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Genetics, Behavior & Identity

Genetics, Behavior & Identity

Behavior genetics is the study of the role genetics plays in influencing behaviors across a population.  It aims to better understand how biologic and sociocultural factors interact to influence traits, such as intelligence and sexual preference. In addition, personal genetic testing may influence our own understanding of social constructs such as diversity, race and cultural identity.

Materials for Genetics, Behavior & Identity


Do Genes Direct Our Behavior?

Description: What do we do when we are hungry? How do we react when people gather around us? Where do we go when we want to be alone? Humans have so many complex behaviors, yet researchers think many of them have developed directly from the ways animals act and react. In this 8 minute video, Cori Bargmann a researcher at Rockefeller University describes her research on behavior and the nervous system.

Genomic Resource Center - Gender and Genetics

Description: A seven part module with case studies to help your student explore the relationship between gender and genetics. Through the module they will learn more about how biological and sociocultural factors interact to influence behavior and gender identity.

Researchers Identify Genetic Links to Educational Attainment

Description: It is well known that social and other environmental factors influence education, but a recent study suggest that large genetics analyses may be able to help discover biological pathways as well. An international team of researchers has identified 74 areas of the human genome associated with educational attainment.

The Power Of Genes, and the Line Between Biology and Destiny

Description: As researchers work to understand the human genome, many questions remain, including, perhaps, the most fundamental - Just how much of the human experience is determined before we are already born, by our genes, and how much is dependent upon external environmental factors?

Interactive Tutorials

Gender Testing of Athletes

Description: An interactive tutorial that explores the complexities and ethics of gender testing of athletes

RACE Project - Race Are We So Different

Description: Humans share a common ancestry and the differences among people we see are natural variations, results of migration, marriage and adaptation to different environments. The story of race is complex and may challenge how we think about race and human variation, about the differences and similarities among people.

Teacher Resources

Exploring Learned and Innate Behavior (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson explores the differences and similarities between innate and learned behavior and skills among humans and monkeys.

Genes, Environment and Genetic Complexity: Aggression in Humans

Description: Questions about whether genetics can, in part, explain violent, aggressive behavior in humans are not new. Recent episodes of large-scale violence, whether in schools or other public places, have renewed discussion about the intersection of crime, mental health and genetics. In this lesson, students are asked to examine popular but incorrect ideas related to the idea that a single gene or even set of genes can cause humans to behave aggressively.

Genes, Environments, and Behavior

Description: This lesson focuses on how behavior is defined by scientists and on the genetic and environmental forces that interact to shape behavior.

Genes, Environments, and Behavior 2

Description: This lesson helps students understand how scientists study the genetic and environmental factors that interact to produce variation in behavior across a population.

Genetic Variation within the One Human Race (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Through this lesson, students will understand the pattern of genetic variation among humans.

Genomic Resource Center - Gender and Genetics

Description: A seven part module with case studies to help your student explore the relationship between gender and genetics. Through the module they will learn more about how biological and sociocultural factors interact to influence behavior and gender identity.

Genomics and Human Identity (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Bring genomics to life for your high school students with this lesson plan. The lessons encourage hands-on, inquiry-based learning and include genomic concepts and research projects.

Human Genetic Variation: A Flipped Classroom Exercise in Cultural Competency (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: An expert authored advanced in-class case discussion teaching concepts of population genetics and genetic variation.

It is Genetic--Or Is It? (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson for grades 9-12 explores the age-old discussion of nature vs. nurture: how much of our individuality is based on inheritance, and how much is shaped by our environment? Students explore different traits as genetic or environmental and then discuss issues of accountability for genetically-influenced personality traits.

Nature and Nurture

Description: In this lesson, students develop an understanding of the role both nature and nurture play in determining human traits.

Race and Genes (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Visible traits of the human phenotype associated with specific races are influenced by a common set of genes all humans share, the genome, and environmental interactions. Culture determines how they are perceived.

Scientific Themes in Personal Genetics (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson introduces students to scientific concepts in genetics that have broad implications for individuals and for society. Students will be asked to consider the role of DNA in our personal and cultural identities as well as our understanding of diversity. They will come away with a perspective that the benefits of personal genetics can only come to light when we understand the potential and the concerns.

Sex Determination (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson explores sex determination in mammals. Students first share their conceptions about the genetics of sex determination, then using normal and abnormal human karyotypes, students hone in on their hypothesis. The case of XY females is used to explain the presence of the SRY gene on the Y chromosome, which must produce active protein in order for a male to develop. The lesson ends by exploring other sex-determination systems in animals and their similarities and differences.

The Illusion of Race (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: The goal of this lesson is to have students investigate both genetic and societal consequences of these often artificial and evolving classifications.

The New Science of Addiction - Genetics and the Brain (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Nine high quality lesson plans teaching a variety of topics, including the genetics of drug addiction and the origin, effect, and medical consequence of drug abuse

Variation in Human Skin Color (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson, students explore the factors that control variation in human skin color and the implications of this information for human society.