Behavioural Genetics (PSYL10161)

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Behavioural Genetics (PSYL10161)

BPS core areas - Individual Differences, Biological Psychology


What will be covered?

The content of this course comprises 1) A historical view of behavior genetics, 2) an introduction to quantitative genetics including the principles of genetic transmission and multifactorial inheritance, 3) twin and family methodology for estimation of heritability and components of environmental variance (focusing on correlations and quick formulae to estimate these values plus specification of basic models in R), 4) an overview of heritability findings (including multivariate studies) for a range of psychological traits (personality, cognitive abilities, mental illness) and understanding what these mean, 5) measuring genetic variation and associating specific genes with behavior 6) moderation of genetic effects by age and the environment, 7) applications of genetics research for psychologists, 8) the future of behavioural genetics - exciting developments.

How will it be delivered?

Lecture, In-class Discussion. Quizzes based on previous lecture material at the start of each lecture; 10 minutes spent at the beginning of each lecture to discuss quiz answers or to explain a previous topic that was unclear.

Lecture recording policy: Lectures will be recorded. 

What skills will be gained?

Students will develop those skills associated with learning new subject content (listening, summarising, memorising and critically evaluating theoretical and empirical literature) and some advanced statistical analysis skills.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Understand the biology of how genes influence behaviour.

2. Understand the research methods and basic statistics used to study genetic and environmental effects on behaviour.

3. Appreciate the applications of behavioural genetics in psychology.

4. Recognise the strengths and weaknesses of behavioural genetic designs.

5.  Summarise the empirical literature on the genetics of key psychological traits.


30% Mid-term Short Answer Quiz (In class, Monday 10th February)

10 timed in-class short answer questions. These will primarily focus on genetic transmission and behavioural genetic methodology.

70% Final Exam (June Exam Diet)

2 hr exam. The exam will have two sections. Section 1 will comprise 20 multiple choice questions. Section two will require students to answer one essay question from a choice of 3 drawn from the content of the course.

Relationship Between Assessment and Learning Outcomes

The essay will require critical analysis of behavioural genetics research methodology and its application to areas of Psychology. [LO1-5]

The multiple choice and short answer questions will test understanding of factual knowledge (e.g., genetics terms, statistical procedures); the short answer questions will further test understanding of the research methodology and critical evaluation of genetics findings in psychology. [LO1-5]

Reading resources

Indicative reading:

Knopik, Valerie S., Jenae M. Neiderhiser, J. C. DeFries, and Robert Plomin. Behavioral Genetics. Seventh ed. New York: Worth, Macmillan Learning, 2017. Print. [This main text is supplemented with a few journal article readings/week]

Resources list:

27/08/2019 - 1:55pm