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Jen Benson's blog

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The Adaptive Unconscious: Commentary on Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink"

            This book has helped me to understand the self, identity, and social interaction as often guided by processes below the level of consciousness. In this book Gladwell describes a construct he terms the “adaptive unconscious,” that processes incoming information without our conscious awareness, producing judgments and behaviors within seconds. Themes elaborated here expand on discussions we have had in class, particularly those of accountability for our actions and what constitutes conscious choice. (Gladwell argues that although unconscious processes occur automatically and without our awareness, that through concerted effort or practice and through altering our environments we can in fact learn to control even implicit aspects of the self). For me this book was a highly useful part of the course and advanced my understanding of the nervous system’s relationship with behavior and identity.           

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Dog Breeding: Canine Evolutionary History and Implications for Human Genetics

Since as early as 15,000 years ago, humans have played a part in the species differentiation between dogs and wolves. Dogs, or canis familiaris was the first species to be domesticated, at least several thousands years before any other animal or plant species (Leonard, Vila and Wayne). From centuries of selective breeding more than 400 distinct breeds of dogs have been produced that differ greatly in morphology (form and structure, such as body size, coat length and color), behavior, and disease susceptibility. (Parker, Sutter, and Ostrander). The holding of dog shows and the later establishment of the kennel clubs in Britain, America, and France in the late 19th and early 20th century have had a generative effect on pedigree dog breeding and showing throughout the world (Sampson and Binns). These breeds have developed not from natural selection, but from selection by humans for various uses in different societies, leading to different proclivities for certain behaviors like retrieving, herding, and guarding, between breeds. Natural selection and geographic separation may have also contributed to genetic differentiation, resulting in additional breeds. Even within a breed exists variability between individual dogs in their suitability as pets or working dogs, which reflects the heterogenic background of dog breeds (Giger, Sargan, & McNiegel).

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Neurobiological Bases of Homosexuality? Some Evidence and Inquiries

Web Paper 1

Presented here is some evidence for biological factors involved in homosexual orientation and behavior, including microanatomy, psychoendocrinology, and genetics, though much of the research literature supports the view that it is due to an interaction of biological, psychological, and social or factors, as is the current understanding of much human behavior. I do not aim to fully endorse either a biological or environmental explanation for homosexuality, but merely to present some evidence for the influence of both on sexual orientation.
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