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MCAT Monday: Behavior - Behavior and Genetics

Biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors influence behavior and behavior change.

Human behavior is complex and often surprising, differing across individuals in the same situation and within an individual across different situations. A full understanding of human behavior requires knowledge of the interplay between psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors that are related to behavior. This interplay has important implications for the way we behave and the likelihood of behavior change.

Foundational Concept 7 focuses on individual and social determinants of behavior and behavior change.

With these building blocks, medical students will be able to learn how behavior can either support health or increase risk for disease. (via AAMC)

Practice Videos:

Practice Questions:

1. A codon specifies one of which of the following? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Proteins

  • B: RNA

  • C: Amino acids

  • D: Carbohydrates

2. Approximately how many protein coding genes are in the human genome? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Approximately 40,000 genes

  • B: Approximately 100,000 genes

  • C: Approximately 20,000 genes

  • D: Approximately 10,000 genes

3. A researcher develops a thesis focusing on aspects of an individual’s character that are established before the person is exposed to environmental influences. These aspects are also relatively persistent throughout that person’s lifetime. What term best describes the focus of the researcher’s thesis? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Temperament

  • B: Inherited trait

  • C: Acquired trait

  • D: Personality

4. Which of the following statements does not accurately describe simple and complex traits? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Simple traits can be traced back to a single gene, whereas complex traits are associated with groups of genes.

  • B: Simple traits are basic characteristics of a person’s behavior and personality, whereas complex traits are more nuanced characteristics.

  • C: Simple traits are minimally influenced by the environment, whereas complex traits are strongly influenced by the environment.

  • D: Simple traits exhibit Mendelian monogenic inheritance patterns, whereas complex traits do not exhibit Mendelian monogenic inheritance patterns.

5. Tom and Andy are monozygotic twins who are separated at birth and adopted by two different middle-class families from midwestern American states. Their adoptive parents are all athletic and have high expectations for Tom and Andy’s performance in sports. The twins participate in a standardized test of athleticism and they receive similar scores. Given this information, what assumptions can be made about heredity and the influence of genes on their athletic ability? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: The boys are genetically identical, so the influence of genes on their athletic ability is probably high.

  • B: The boys are raised in similar environments, so the influence of genes on their athletic ability is probably low.

  • C: The boys are genetically identical and raised in similar environments, so the influence of genes on their athletic ability is unclear.

  • D: The boys are raised in environments that are significantly different, so the influence of genes on their athletic ability is probably high.

6. A newborn baby turns her head toward something that touches her cheek and makes sucking motions with her mouth. Which of the following behaviors does this describe? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Complex behavior

  • B: Learned behavior

  • C: Covert behavior

  • D: Innate behavior

7. A research study reveals that a measure of disordered eating has a heritability estimate of .40 in a group of young women. This finding best supports which of the following conclusions? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Disordered eating is more nurture than nature and is made up of 40% genetic and 60% environmental factors.

  • B: Approximately 40% of the variance in disordered eating is attributed to genetic factors within this group.

  • C: Heritability for disordered eating would be .40 in most groups of young women.

  • D: Approximately 40% of the population has the gene for disordered eating and could develop an eating disorder.

8. Which of the following populations would show the highest degree of heritability of genetic traits? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: A population that is genetically identical

  • B: A population that is in a uniform environment

  • C: A population that is genetically similar

  • D: A population that is in a varied environment

9. Which of the following research hypotheses concerning the cause of cancer would be the focus of an individual studying epigenetics? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Cancer is caused by methylation that results in the silencing of tumor suppressor genes, which leads to uncontrolled cell growth.

  • B: Cancer is caused by damage to pieces of DNA in a person’s genome that accumulates over a person’s lifetime.

  • C: Cancer is caused by a genetic predisposition that is only activated if specific events in the individual’s environment occur.

  • D: Cancer is caused by a single gene that can be found by studying populations with shared traits and comparing their genetic profiles

10. The ability to prevent symptoms of Phenylketonuria (PKU) from becoming problematic demonstrates which of the following concepts? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Highly heritable characteristics are modifiable.

  • B: Highly heritable characteristics are unmodifiable.

  • C: PKU is not a highly heritable characteristic.

  • D: Gene expression is not dependent on the environment.

11. A tribe of Native Americans have a specific model of parenting that has been practiced for generations. Mothers respond quickly to infant distress, which leads to decreased episodes of crying and tantrums. They also believe in the power of touch, and hold their children almost constantly through the first three years of the baby’s life, which also leads to decreased distress. Generations of the tribe’s children are quiet, even tempered, obedient, and respectful. The behavior of the tribe’s children is best described by which of the following terms? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Learned

  • B: Innate

  • C: Complex

  • D: Covert

12. A researcher would like to study how and to what degree heredity and the environment influence obesity. What population of individuals would provide the most information? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Dizygotic twins adopted by different parents

  • B: Monozygotic twins raised by their biological parents

  • C: Monozygotic twins adopted by different parents

  • D: Siblings adopted by different parents

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