Rose McDermott and Peter K. Hatemi
Genetic influences are often misinterpreted to mean that an individual with a particular genotype is inevitably predisposed to engage in a given behavior or that genetic influences operate outside of human agency and social context. This chapter undertakes a qualitative investigation of a genetically informed (MAOA) sample to illustrate the critical differences between population estimates and individual accountability. The sample includes those whose lives have revolved around violence (e.g., gang members) and those whose lives are committed to peace (e.g., Buddhist monks). It is found that genotype alone cannot predict any one individual’s social behaviors, and it is argued that any decisions or legal precedents targeted toward predicting how a specific individual may act based on his or her DNA sequence require a more nuanced appreciation of how social factors, genetic dispositions, and personal experience intertwine in the context of human agency.
Marion Blute and Fiona M. Jordan
There are three forms of modern Darwinian evolutionism in the social sciences and humanities: the gene-based biological, the social learning-based sociocultural, and gene–culture coevolution dealing with their interaction. This chapter focuses on cultural or sociocultural evolution. It begins with a discussion of the Darwinian-inspired evolutionary approach to history. It then outlines modern evolutionary phylogenetic methods borrowed from biology but now used extensively in the social sciences and humanities. The chapter provides examples of how language trees may be inferred; phylogenetic comparative methods that use language trees to answer questions about aspects of geographical, social, political, cultural, or economic organization; and phylogenetic investigations of material culture and traditions. It is concluded that culture does indeed “descend with modification.”
This chapter examines the recent massive expansion of genetic research into human behavior. Based on decades of twin research, there were high expectations of strong genetic effects for almost all behavior. Further work on candidate genes from animal research proved initially exciting. Although that research continues, it now currently receives much less attention, in contrast to whole-genome examinations. This chapter provides insight into the whole-genome era of behavioral research and the extent to which it may or may not be a profitable endeavor. Sociologists are generally unaware of this body of research, but it will likely continue to grow. The methods, strengths, and limitations of genome-wide work are discussed. A discussion of the future of this area and the extent to which this provides any leverage for social research of human behavior concludes the chapter.
Face-to-face competition for rank in human status hierarchies is similar to “dominance competition” in other primate species, particularly the African apes. Each individual has signs or signals showing that it has or ought to have high or low status. Group members may accept these signs at face value, or one individual may challenge another for high rank. Among apes and humans, such dominance contests are usually nonviolent, often taking the form of an exchange of stressful signals. Eventually, one contestant withdraws or concedes the higher rank, thus lowering the stress level. Serious competition with important stakes is influenced by a physiological substrate of the hormones testosterone and cortisol and the enzyme α-amylase. Among humans, language is an important channel for exchanging dominant and deferent signals. Apart from the physiological substrate, instantaneous stress responses underlie status allocation. These mechanisms are illustrated with recent experimental results.
Ronald J. Angel
This article explores major themes related to the association among social factors that generate and maintain poverty and that determine health outcomes among different income groups. It first considers the social class factors that affect health and persistent socially based inequities in health before explaining the meaning and measurement of poverty. It then examines the effect of childhood poverty on adult outcomes, along with the phenomenon known as the “Hispanic paradox.” It also assesses the interrelationships among poverty, mental illness, and health care, the concept of “social capital,” the so-called “new morbidity,” and the health implications of health care reform for poor and minority Americans. Finally, it reflects on the potential role of nongovernmental and faith-based organizations in enhancing the health of disadvantaged individuals and communities.
Jeff Davis and Kristen Damron
During the past four decades, numerous reviews have been published on biological responses to stressful social environments. Reviews targeted for audiences in the social sciences emphasized biological outcomes while skipping over explanations of biological mechanisms. This chapter focuses on the details of the hormonal processes that “report” the state of the environment to the nervous system and regulate cognitive and motor responses to stressful social stimuli. Steroid hormones receive most attention. The chapter concludes with an outline of a sociological model of social action based on current knowledge of hormone actions. It shares some of the basic ideas of previous models such as affect control theory. However, the model proposes a broader role of stress hormones in human social behavior.