivity in eight different areas (e.g. food; contact with animals, body products, and dead animals; hygiene; contact with toilets). The results indicated disgust sensitivity related to food and body products in women in the first trimester was higher compared to those in the second and third trimesters. Due to greater vulnerability, food-borne diseases are particularly dangerous to women in the first trimester and therefore it was predicted that disgust sensitivity related to food would be increased. The results may also indicate that nausea and vomiting are evolved behaviour because they limit the likelihood that pregnant women will eat dangerous or contaminated food.

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Fessler explained that natural selection may have helped human ancestors to be captious with food to compensate for their higher susceptibility to disease. This behaviour would also help humans avoid diseases that could harm unborn offspring, and thus, threaten the species.

As the sample size of the study was large and the participants had a wide age range, it was able to be generalised to the wider public. It was well controlled as only 32 images were shown to each participant. Only healthy pregnant women were selected, thus eradicating any confounding factor of illness affecting responses. The data was quantitative ...

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