Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #321
CE Offered: BACB
How Behavior Evolves, and Why it Matters
Monday, May 29, 2023
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 2/3
Area: DEV; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jo Ann Pereira Delgado (Teachers College, Columbia University)
CE Instructor: Marlene Zuk, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: MARLENE ZUK (University of Minnesota)
Abstract: Why do people continue to obsess over which behaviors are controlled by genes and which by the environment? Advances in genomic technology have only made matters worse, with headlines every day about how our wealth, educational levels and even – I am not kidding – our likelihood of owning a dog depend on our genetic makeup. The truth, of course, is that the interaction of nature and nurture contribute to all traits, including behavioral ones. The real question is not whether genes or the environment are paramount, but how behavior evolves. I will explore this question using examples from across the animal kingdom, showing how similar – and different – human behavior is to that of cockatoos, crayfish and even cockroaches. I’ll also examine whether animals suffer from mental illnesses.
Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:

Psychologists interested in the basis of statements about genetic vs. environmental causes of behavior.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Understand why behavior evolves the same way that physical characteristics do; (3) See how the gene-environment entanglement explains behavior, rather than nature or nurture. See that the nature-nurture controversy is a zombie idea! (3) Understand the link between human mental illness and cognitive dysfunction in animals.
MARLENE ZUK (University of Minnesota)
Marlene Zuk is Regents Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She studies the evolution of behavior, especially sexual behavior and animal communication, and is also interested in the ways that parasites and disease affect the ecology and evolution of their hosts. Most of her work has been on insects. Dr. Zuk is also the author of several books about animal behavior and evolution for the public, including Paleofantasy, Sex on Six Legs, and Dancing Cockatoos and the Dead Man Test. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2022 received the Distinguished Animal Behaviorist Award from the Animal Behavior Society.



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