Nature vs Nurture

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oThe terms nature and nurture as a convenient catchphrase for the roles of heredity and environment in human development can be traced back to 13th Century France oSo was the way we behave engrained in us before we were born? Or has it developed over time response to our experiences?

Many scientists think that people behave as they do according to genetic dispositions or even “animal instincts”; this is known as the “nature” theory of human behaviour. Even though scientists have known for decades that traits such as eye and hair colour are determined by specific genes encoded in each human cell, the nature theory takes things a step further, to say that most abstract traits such as intelligence, personality, aggression and sexual orientation are also encoded in an individuals DNA. An example of this would be the highly controversial idea of a “gay gene”, pointing to a genetic component to sexual orientation. In a 1993 research study, the term “gay gene” gained popular usage, as in this study it is believed that in a particular segment of the X chromosome, which was said to be more prevalent in homosexual men, which reported that homosexuality could be attributed to this section of DNA. This study became so controversial because eugenically minded religious extremists even envisaged abortion as a means of decreasing the incidence to the gene. However this study has since been disputed, although geneticists have succeeded in identifying genes that play some role in influencing human behaviour, they have been much less successful in shedding light on the complexities of human personalities.

Another nature argument takes place in the “twin’s studies”. Twin studies became popular in the 1970s and 80s using both identical twins and adopted children. One well known study is known as the “Colorado Adoption Project”. One of the things that researchers found is that kids raised by their biological parents tend to be similar to their parents in intellectual ability and certain personality traits, but that adopted kids have little in common with the people who raised them. This suggests that nature rather then nurture is the predominant influence on how a child develops. Another thing that was found is that twins brought up in different environments have similar adult hood IQ’s, and that identical twins reared apart are far more similar in personality then two randomly selected pairs of people.

Generally the early psychologists, many of whom had a medical or biological background believed that it was nature (heredity) which had the greater effect on our developmental changes. They believed that every aspect of an individual’s development was determined at the moment of conception; individuals inherited the potential for example, to be a leader, to be 1.8 meters tall, to be a musician, to be sociable and so on. The nature school of thought came to the forefront in the early to mid 20th century among European ethnologists, such as Konrad Lorenz. Their studies emphasized the role of instinct, fixed pattern of behaviour, and the influence of evolution on behaviour.

Nurture theory of human behaviour is defined as the belief that people think and behave in certain ways because they have been taught to do so, the view that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioural traits is known as “tabula rasa” (blank slate). While not discounting the genetic tendencies may not exist, supporters of the nurture theory believe they ultimately doesn’t matter – that our behavioural aspects originate only from the environmental factors of our upbringing. Nurture actually refers to all the external forces that can shape a Childs personality where you child lives, who his or hers caregivers are, how many siblings he or she had, where they go to school, the kinds of traumatic, tragic and even joyful experiences had. Over the years the term “nurture” has been used mainly to refer to the impact of parents. This is based on...
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