Personality

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“Is an individual's personality determined by their biological nature or by their personal experiences (nurture)?” When personality is analysed within the psychological field, the emphasis is placed on the ‘individual’s characteristics, modes of thinking and feelings’(Ribeaux&Poppleton,1978). With these three aspects that make up one’s personality differing in all individuals, it proves difficult to provide an all-encompassing definition of personality. Behavioural geneticists attempt to study this topic using three methods; family, twin and adoption studies. Research derived from twin studies made a consensus that five main determinants are necessary when describing personality including extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness(Thomas J.Bouchard.,Jr,1994). This essay endeavours to analyse the two predominant arguments that focus on determining an individuals’ personality and therefore altering how they behave within society. It will highlight the complex dispute of which social scientists have thoroughly investigated to ascertain whether the development of personality is due to genetic inheritance(nature) or due to an individuals’ environment(nurture). According to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, the role of nurture on personality is “the sum total of all environmental factors that contribute to the physical and psychological characteristics of an individual, including upbringing or rearing”(Andrew M.Colman,2009). This suggests that scientists believe our personality, behaviour and modes of thinking are reflected by how we are taught in our formative years. This adopts the social learning theory which states that a child’s development is influenced by their tendency to imitate their role model’s behaviour. Therefore, when a child views a personality trait displayed by their parents(role models), they are more likely to imitate the trait, adopting it and consequently forming part of their personality. However, for this to take place it is necessary that the child possesses certain characteristics such as motivation and attention to stimulate the process of imitation(Bandura 1971). Another theory devised by B.F.Skinner concentrates on the variables within the environment that influence the individual. He described personality as being ‘overt behaviour’, comprehended by responses in environmental factors. At birth, children are born with a variety of innate capacities, but consequent personalities are understood as being learnt. Thorndike and the Law of Effect(1905) states that when behaviours are accompanied with satisfaction, they tend to be repeated; Skinner derived this preliminary definition as ‘reinforcement.’ He emphasised that positive reinforcement is essential for the child to initiate and maintain desired behaviours. He believed that an individual’s personality is shaped during their development and changed whilst encountering different stimuli. For example, the mentality of a teenager that lives in the city suburbs is completely different to living in the city. A teenager engaging in a dangerous activity in the suburbs is socially acceptable, however once the individual moves to the city it is frowned upon and as a result he is likely to stop and adopt a different personality trait. Rebuttal to Skinner’s research, he conducted the majority of his studies on animals in artificial laboratory surroundings. This weakens the ‘nurture’ argument by questioning Skinner’s results as they lack applicability and generalisability with regards to the richness of everyday life and humans. The other side to the debate is the role of ‘nature,’ the theory stating that personality is inherited by children from their parents. Using this idea, it is considered that the individual has no control over their behaviour, and they are born with certain sets of characteristics. When looking into the nature of personality, there are three elements that contribute to the theory of genetic...
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