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Behavior Genetics

the study of the relative power and limits of genetic and environmental influences on behavior


threadlike structures made of DNA molecules that contain genes


a complex molecule containing the genetic information that makes up the chromosomes


the biochemical units of heredity that make up the chromosomes; segments of DNA capable of synthesizing a protein


the complete instructions for making an organism; consists of all the genetic material in an organism's chromosomes

Identical Twins

twins who develop from a single fertilized egg that splits in two, creating two genetically identical organisms

Fraternal Twins

twins who develop from separate fertilized eggs; genetically no closer than brothers and sisters, but share the same fetal environment


the proportion of variation among individuals that we can attribute to genes; the heritability of a trait may vary depending on the range of populations and environments studied


the interplay that occurs when the effect of one factor (such as environment) depends on another factor (such as heredity)

Molecular Genetics

the subfield of biology that studies the molecular structure and function of genes

Evolutionary Psychology

using principles of natural selection to study the evolution of behavior and the mind

Natural Selection

the principle that, among the range of inherited trait variations, those that lead to increased reproduction and survival will most likely be passed onto succeeding generations


a random error in gene replication that leads to a change

Developmental Psychology

a branch of psychology that studies the physical, cognitive, and social change throughout the life span


the fertilized egg; it enters a two week period of rapid cell division and develops into an embryo


the developing human organism from about two weeks after fertilization through the second month


the developing human organism from nine weeks after conception to birth


agents (chemicals or viruses) that can reach the embryo or fetus during prenatal development and cause

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

physical and cognitive abnormalities in children caused by the mother drinking during pregnancy


decreasing responsiveness with repeated stimulation; as infants gain familiarity with repeated exposure to a visual stimulus, their interest wanes


biological growth processes that enable orderly changes in behavior; relatively uninfluenced by experience


all the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communicating


a concept or framework that organizes and interprets information


interpreting our new experiences in terms of our existing schemas


adapting our current understandings (schemas) to incorporate new information

Sensorimotor Stage

in Piaget's theory, the stage (0-2 years) during which infants know the world mostly in terms of their sensory impressions and motor activities

Object Permanence

the awareness that things continue to exist even when not perceived

Preoperational Stage

in Piaget's theory, the stage (2-7 years) during which a child learns to use language but does not yet comprehend the mental operations of concrete logic

Lack of Conservation

Piaget's principle that properties such as mass, volume, and number remain the same despite changes in the forms of objects


Piaget's theory that the preoperation stage child has difficulty seeing from the perspective of others

Theory of Mind

people's ideas about their own and other's mental states, and how behavior may telegraph feelings, perceptions, and thoughts

Concrete Operational Stage

Piaget's theory concerning the stage of cognitive development (6-11 years) in which children gain the mental operations that enable them to think logically about concrete events


a disorder which appears in childhood and is marked by deficient communication, social interaction, and inability to understand others' states of mind

Stranger Anxiety

the fear of strangers that infants commonly display beginning around 8 months of age


an emotional tie with another person; shown in children by seeking closeness to the caregiver and showing distress upon separation

Critical Period

an optimal period shortly after birth when an organism's exposure to certain stimuli or experiences produces proper development


the process by which certain animals form attachments during a critical period very early in life

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