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every nongenetic influence, from prenatal nutrition to the people and things around us

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 the genes

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid

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


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


the complete instructions for making an organism, consisting of all the genetic material in that organism's chromosomes.

identical twins

twins who develop from a single fertilized egg that splits in two, creating 2 genetically identical organisms.

fraternal twins

twins who develop from separate fertilized eggs. They are genetically no closer than brothers and sisters, but they share a fetal environment.


a person's characteristic emotional reactivity and intensity.


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 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

the study of the evolution of behavior and the mind, using principles of natural selection.

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 on to succeeding generations.


a random error in gene replication that leads to a change.


in psychology, the biologically and socially influenced characteristics by which people define male and female.


the enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, values, and traditions shared by a group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next.


an understood rule for accepted and expected behavior. Norms prescribe "proper" behavior.

personal space

the buffer zone we like to maintain around our bodies.


giving priority to one's own goals over group goals and defining one's identity in terms of personal attributes rather than group identifications.


giving priority to the goals of one's group (often one's extended family or work group) and defining one's identity accordingly.


physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt someone.

X chromosome

the sex chromosome found in both men and women. Females have two X chromosomes; males have one. An X chromosome from each parent produces a female child.

Y chromosome

the sex chromosome found only in males. When paired with an X chromosome from the mother, it produces a male child.


the most important of the male sex hormones. Both males and females have it, but the additional testosterone in males stimulates the growth of the male sex organs in the fetus and the development of the male sex characteristics during puberty.


a set of expectations (norms) about a social position, defining how those in the position ought to behave.

gender role

a set of expected behaviors for males and for females.

gender identity

one's sense of being male or female.


the acquisition of a traditional masculine or feminine role.

social learning theory

the theory that we learn social behavior by observing and imitating and by being rewarded or punished.

gender schema theory

the theory that children learn from their cultures a concept of what it means to be male and female and that they adjust their behavior accordingly.

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