Showing posts from February, 2008

Are girls wired not to win?

Most women in the West are now in the workplace and young women are doing exceptionally well at school and university in comparison with their male peers. But gifted, talented women with the most choices and freedoms don’t seem to be choosing the same paths, in the same numbers, as the men around them. Even with barriers stripped away, they don’t behave like male clones. As a developmental psychologist, I began to wonder about the science. We have come to expect that there should be no real differences between the sexes. But the science that’s emerging upends the notion that male and female are interchangeable, symmetrical or the same. The psychology, neuro-science and economics of people’s choices and behaviour have exploded with amazing findings in the past 10 years alone. In particular, an opiate-like hormone, oxytocin, which one anthropologist calls “the elixir of contentment” (it surges during breastfeeding, childbirth, sex, cuddling and nurturing), has emerged as a key to unders…

Team Uncovers New Evidence of Recent Human Evolution

Amber waves.
Dependence on cereal grains such as barley influenced recent human evolution.
Credit: USDA/Doug Wilson

By Ann Gibbons
ScienceNOW Daily News
4 February 2008In the past 100,000 years, modern humans have colonized the far corners of the globe, adapting to new environments as they migrated. Researchers have long assumed that these dramatic transitions resulted in a sort of accelerated evolution in which genes for traits such as skin color and stature changed rapidly to allow humans to survive in their new habitats. Now, a team of French and Spanish researchers has found powerful new evidence to support this idea, identifying 582 genes that have evolved differently in different populations in the past 60,000 years, including a dozen that protect people from obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases. The team, led by population geneticist Lluis Quintana-Murci of the Pasteur Institute and Centre National de le Recherche Scientifique in Paris, analyzed DNA of 2…

Genes and environment interact in first graders to predict physical but not social aggression

Physical aggression in children comes from their genes and the environment in which they grow up. Social aggression, such as spreading rumors or ignoring other children, has less to do with genetic factors and more with environmental factors.
One important environmental influence on children is friends. But while past studies have shown an association between physically aggressive friends and increased physical aggression in children and teens, few studies have looked at how socially aggressive friends affect children's social aggression, nor have they considered possible gene-environment transactions in these behaviors.

A new study by researchers at the University of Quebec at Montreal, Laval University, Concordia University, and the University of Montreal sought to determine whether the interaction between nature and nurture, that is, between children's genetic disposition to aggression and friends' aggression (social or physical), could help explain difference…

Is political orientation transmitted genetically?

As reported in this week's issue of New Scientist magazine, research by Rice University professor of political science John Alford indicates that what is on one's mind about politics may be influenced by how people are wired genetically.
Alford, who has researched this topic for a number of years, and his team analyzed data from political opinions of more than 12,000 twins in the United States and supplemented it with findings from twins in Australia. Alford found that identical twins were more likely to agree on political issues than were fraternal twins. On the issue of property taxes, for example, an astounding four-fifths of identical twins shared the same opinion, while only two-thirds of fraternal twins agreed.

"What we found was that it probably is going to take more than a persuasive television ad to change someone's mind on a certain political position or attitude," said Alford. "Individual genes for behaviors do not exist and no one denie…