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Epigenetics is a branch of biology that studies how chemical factors around DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) influence genetic expression—that is, the rate at which DNA produces proteins. Complex organisms comprise a variety of cell types, and although these cells all contain identical DNA, they differ in their structures and functions because of how epigenetic factors differentially influence what their DNA is doing. Specifically, epigenetic factors can increase or decrease activity of particular DNA segments (i.e., genes), so epigenetic factors effectively turn some genes “on” in some cells and “off” in other cells; more precisely, they regulate genetic activity in a way analogous to how a dimmer switch regulates a lamp’s brightness. Epigenetics is increasingly of interest to psychologists, because the contexts in which people develop—that is, ...

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