Both Nature and Nurture Influence Human Behaviour

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The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines Nature as “persons or animal’s innate character, and innate meaning inborn”. This means that nature plays a large part in how humans inherit the physical characteristics of their parents, but also that their personalities and characters are predetermined by family genetics. The dictionary also defines nurture as “bringing up, fostering care” which implies learning and training to regulate or correct behaviour and thinking.

This essay will be presenting and evaluating the arguments presented by two psychologists Pinker and James and their theories regarding the influence of nature versus nurture on the development of human behaviour. This essay will also be looking at some of the theories on personality traits and behaviour. It will then evaluate and discuss the nature and nurture debate further from different areas of psychology to reach a conclusion from all the evidence gathered from research. The debate between nature and nurture has a long history that has been vehement. The current debate between (the psychologists) Pinker and James is a particularly bitter row, with their two books on the subject being recently released and going head to head.

The nature theory sees us as possessing inborn abilities and traits that shape our personalities. There are reasons why some people will believe that our genes play an important role in contributing to our intelligence especially when we consider the theory of hereditary (Gross 1992). Our genes and chromosomes are passed onto our siblings from generation to generation, so we can safely say that without hereditary we as humans will have nothing to pass on to our descendants. For example a child born to a woman with blue eyes and blonde hair will grow up having the same eye colour and hair colour as the mother in most cases. In his book “The Blank Slate”. Subtitled “The Modern Denial of Human Nature” (2002), Pinker argues that from the study of human evolution, it shows that parents have no influence over their children’s behaviours rather that our genes have a lot to play when it comes to our behaviours. Pinker supported his theory based on the experiment conducted by Thomas Bouchard who did an experiment on identical twin that were raised by separate adoptive parents and he concluded that he found critical inherited components to virtually all aspects of human personality.

Gordon Allport was an influential personality theorist who viewed traits as the building blocks of personality and the source of individuality (Zimbardo et al 1995). Allport saw personality structures, rather than environmental conditions as the critical determiners of individual behaviour. He was well known as an idiographic trait theorist, who through his work believed that people have some unique characteristics that allows them to be a singular entity, as well as having some common ones which together form a unique combinations of traits. Heritability studies shows that most personality traits are influenced a great deal by genetics. There is a consensus among researchers, however that the characteristics which parents pass onto their children have a significant impact on the person they become (Plomin et al, 1990), for example there have been several studies carried out on adopted twins, and twins that were raised by their biological parents (Gleitman et al 1999), this was to determine whether there were inheritable components passed on from their parents. One of such studies was the one carried out by (Heath et al 1989), in the studies they were trying to find out if alcoholism was a form of genetic defect, they carried out the experiment using 4,000 Austrian twins and they found out that compared with dizygotic (unidentical twins), monozygotic twins (identical twins) were more similar in the frequency of drinking and in the amount of alcohol consumption. But we must remember that...
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