Social environment not genes sometimes responsible for behaviors of sexes

“Masculine and feminine behaviors cannot be explained by the existence of male and female brains, as has previously been suggested.”

August 16, 2017 21:51
1 minute read.
The secret to healing what ails you lies within your own DNA

The secret to healing what ails you lies within your own DNA. (photo credit: DREAMSTIME)


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The different ways men and women behave – passed down from generation to generation – can be inherited by men and women from their social environment and not only through genetics, according a study.

Rather than the sexes acting differently because of genetic inheritance, the human environment and culture can influence some gender-specific behavior traits from one generation to the next, said Prof. Cordelia Fine of the University of Melbourne, Prof.

John Dupré of the University of Exeter and Prof. Daphna Joel from Tel Aviv University. The study was recently published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Advances in evolutionary theory and current models of how sex influences the brain suggests that the interactions between genetic and hormonal components of sex, along with other factors, create variability between individuals for some gender-related traits. At the same time, environmental factors supply the stable conditions needed for the reproduction of those traits in each generation, they wrote.

These two important factors shifts the scientific thinking point to the possibility that gender roles examined across different generations are sometimes best explained in terms of inherited socio-environmental conditions.

“Even in non-human mammals, adaptive traits that have reliably developed in offspring for thousands of years can disappear within a few generations, if the relevant environmental conditions change,” said Dupré.

“Genetic inheritance continues to be critical for the capacity to quickly learn an adaptive behavior, but environmental factors that are stable over generations remove any selective pressure for the development of parallel genetic mechanisms,” he explained.

The researchers studied recent evolution theories and findings from studies of the relations between sex and the brain for this study. As part of another study, Joel and colleagues found that human brains are composed of unique mosaics of features, some more common in one sex than in the other.

“Masculine and feminine behaviors cannot be explained by the existence of male and female brains, as has previously been suggested,” Joel said. “Our research suggests that intergenerational inheritance of gender-specific traits may be better explained by highly stable features of the social environment.”

The article says non-genetic mechanisms may be particularly important for humans because our culture strongly encourages us to have male or female roles. The enormous human capacity to learn also allows for information to be passed from generation to generation.

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