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Towards an integrated science of demographic behaviour: the interplays of alleles, brains and contexts John Hobcraft University of York
Pathways, Processes & Progressions • Pathways within person • Gene expression • Brains and neurotransmitters • More attention needed • Processes through ‘environments’ or contexts • Other persons • Institutions & structures • Progressions through life-course • Continual feedbacks within and between pathways and processes • Impact of experience
Progression through Life-Course • Pathways and Processes interplay over time • Gene, Brain, Mind, Person, Other Persons, and Structures all interplay • Multiple dynamic process • Complex feedbacks and interactions • Sequences, precursors, triggers, packages • Endowments and experiences shape person who reacts and behaves
Issues • Individuals as focus of analysis, but both in context and ‘under the skin’ • Contingent relationships – modifiers of progressions through life-course • Develop mid-level theory or frameworks • Mechanisms – proximal links • Prospective studies essential
Key concepts • Gene-Environment interplays • rGE correlations: passive, active, & evocative • GxE interactions: genes moderate response • Epistasis • Gene-gene interactions – combinations, cascades etc • Epigenesis • Lasting modification of gene expression by environmental stimulus • Evidence of both local and intergenerational heritability
What causes persistence of effects? • Epigenetic pathways (environment switches gene expression on or off) • Neuroendocrine responses – lasting synaptic changes in brain, both cognitive and affective • Feedbacks in self-esteem, personality traits, bonding • Key developmental stages? • How to identify, measure and theorise?
New emphases • Refining concepts and measures that relate to behaviours and processes • Cognitive styles, not just ability • Decision-making & choice • Well-being • Social engagement • Impulse control • Personality traits • More on contexts and interplays of individuals with contexts
Complexity & Simplification in Social Science • Avoid mindless empiricism & grand social theory • End ‘blank slate’ views – nature and nurture matter (& interplay) • End ‘no brain’ social science of behaviour • Agency and structure matter (& interplay) • Explore pathways and mechanisms • Build partial theories or frameworks • Examine interlinked processes • Just complex enough models (less simplistic)