Heredity (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
The process by which the genetic code of parents is passed on to their children.
There are certain traits that parents pass on to their children, including eye color, hair color, height, and other physical characteristics. The coding for these traits are contained inside DNA molecules that are present within all human cells. Since the discovery of DNA by James Watson (1928-) in the 1950s, the science of genetics has focused on the study of DNA and the ways in which physical traits are passed on from generation to generation. Within genetics, a special branch of DNA sciencealled quantitative, or biometrical, geneticshas emerged, which studies the heritability of such traits as intelligence, behavior, and personality. This branch focuses on the effects of polygenes in the creation of certain phenotypes. Polygenes, as the name implies, refer to the interaction of several genes; and phenotypes are certain variable characteristics of behavior or personality. Quantitative geneticists, therefore, study the effects of groups of genes on the development of personality and other abstract variables. They rarely, it should be noted, are able to pinpoint a behavior's genesis to a specific gene. Specific genes have been found to cause a small number of diseases, however, such as Huntington's disease and other degenerative disorders.
(The entire section is 760 words.)
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