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Darwin on the inheritance of learned characteristics

  1. Jan 31, 2014 #1
    That should be Lamark! That should be epigenetics! Right? (I remember reading something about breeding rats with a fear of cherry blossom scent)

    I thought that Darwin rejected all this, but maybe I am confused with how his work was later interpreted by other people in light of Mendel..?

    My textbook says Darwin said in "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals" that you could inherit learned emotional responses, is that true?

    I mean, is it true that he said that?

    My textbook Psicología de la Emoción, UNED: 9788480049085.jpg
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2014 #2


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    I don't know the history of Darwin, but you remind me of this recent article:

    Lamarck revisited: epigenetic inheritance of ancestral odor fear conditioning
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Jan 31, 2014 #3
  5. Jan 31, 2014 #4

    The first of the three is the "principle of serviceable habits," which he defined as useful habits reinforced previously, and then inherited by offspring. He used as an example contracting of eyebrows (furrowing the brow), which he noted is serviceable to prevent too much light from entering the eyes.

    That's the opposite of what I associate with Darwin. I would have associated him with the idea that we evolved to have light hurt our eyes, and to avoid pain, but not that furrowing our brow out of noticing that furrowing the brow worked to block out light would somehow cause a mutation that would make our children do it instinctively.
    I thought of all Darwinian evolution as being the result of mutation, never the concious choice of, say the giraffe, to stretch his neck every day to try and reach food, until his DNA codes for a longer neck... i didn't think the mutations were supposed to be caused by our behaviour, I thought they were supposed to be random.
    Again, I mean, according to Darwinian evolution.

    I wonder if those mice inherited a fear of having their tails cut off. I think I remember a study saying you can teach mice to be afraid of tastes and smells but not noises and flashing lights, and you can teach birds to be afraid of noises and flashing lights but not tastes and smells. Just because the ancestors of the mice had to worry a lot more about getting poisoned and the birds had to worry a lot more about predators.. I am probably remembering the details wrong. I know I read about it in a psychology book called "Motivation" by Phil Evans.
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