Simulating Models of Development under Plausible Gene-Environment Interplay


Daniel A. Briley, Jonathan Livengood, and Jaime Derringer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, University of Texas at Austin; R. Chris Fraley, Brent W. Roberts, & Gene E. Robinson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Human behavior emerges from a complex interplay between genetic differences and environmental experiences. Researchers can pull apart these effects using statistical techniques. However, the scientific community struggles when applying statistical models to actual development, while the general public struggles to integrate genetic findings reported in the media with their own conceptions of human agency. Our project will bridge this gap between statistical models and human development through simulations. Specifically, we want to know how hundreds of thousands of genetic variants combine with chaotic environmental experiences at the day-to-day level to produce human behavior. We will build simulation models based on several known features of human development, such as the number of genetic variants present in the human genome and development processes (e.g., gene-environment correlation). By adjusting various model parameters, we plan to identify combinations of effects that match trends found in the real world. This work will connect statistical results found in genetic studies with plausible mechanisms of development. Finally, we will interpret the implications of the model through a philosophical lens focused on understanding the role of human agency across the lifespan.