Genotype-environment interaction refers to the dif ferential response of individuals with dif ferent genotypes to the same environments. Consider introverts and extraverts, who have somewhat dif ferent genotypes. Introverts tend to perform well on cognitive tasks when there is little stimulation in the room, but they do poorly when there are distractions, such as a radio blaring or people walking around. In contrast, extraverts do just fine with the stereo blasting, the phone ringing, and peopl walking in and out. But the same extraverts make a lot of errors in these cognitive tasks when there is little stimulation, when the task they are working on is boring or monotonous.
Extraversion-introversion is a perfect example of genotype-environment interaction, whereby individuals with dif ferent genotypes (introverts and extraverts) respond differently to the same environment (e.g., noise in the room). Individual differences interact with the environment to af fect performance. You may want to take this into consideration when you arrange your studying environment. Before turning on the stereo, first determine whether you lie on the introverted or extraverted end of the continuum. If you are an introvert, you would likely do better studying in a quiet environment with few interruptions. The notion that people with different genotypes (introverts versus extraverts) respond differently to specific environments (e.g., a noisy setting) is what is meant by genotype-environmen interactions.
Recent developments have begun to identify genotype-environment interactions. One study examined the ef fects of abusive parenting on whether children developed antisocial personalities (Caspi et al., 2002). Abused children who had a genotype that produced low levels of the brain neurotransmitter monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) frequently developed conduct disorders, antisocial personalities, and violent dispositions. In contrast, maltreated children who had high levels of MAOA were far less likely to develop aggressive antisocial personalities. This study provides an excellent example of genotype-environment interaction—exposure to the same environment (abusive parenting) produces dif ferent effects on personality, depending on the dif ferences in genotype. Interestingly, this suggests that violent parents may create violent children only if the children have a genotype marked by low levels of MAOA. The empirical study of genotype-environment interactions represents one of the most exciting new developments in the behavior genetics of personality (Jang, Dick, Wolf, Livesley, & Paris, 2005; Mof fitt, 2005)
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