Prenatal Roots of Instinctive Behavior
Psychology Press – 1997 – 200 pages
Series: Distinguished Lecture Series
This volume provides a primarily nontechnical summary of experimental and theoretical work conducted over the course of 35 years which resulted in a developmental framework capable of integrating causal influences at the genetic, neural, behavioral, and ecological levels of analysis. It describes novel solutions to the nature-nurture problem at both the empirical and theoretical levels. Following field observations, laboratory experiments led to the discovery of the nonobvious prenatal experiential basis of instinctive behavior in two species--ground-nesting mallard ducklings and hole-nesting wood ducklings. This work also describes the experiences that lead to the rigid canalization of behavioral development as well as the social and sensory experiences that favor the continuance of flexibility. The author also describes in detail a developmental psychobiological systems view that supports a behaviorally and psychologically mediated pathway to evolutionary change in humans and other species. Written in a way that is readable to even the nonspecialist, the text is accompanied by numerous photographs that illuminate and add personal meaning to the written words. Readers will be engaged by the emphasis on the human aspect of the scientific enterprise.
"…Gottlieb succeeds brilliantly in this book in describing in personal terms how discovery depends on keen observation and creative application of methods that continually refocus and refine the phenomena under inquiry. But it is also a book that puts one individual's research in the richer context of the ideas and studies of Gottlieb's historical predecessors. In this way, Gottlieb not only personally recounts a fascinating series of scientific investigations, but also carefully describes the succession of scientific beliefs that now make it possible to go beyond the modern synthesis."
"This is an erudite book written by a leading developmental psychologist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the relevant fields. Gottlieb's appreciation of the historical foundations of behavioural embryology and its close cousin developmental psychobiology is impressive….Synthesizing Nature-Nurture is a challenging piece of writing. It not only challenges molecular biology's hold on research into the origins and timing of development, but also will be challenging reading material for undergraduate courses in developmental psychology. It could be recommended for advanced undergraduates if accompanied by a knowledgeable and questioning form of tutorial guidance."
—British Journal of Developmental Psychology
"…a delightful combination of autobiographical detail and developmental science….Gottlieb's synthesis between nature and nurture is to be commended, not only because he lays down important principles for contemporary developmental science but also for his enthusiastic personal account of a lifetime's scientific creativity."
"In this new book, Gilbert Gottlieb, a comparative and developmental scientist of unparalleled theoretical sophistication and empirical accomplishment, turns his singularly creative attention to an analysis of the concept of probabilistic epigenesis. The result is a book that makes a unique and invaluable contribution to an integrated understanding of developmental systems, evolution, and plasticity. This superb volume is a watershed event in scholarship pertinent to the biological and contextual bases of development and is a necessary resource for all scholars concerned with the process of development."
—Richard M. Lerner
"In contrast to the current consensus that believes biological science has nothing more to learn, Gottlieb's astonishing new book opens wide the door to a new 'developmental' view of the relationship between genes and early experiences, opening up the evolution of the mind--in the womb and during childhood--to the possibility of greatly improving what we mislabel 'human nature'."
Editor, The Journal of Psychohistory and Director, The Institute
Contents: Series Preface. Preface. Formulating Probabilistic Epigenesis. Preliminaries to an Explicit Experimental Demonstration of Probabilistic Epigenesis. Experimental Demonstration of Probabilistic Epigenesis (in Two Parts). Perceptual Capabilities of Mallard Duck Embryos: Clarifying the Role of Experience. Experimental Demonstration of Probabilistic Epigenesis in Wood Ducklings. Experiential Canalization of Species-Specific Behavior. Modifiability of Species-Specific Behavior. Evolution of Probabilistic Epigenesis: History and Current Status of a Developmental-Psychobiological Systems Viewpoint. Toward a New Developmental and Evolutionary Synthesis.