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Genes and Behavior: Nature-Nurture Interplay Explained 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1405110617
ISBN-10: 1405110619
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Editorial Reviews


"By carefully considering basic principles and illustrating them with cutting-edge examples, Rutter has written an excellent introduction to behavioral genetics." (The Quarterly Review of Biology, March 2009)

"When I came to read this book I anticipated the critical integration of evidence by one of the most resourceful scientists of our era. I was not let down." (Journal of Children's Services, December 2007)

"The question of how genes and the environment interact should be an area of interest to all social and physical science; it should not remain solely the domain of geneticists. For anyone interested in developing a greater understanding of the mechanics of this interaction, this book would make an excellent choice." (Young Minds Magazine, July 2006)

"Michael Rutter, the United Kingdom's gift to world psychiatric excellence deals with this issue head-on in an amazingly readable and highly accurate book about genes and behaviour. ... This book is a gem." (Psychological Medicine, 2006)

"If you want an inspiring contribution to the debate in this highly topical area or research and also want to learn about the most up-to-date approaches to genetic research, then this is the book to choose." (Nature, 2006)

"Rutter offers a highly critical and extremely clear and well-written review of the current state of the nature/nurture argument as it relates to human behaviour and psychiatric illness. ... It is written in a way that should be easily accessible to the general reader as well as to the specialist. And, since its subject matter affects all of us, it should be read widely." (Times Higher Education Supplement)

"The author deftly deals with the extreme arguments of genetic and environmental evangelists. It is a lucid, balanced tour de force. Highly recommended." (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry)


"In this highly readable and intellectually honest book, the latest advances in molecular and behavior genetics are brought to bear on our knowledge of psychology and psychiatry. The end product is an eloquent exposition of “genetic realism” in the context of behavior, and will surely be of interest to all who are curious about the forces that give rise to human behavior, both normal and abnormal."
Charles A. Nelson III, Harvard Medical School

"Genes and Behavior: Nature–Nurture Interplay Explained manages to be comprehensive, lucid, and clear, without oversimplifying what is an inherently complex subject. It enables a clinician to understand the fundamentals of genetics as they apply to medicine and a geneticist to understand the environmental determinants of the phenotype. What makes it entirely remarkable is that it is comprehensible to generalists and yet has much to teach specialists."
Leon Eisenberg, Harvard Medical School

"No one but Michael Rutter could have written this remarkable, compelling book. At last we have a clear and balanced treatment of the role genes play in the variations among individuals in behavioral traits and psychosocial pathologies. Rutter rescues the reader from the excesses of both the "evangelical" geneticists and the environmental extremists. He draws on his vast knowledge of the pertinent theories and empirical work, and takes the reader beyond the limited scope of statistical twin and adoption studies into the recent work of molecular geneticists, illuminating some of the complex biological processes that govern the ways in which genetic factors can work or fail to work in influencing behavioral outcomes, and how their effects can be modified by experience. Rutter presents a carefully reasoned case for co-action of genetic and environmental factors at all stages of development. A must-read for anyone seriously interested in nature/nurture issues."
Eleanor E. Maccoby, Stanford Center on Adolescence


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (February 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405110619
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405110617
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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This is arguably the best introduction to the complex world of how genes affect human personality and behavior. It is far from an easy "read" and doesn't shy from the use of technical terms (an advantage for those who wish to go further but an impediment to more casual readers). The prose is somewhat leaden. Still -- it is a remarkable achievement. Rutter is a distinguished psychiatrist who has made major contributions to our understanding of psychiatric disorders and is well respected across the psychology-psychiatry divide.
The book accomplishes several goals. First, it provides a limited but useful survey of what is presently known about the genetic basis of mental disorders and personality/intelligence. Second (and more usefully) it discusses the logic of genetic causality and surveys the various methods used to uncover same. Third (and most importantly), it provides a balanced and nuanced discussion of all the ways that genes and environmental factors interact to produce human psychology. As such it provides a useful corrective to those who believe that genes are destiny and that there is a "gene (or genes)" for most human characteristics. The human genome project and associated research has now made it clear that the various ways genes affect humans are far more complex than anyone realized even 20 years ago. Unfortunately this has not become part of the popular wisdom, and so this book becomes essential reading for those interested in this fascinating and important topic. The study of psychology will increasingly be dominated by genetic science (and its sister discipline of neurobiology) and lay people as well as professionals will need a book such as this to help them on their way to a more complete understanding of how this is likely to play out.
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Format: Paperback
I was once in the cafeteria having lunch with some friends, when Sir Michael Rutter came in for a moment to get a sandwich. One of our group leaned over and said, "That man's written more books than I've read. See, he doesn't even have time to sit down for lunch!"

It was said in jest, but my friend had a point: Mike has been re-creating several fields of psychology and psychiatry since the 1960s. Although best known as a child psychiatrist, he has made enormous contributions to the study of child development and the interactions between genes and the environment.

This book is a superb summary of some of the enormous changes that have transformed our understanding of genetics over the last two decades by someone who has been in the thick of it, as an investigator, mentor and teacher.

One of the biggest problems in psychology has been the polarization between the proponents of Nature and Nurture. Most folk psychology is driven by the notion that human behavior can be explained by a combination of learning and the environment, and largely neglects the role of genetics. So in that view, an alcoholic develops the illness because he observed alcohol abuse in the family, and genetics have nothing to do with it. The other extreme view is that the whole of human behavior can be reduced to sets of interacting genes. Both positions are unhelpful. The tension between psychosocial researchers and behavior geneticists has been sustained by the different theoretical perspectives that the two use to describe similar concepts. Most experts now understand that the key to understanding problems like the susceptibility and resilience to mental illness is to understand the interaction of genes and the environment over the lifespan of an individual.
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Format: Paperback
This is a broad introduction to the current scientific thoughts on the impact of genes and human behavior. The book is written in laymen's terms explaining what genes do and don't do in humans.

Dr. Rutter further investigates the effects of a child's upbringing on his life. He makes it clear that nature and nurture are really two sides of the same coin. They interact to determine our behavior. As he further explains the interplay between nature and nurture, he relates the current status of research in various areas and points out where such research is continuing and some ideas where it might lead.

The writing style in this book is well thought out and clearly explains the points he is making. At the same time, this is not a dumbed down book. It is written intelligently and for adults that have at least some understanding and interest in the subject.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Psychiatrist and researcher Michael Rutter is concerned about the lack of communication between those who believe genetic influences drive human behavior and those who claim such behavior is almost entirely shaped by the environment. Ritter pronounces both positions oversimplistic and attempts to educate readers in a more realistic perspective. His goal is to "provide a readable, non-technical account of what is involved in the various possible ways in which genetic influences on behavior may be important."

Rutter begins by describing the history and accomplishments of genetic research and how both actual findings and misunderstandings have generated controversy. He demonstrates that genetic effects are probabilistic rather than deterministic. Both genetic and environmental factors can either increase risk or offer some protection against development of a disorder or behavior pattern. But they do not determine it. He reviews the research methods used to investigate genetic influences on behavior and summarizes research findings that shed light on both genetic and environmental influences on a selection of mental traits and disorders. He closes with an integrative discussion of how "genes operate through the environment" by increasing chances individuals will encounter certain environments and will be susceptible to influences in those environments.

This book is not always an easy read, but it is a straightforward treatment of a complex subject that is worth understanding. It is recommended to readers who work in education and other disciplines where genetic influences on behavior are often discussed casually and without access to research findings from behavioral genetics.
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