Nature / Nurture or Both !
The controversy over what determines who we are, whether it is Nature (heredity, our biological make up) or Nurture (our environment) is taking a new shape. Through the past decades, psychologists have developed different theories to explain the characteristics of human-beings; how we feel, think and behave. Usually, these theories were one directional in the nature / nurture question. Today, a new approach to deal with this question is emerging. This new approach finds a middle ground between nature and nurture. The conclusion that nature and nurture are complementary and work hand and hand to shape a behavior (a purposeful and meaningful activity) is not a compromise; it is a result of a vigorous study of each of the components of the equation of heredity and environment and their affects on determining one's development and behavior. In fact, the more we understand about development and behavior, the more obvious it becomes that nature and nurture are similarly influences rather than determinants, not only singly but also in combination. Here below, I will endeavour to expose the leading theories dealing with the question of nature vs. nurture. I will also try to present the third, new-emerging approach meant to solve the mystery of " What is it that makes us who we are?"
"Our genes made us. We animals exist for their preservation and are nothing more than their throwaway survival machines." This is what Richard Darwin states in his book: The Selfish Gene. In his international best seller book, he argues that we are merely a product of our genes and our main purpose in life is to serve the genes, become distribution agents and ensure their proliferation. Before we take any stand to Darwin's statement, let us familiarize ourselves with what is meant when the term nature is used. Nature represents what we are born with and cannot control. Our biological make up is determined by the genes we receive from our parents(reside in the 23 pairs of chromosomes, 23 from each parent.) "A gene is a segment of DNA or a sequence of nucleotides in DNA that codes for a functional product," (Tortora, Microbiology. p. 575.) These genes not only affect our outlook, but also play a significant role in determining our behavior and our well-being. "Through new genetic studies, clinical observation, and research on identical twins and adopted children, we are becoming increasingly aware that many of the human characteristics previously taken for granted as products of childhood rearing and environment are rooted in the genetic matrix.", (Neubrauer, Peter. p 38) Studies of identical twins reared apart have provided researchers with a lot of clues about the role of heredity in every day life behavior. Twins (monozygotes) are of extraordinary importance when studying heredity because they share identical copies of genes. An interesting study on twin brothers who were separated at birth and raised in different countries by respective adoptive parents showed that they both kept their lives neat, 'neat to the point of pathology.' Their clothes were preened, appointments met precisely on time. When asked about the reason they felt to be so clean, the first one replied
" My mother. When I was growing up she always kept the house perfectly ordered. She insisted on every little thing returned to its proper place,... I learned from her. What else could I do?" When his twin brother was asked the same question he answered "The reason is quite simple. I'm reacting to my mother, who was an absolute slob.", (Neubrauer, Peter P 21) In this example, we see a natural preference based on heredity. Both twins blamed their mothers for their behaviors, while none of the mothers required such neatness. Another study on heredity and alcoholism conducted by Goodwin et al (1973) indicated that adoptees with alcoholic parents were four times more likely to become alcoholics than those without, although there was no...
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