Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

The Genetic Basis of Risk-Seeking

Question: What is sensory deprivation?

Marvin Zuckerman: Sensory deprivation is where you put people in dark, sound-proof rooms, or water tanks. People were becoming aware that we needed sensation stimulation, variation stimulation almost as much as we need food and water and so forth. It’s a basic need. Deprivation of this kind of stimulation led to some very uncomfortable states.

So we asked, is there a personality trait that some people need more stimulation or more variety or intensity of stimulation than others? That’s when we developed our first sensation-seeking scale. Subsequently that expanded and became the main focus of my research. We were surprised by how many things were affected by this trait, sensation-seeking. Then we got interested in the biological basis, the genetic biological basis and here again, we had some very interesting findings pointing to the fact that this is a very fundamental trait with biological roots.

Question: How much of the sensation-seeking trait is determined genetically?

Marvin Zuckerman: Well this is determined from twin studies called Biometrics of Behavior Genetics actually. Using these twin studies we initially found that roughly 60% inheritability. In heritability is the proportion of the variance in a trait that is determined by genetics. We discovered there was 60% -- which is very high for a personality trait which generally runs between 30% and 50%. So, 60% is high for a personality trait. Well, it’s higher for intelligence and some other traits. This was established not only using twins raised together but twins raised apart showing that it wasn’t due to the fact of sharing a stimulating environment let’s say. There’s an environmental aspect of the remaining 40%, **** error of measurement, but some of it is due to environment. But it’s not the shared; what we called the shared environment, shared in the family. It’s due to the non-shared environment which means your friends, peers or your unique life experiences that you don’t share with other people in your family.

Question: Was sensation-seeking a factor in human evolution?

Marvin Zuckerman: Well we can surmise that particularly since a particular gene has been found to be related to sensation-seeking, a dopamine receptor gene. So that means it’s been there a long time. Well, actually they estimate though that it’s been – not all evolution maybe 50,000-100,000 years old in our species, this particular gene but there may be genes that are older even. But you see this in other – the point is, you see what I call emalogues of sensation-seeking behavior in other species. In fact, a lot of my work is compared sensation-seeking expressions exploration approach to novelty in other species. And I explored to the extent that do they have the same biological roots in humans and in other species. So, in that sense we look at evolution – we have a modern test of evolution when you can find something that exists in humans in earlier species, particularly primates ****, but also even in rats, when you can find this and it’s linked to the same biological indicators in both humans and other animals. That indicates it has an evolutionary history rather it’s more than merely an analogy. Well this looks like what we do. But it’s more than that, it’s the fact that it looks like sensation-seeking and has the same biological roots.

Question: Does the presence of this behavior vary across ages?

Marvin Zuckerman: I would say the age differences are somewhat larger if you’re looking at the extremes. I would say like of about sixty-sixty-five a male would have half the sensation-seeking score that he had when he was in his late-teens and early-twenties. So that's pretty much of a decline. The male-female differences are constant across age, but perhaps not as large. I want to talk about sex differences in traits. We’re always talking about a lot of overlap or talking about population differences. People always say, “I know someone who’s female, but has a very high sensation-seeking.” Of course, there’s variation within both genders. Just the overall population difference is different.

A clinical psychologist explains the biological basis of novelty-seeking behavior and its importance in evolutionary history.

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

Personal Growth
  • We spend 40 percent of our childhoods asleep, a time for cognitive growth and development.
  • A recent study found an association between irregular sleep patterns in childhood and either psychotic experiences or borderline personality disorder during teenage years.
  • The researchers hope their findings can help identify at-risk youth to improve early intervention.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

    Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

    Videos
    • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
    • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
    • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

    Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

    Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

    Credit: Neom
    Technology & Innovation
    • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
    • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
    • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
    Keep reading Show less

    COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

    A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

    Coronavirus
    • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
    • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
    • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast