Psyc 3102:  Behavioral Genetics (Carey)

Spring 2005: Questions for the Final Exam



Procedure:  Below are a series of questions that may appear on the final exam.  You may prepare for these in any way you choose—study with friends, see the professor, etc.  Excluding definitions, about 5 or 6 of these will appear verbatim on the final exam.  You will have to answer all of these 5 or 6 questions without the benefit of open books or notes during the final exam period.





1) set point model of personality stability and change


2) meritocracy


3) heritocracy


4) heritability


5) environmentability


7) endophenotype


8) smorgasbord model of personality development




Essay Questions:


1) Name and define the five forces of human evolution.


2) Consider the following statement: "The United States of America is a vast melting pot.  Among its people are many groups of Native Americans, the original inhabitants of the New World, as well as immigrants--some willing and some not so willing--from every area of the world.  People of different ethnic backgrounds have been marrying one another even before the USA even became its own nation, and this process has been accelerating in recent years.  In evolutionary terms, the USA is beginning to develop its own race--the American race."  Critically evaluate this statement in terms of the social definition of race and the genetic definition of race that we learned in class.


3) Here is a complicated statement: "Empirical evidence suggests that being raised in the same family does not make siblings similar to one another in personality.  However, these same data cannot be used to say that parents have no influence on their children's behavior."  Give a lucid and common sense explanation of this statement to a layperson who is educated but does not have much training in psychology.  Make certain to include the types of empirical data on which the above statement rests.


4) The following is a quote from a behavioral geneticist:  “If a strong meritocracy evolves in this country [i.e., USA], it is more likely to be an educationally-driven meritocracy than an IQ-driven meritocracy.”  Give a 2 to 3 sentence, COGENT explanation of this statement.


5) Describe the relationship among genes, intelligence (as measured by intelligence tests), and social stratification in modern industrialized society.


6) Give four different generalizations from the empirical data on the genetics of personality.


7) The following is a quote from Stephen Jay Gould in a critique on The Bell Curve.  "The general claim is neither uninteresting nor illogical, but it does require the validity of four shaky premises, all asserted (but hardly discussed or defended) by Herrnstein and Murray.  Intelligence, in their formulation, must be depictable by a single number, capable of ranking people in linear order, genetically based, and effectively immutable.  If any of these premises are false, their entire argument collapses."  Stephen Jay Gould, "Curveball," The New Yorker, November 28, 1994. 

In class, we did not discuss the issues of representing IQ by a single number and linearly ordering people by this, so it is not necessary for you to treat these issues.  Otherwise answer the questions below about this quote:

a)      What does the empirical evidence suggest about intelligence being "genetically based"?

b)      How necessary is the “genetically based” assumption for Herrnstein and Murray?

c) What does the empirical evidence suggest about intelligence being "effectively immutable"?

d) Gould later goes on to say that because of the failures of these assumptions, intelligence (as measured by IQ tests) plays no role in eventual social status.  Criticize this conclusion.


8) Describe the Flynn effect, what is known about it, what is not known about it, and the implications of the Flynn effect for group differences in intelligence.


9) The following is an actual statement made to your professor by a very high ranking person in the Department of Justice—“If crime is genetic, then the implications for the penal system and the concept of rehabilitation are enormous.”  Using your knowledge of the major conclusions to this course and of the concepts of heritability and environmentability, compose a lucid response to this statement.


10) Describe how the study of an endophenotype can help us learn more about the genetics of psychopathology.


11) In a paragraph, describe the overall results of molecular genetics and psychopathology.  Mention the potential reason(s) for these findings and the prospects for the future.


12) What are “idiosyncratic parental effects?”  What role might they play in the estimation of “common environmental effects” on personality?  What is empirically known about these effects?


13) The biggest “genetic  marker” for alcoholism is the Y chromosome.  Give a plausible scenario of how the Y might have achieved this status.


14) The biggest “genetic marker” for anxiety disorders is the absence of the Y chromosome.  Give a plausible scenario of how the XX genotype achieved this status.


15) Why do many population geneticists eschew the word “race” and instead prefer to use the word “population?”


16) The President of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, was an invited speaker at a recent conference sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research on the issue of gender and minority differences in top-level positions of science, math, and engineering.  At that meeting, he acknowledged many of the traditionally-stated reasons for such gender differences but also brought up the possibility that biology and genetics might play a role in these differences.

            According to news reports of the meeting, some participants viewed his remarks as “healthily provocative” while others were offended.  A small furor erupted and Dr. Summers “eventually apologized for his remarks” (

            Using all your knowledge about what you have been taught thus far in this course (and, of course, all that you have been taught in other courses), write a coherent two-paragraph statement on how genetic differences between men and women might or might not contribute to the observed prevalence of men over women in academic positions of math, science, and engineering.