Letter to the Editor: Nature vs. Nurture

By Dr. Melissa Terlecki
September 13, 2007

To the Editor:

I am writing to respond to your article published this week in the Loquitur entitled, “Can your genes really influence your friendships?” I am writing to stress to readers to suspend some belief in accepting the findings in the “gene” study the author has cited.

Although the sample was large, 1800 participants, the sample was comprised of, entirely, white males from the state of Virginia. Generalizing the results to other populations, gender, race, location, is limited. Also, the behaviors of friends surveyed, drinking, smoking, stealing, etc., are skewed and antisocial/negative behaviors more often witnessed in a male population.

Finally, it stated that similarities in the choice of friends was found to be more similar among identical than fraternal twins. This would not be surprising given that identical twins also share more of the same environment, clothes, friends, etc., than fraternal twins.

Any of the author’s findings can also be explained by environmental causes. Heritability indices are not very reliable as they often do not take into account the interaction between nature and nurture, biology and environment. Perhaps from an evolutionary perspective, certain befriending behaviors may have been passed along genetically to ensure survival, but very little evidence for that is provided by this study.

– Dr. Melissa Terlecki, assistant professor of psychology

Dr. Melissa Terlecki

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