Psych Snapshot: Miriam Mosing

Through Psych Snapshots we take the time to get to know some of our staff and students and understand their work and what makes them tick.

Please join us in welcoming one of our latest community members, Professor Miriam Mosing!

Why is your research important? What are the possible real world applications?

Miriam MosingMy main research interest is how genes and environment play together to produce individual differences in a range of complex traits broadly related to quality of life and expertise acquisition.

Understanding how genetic predispositions interplay with environmental factors (including social isolation, stress, traumatic life experiences, different leisure and cultural activities, and behavioural choices) will reveal the nature of phenotypic associations (observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment) observed in daily life, which will not only allow us to identify truly causal and modifiable risk/protective factors (relevant environments), but will ultimately also help us to identify those who are at greatest risk or may benefit most from interventions.

What excites you about your work?

We now know that (almost) all human complex traits and behaviours are partly heritable. I believe that the phenotypic associations we observe in daily life are due to a complex interplay between our genes and environment including gene-environment correlations and interactions. I am excited about contributing to a better understanding of how our behaviour and choices are determined by our genetic predispositions and believe that this knowledge will not only impact the future of medicine, but also of behavioural interventions, learning, and teaching, with a shift to more tailored approaches.

What initially drew you to this field?

Chance. My master's supervisor at the University of Queensland believed that the future of psychology lay in behaviour genetics. And while I had no idea what she was talking about, she put me in touch with my future PhD supervisors and from there it all happened…

What do you wish other people knew about your research field?

That heritability or a genetic predisposition is very different from determinism. Understanding our genetic risks and predisposition may allow us to actively engage in protective behaviour, while it also may help us to cast a gentler view on the struggles we and other people may encounter in life. No one has deserved their genetic make-up (e.g. predispositions to high IQ or mental health problems), it is just a lottery.

What is one of the ways you are surviving lockdown?

Just taking one day and one hour at a time trying to do my best and looking forward to small things (good food and good books). With a young child (4 years) at home it is hard to work and plan efficiently.