People: I have doubts about genetic heritage, but let me explain the context which has shown up this doubt for you: I was debating about sexism and the following question were put on the discussion: What kind of behavior, most of them come from men, is cultural and social, and what is a genetical heritage from our ancestry? Because I have a feeling that plenty of these behaviors that can be considered, maybe not correct, but at least justifiable. If you have some literature about this subject I would greatly appreciate it.


1 Answer 1


All phenotypic traits have some part of the variance which is explained by the environment and some part that is explained by the genes. The heritability is then defined as:

$$H_N = \frac{V_{genetic}}{V_{phenotype}} = \frac{V_{genetic}}{V_{genetic}+V_{environment}+V_{interaction. gene.environment}}$$

where $V_{genetic}$ is the Variance in phenotypic traits due to genes, $V_{phenotype}$ is the total phenotypic variance, $V_{environment}$ is the variance due to environment and $V_{interaction. gene.environment}$ is the variance due to interaction between genes and environment.

So your question (if I understand it correctly) should rather be a list of phenotypic traits (behavior) and ask what is the heritability of each trait in the world-wide human population (or on a given subset of the human population).

I think, there is no objective manner of defining a given phenotypic trait. You should chose subjectively, some behavior, define it accurately and then ask the question what is it's heritability.

Moreover, it is quite hard to measure a behavior. It is much easier to estimate the heritability of height in humans.

There are several different methods in order to estimate heritability of a trait. See this wikipedia article

Some of these experiments are not feasible on humans for ethical reasons. Some others are quite limited and are quite expensive. I don't think we have many studies that quantify the heritability of behavioral traits in humans but I might be mistaken.

As said by @AlanBoyd, there is a field called evolutionary psychology that deal with this kind of question. To my knowledge this field is mostly a purely theoretical field and therefore, it does not quite allow to measure heritability.

A good start into this science would be the wikipedia article which seems quite complete. I can give you some books but I haven't read most of them. Here and here are introductory books in the field. I think this book is a classic in the field. I read this book and it is quite interesting. There are actually many books in this field. The best think you can do is maybe to typewrite "evolutionary psychology" in amazon.

As a sidenote: If you enter in the field of evolutionary psychology you might as well be interested by memetic evolution (evolution of culture). Here is a classic book on the subject.

Be careful in these fields, I think that some ideas do not deserve to be considered as part of science while other do!

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, it helped a lot. Those articles and books that you recommended will be a good start. As i'm not from the biological field of science, so these kind of subjects makes me a little bit confused. I'd ask more especifc questions, but i'll read those material first, maybe it will clear some things to me. Thank you again, guys. $\endgroup$
    – Bruno
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 1:59

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