Offspring Selfishness changing into Parental altruism?

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ragav.payne
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Offspring Selfishness changing into Parental altruism?

Post by ragav.payne » Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:17 pm

Hello,

I don't know very much about the technicalities of genes and stuff. But, I just had a general doubt about it.

Is there any way a gene could change its function (make it opposite, to be precise) as the individual holding it ages? Perhaps something like having one function while the individual holding it is still an infant and in constant need of support and having the opposite function when it is independent?

I guess something like the ability to digest milk in ancient homosapiens?

I want to know if a gene could change from being selfish with individuals of the same species to being altrusitic to them as the individual holding that gene grows from a dependent infant to a self-dependent adult.

Technically, is such a transformation of function possible in a gene?

Hope I'm not sounding naive. If I do, kindly let me know what I need to know to stop being naive.

Regards.

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MrMistery
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Post by MrMistery » Mon Jun 30, 2008 3:08 pm

Well, there are many genes that turn on/off during one's lifetime, so i don't see why a gene couldn't be turned on and off in this situation
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Re: Offspring Selfishness changing into Parental altruism?

Post by biopunk » Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:05 am

Testosterone has a big impact on the behavior of young men. Its production level decreases with age.

Young men fight and think about sex... a lot. Regardless of how violent, promiscuous and competitive they are in their youth they tend to get philosophical about everything in their 60ies.

This at least to some extent has to do with the testosterone. Maybe the altruism mechanism is always there, it's just covered by testosterone(and other chemistry) until the expression levels decrease enough.

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Re: Offspring Selfishness changing into Parental altruism?

Post by chaka8 » Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:47 pm

These are many genes that change and even reverse their function with the age of the individual. An example is GABA which switches from being inhibitory to being excitatory with age.

Regarding altruism, I think that you are oversimplifying. Altruism is a complex behavior that is no doubt modulated by many genes, hormones, brain structure, cognitive understanding etc. no one gene turning on/off or changing function could trigger such a complex behavior.

However, If I was to generalize I would say that in infants, that are not fully developed in terms of hormones, brain structure, cognition etc, there is no grasp of altruism. Evolutionarily speaking it makes sense that infants, that are competing with siblings and have no real use for altruism would not be altruistic (however it is amazing how early in life kids will perform altruistic acts). While adults are developed as far as hormonal profile, brain structure and cognition and have the evolutionary reason for altruism (cooperation increases the individuals chance of survival).

ragav.payne
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Re: Offspring Selfishness changing into Parental altruism?

Post by ragav.payne » Wed Jul 30, 2008 2:56 am

chaka8 wrote:However, If I was to generalize I would say that in infants, that are not fully developed in terms of hormones, brain structure, cognition etc, there is no grasp of altruism. Evolutionarily speaking it makes sense that infants, that are competing with siblings and have no real use for altruism would not be altruistic (however it is amazing how early in life kids will perform altruistic acts). While adults are developed as far as hormonal profile, brain structure and cognition and have the evolutionary reason for altruism (cooperation increases the individuals chance of survival).


Yeah, that was what I had in mind when I started this thread. And this strategy of being selfish when young and altruistic when older is very good and is all so common (I mean the adults are not selfish in the same manner as they are when kids) so isn't it very likely that this strategy must have genetic causes? How would such a complex strategy be accomplished by genes starting in infancy?

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Re: Offspring Selfishness changing into Parental altruism?

Post by chaka8 » Wed Jul 30, 2008 12:52 pm

ragav.payne wrote:
chaka8 wrote:However, If I was to generalize I would say that in infants, that are not fully developed in terms of hormones, brain structure, cognition etc, there is no grasp of altruism. Evolutionarily speaking it makes sense that infants, that are competing with siblings and have no real use for altruism would not be altruistic (however it is amazing how early in life kids will perform altruistic acts). While adults are developed as far as hormonal profile, brain structure and cognition and have the evolutionary reason for altruism (cooperation increases the individuals chance of survival).


Yeah, that was what I had in mind when I started this thread. And this strategy of being selfish when young and altruistic when older is very good and is all so common (I mean the adults are not selfish in the same manner as they are when kids) so isn't it very likely that this strategy must have genetic causes? How would such a complex strategy be accomplished by genes starting in infancy?


Hi,

I’m not sure that I understand your question. Ultimately, everything, including behavior has a “genetic cause”.
Although part of developing complex social behaviors (such as altruism) is no doubt also influenced by environment i.e. learning and socialization.
It may very well be that “selfishness” (which is only a name for a set of behaviors that are basically natural, wanting food, wanting attention, wanting toys) is the natural set point and later on behaviors such as altruism are developed only when physical changes in the CNS occur that allow us to learn and shift our behavior to being more socially acceptable and evolutionarily beneficial.

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