Heredity vs Environment

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Developmental psychology is that which seeks to understand how people come to distinguish, perceive, and act within the world and how these processes vary throughout life as they age. The general focuses include intellectual, cognitive, neural, social, and/or moral development. As well as studying children, developmental psychologists also study aging and processes throughout the duration of life, especially at times when rapid change may occur (such as adolescence and old age). Many psychology researchers are in agreement that heredity and environment both contribute significantly to the development of various human traits. However, researchers may be undecided on the extent to which heredity and environment combined, contribute to the development of a particular dimension and disagree on how various factors could affect each other to make a certain human characteristic (Douglas Wahlstein). Five broad dimensions of personality which have been scientifically discovered to identify human personality are known as the ‘Big Five’ factors. The five factors (proposed by Lewis Goldberg) consist of openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. They are each known as in-depth and complex traits commonly perceived in human beings, but exactly how much are these traits influenced by heredity and/or by environment? It could depend on an individual’s lifestyle at home, their family and surroundings, the idea that their traits were developed through genetics, or that it could be a mixture of both.

A trait is a notable feature or quality in a person and each person has a different combination of traits that makes them unique. Traits are sometimes passed from generation to generation, meaning people inherit traits from their parents, and then pass those traits onto their own children. Non-genetic (environmental) influences in people’s lives are just as important in shaping traits, and can sometimes even change them. An environmental trait is basically an attribute that is solely influenced by an individual’s surroundings. Just as there are very few genes which are the only influence to some behaviour or another, there are limited traits that are considered to only be environmental. An example is mother tongue, however, no human baby can learn a single language better than another; it’s just whatever language they are exposed to first that they tend to pick up. While not disregarding that genetic tendencies may exist, supporters of the nurture theory believe they ultimately don’t matter and that one’s behavioural aspects originate only from the environmental factors of their upbringing. Sure, it is fair to say someone got their red hair from their mother and their blue eyes from their father, but where did they obtain their ‘thrill-seeking personality’ and openness? A parent’s interests aren’t generally passed on through generation, so for one to have that ‘openness’ (inventive, emotion, appreciation for art) trait they would have been exposed to particular surroundings, therefore being influenced by their environment and affecting their variety of traits.

Nevertheless, the role of heredity should not be ignored as it has been examined that heredity undoubtedly contributes to the development of human traits. The obviously possible genetic traits can include physical appearances and a feasibly a medical condition. The idea of “range of reaction” helps people to conceptualize the complex relationship between heredity and environment; people with varying genetically influence predispositions respond differently to environments. Moderate (rather than high) levels of intellectual motivation might create better cognitive performances in others. In comparison however, the same moderate levels of stimulation could cause some children to display cognitive performances that are even worse than how they performed in a lower stimulating environment. So the ‘optimal’ or ‘minimal’ performance levels may vary for...
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