The Role of Genetics in Psychology

Whatever can be said about an animal's learning or in-ability to learn has bearing upon the genetic make-up of the animal. And what has been said here about the levels of learning has bearing upon the whole interplay between genetic make-up and the changes which that individual can and must achieve.

For any given organism, there is an upper limit beyond which all is determined by genetics. Planarians can probably not go beyond Learning I. Mammals other than man are probably capable of Learning II but incapable of Learning III. Man may sometimes achieve Learning III.

This upper limit for any organism is (logically and presumably) set by genetic phenomena, not perhaps by individual genes or combinations of genes, but by whatever factors control the development of basic phylar characteristics.

For every change of which an organism is capable, there is the fact of that capability. This fact may be genetically determined; or the capability may have been learned. If the latter, then genetics may have determined the capability of learning the capability. And so on.

This is in general true of all somatic changes as well as of those behavioral changes which we call learning. A man's skin tans in the sun. But where does genetics enter this picture? Does genetics completely determine his ability to tan? Or can some men increase their ability to tan? In the latter case, the genetic factors evidently have effect at a higher logical level.

The problem in regard to any behavior is clearly not "Is it learned or is it innate?" but "Up to what logical level is learning effective and down to what level does genetics play a determinative or partly effective role?"

The broad history of the evolution of learning seems to have been a slow pushing back of genetic determinism to levels of higher logical type.

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