Gottlieb's Epigenetic Psychobiological Systems Perspective: Concepts & Definitions

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  • 0:05 Epigenetic…
  • 1:20 Associated Terms
  • 2:17 Gilbert Gottlieb's…
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Learn about the epigenetic psychobiological systems perspective and Gilbert Gottlieb's theory of probabilistic epigenesis. This theory will help you understand how development is dependent not only on your genes, but also neural activity, behavior and the environment.

Epigenetic Psychobiological Systems Perspective

Epigenetic psychobiological systems perspective is an emergent theory that views development as a product of interaction between biological and environmental forces. It includes both the genetic origins of behavior and the direct influence of the environment on the expression of these genes. The theory focuses on the dynamic interaction between these two influences during development.

One simple way to understand the basic concept of this theory is to think of a sculptor with a lump of clay. The clay is the genetic material that a person is born with. The sculptor is the environmental forces that shape the clay. Let's imagine that two identical lumps of clay are in the hands of two different sculptors. The first sculptor creates a beautiful statue out of the clay. The second sculptor forms the clay into a vase for flowers.

The same potential existed in each lump of clay, but the forces acting upon the clay produced two different outcomes. This is similar to how genetics and environment interact in our development. Each person's genetic potential is present at birth, but the expression of that potential is dependent upon how they are sculpted by their environment.

Associated Terms

Let's examine a couple of terms that are associated with the theory of epigenetic psychobiological systems perspective.

The first term is ethnology. Ethnology is the study of behavior as it relates to evolution and the survival of a species. Psychobiological epigenetic systems perspective builds on the idea of ethnology. An example of this would be a behavior, such as a nomadic lifestyle, developing as a result of adaption to a specific environment, such as food scarcity.

The second term we will examine is epigenesis. Epigenesis is the process through which genetics and environment play a role in development. Because of the complex interactions that take place, developmental outcomes are difficult to predict. However, we can still illustrate this by thinking of the differences that might occur if a child is born in a developed nation, like the United States, versus being born in a third-world country, such as one in Africa.

Gilbert Gottlieb's Probabilistic Epigenesis

One of the main figures of epigenetic psychobiological systems perspective is Gilbert Gottlieb. Gottlieb called his theory probabilistic epigenesis. Probabilistic epigenesis is the view that the development of an organism is dependent on the bidirectional influences of interacting biological and environmental forces that form a larger system.

His view attempts to encompass all of the factors influencing development, how these factors interact with one another and how this interaction shapes individual development. He believed these influences occur over the course of evolution as well as throughout an individual's lifespan.

Gottlieb describes four different interacting dynamics: behavior, neural activity, genetic activity and environment.

Development is influenced by the factors it comes into contact with.
Development Dot

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