Key Words: nature, nurture, behaviorism, determinism, genotype, phenotype
Nature vs nurture is a scientific debate about whether human culture, behavior and personality are caused primarily by nature or nurture. Nature is often times defined as genetic based where nurture is often time defined as environment or experience. Questions that arise in the nature vs nurture debate are ones similar to, why is a person an artist? Because they are instrumentally inclined, or because they grew up listening to music? Similarly, why is a person an athlete? Because they are athletically talented, or because their parents signed them up for little league when they were very young?
Historically, nurture has been referred to the care parents give to children or the environmental factors one is exposed to at young ages. The nature aspect refers to innate qualities. In modern scientific research as well as historical research, scientists have studied twins to determine the influence of biology and genetics on personality traits. In numerous cases, these studies have revealed that twins, raised separately, still share many common personality traits, lending credibility to the nature side of the debate.
The nature vs. nurture debate has been going on for over 50 years. Initially, psychologists were heavily influenced by the theory of behaviorism. Behaviorism is the theory that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior patterns. This theory led many to believe that a human personality is heavily attributed to experience and training otherwise known as nature. In more recent years, specialists have been moving more towards the nature aspect of behavior. Evolutionary scientists have been progressing with studies that have been discovering genes for virtually every behavior.
The nature vs nurture debate goes into deep philosophical questions regarding free will and determinism. Determinism is defined as all actions are determined by the current state and immutable laws of the universe, with no possibility of choice. Those who suggest we derive our behavioral patterns from nature imply that we behave in ways which we are naturally inclined, not so much in ways that we choose to behave. Similar to this, the nature side implies that we behave due to our environment and environmental factors we were predisposed to, not ourselves.
I believe the nature vs nurture debate is a false debate because nature and nurture are not two opposing things. Rather, they are two interconnected and interdependent things. A person is a product of both nature and of nurture. Our behaviors arise from both genetic attributions as well as environmental attributions. Not just one or the other. When genetics are combined with environment this is called a phenotype. Instead of trying to separate nature and nurture, I believe that examining human behavior would be much more beneficial while observing an individuals interactions of both its genotype and with the environment. When I was growing up there were numerous factors that effected my behavior. Coming from a family of divorced parents, my behavior did a complete 180 degree spin before and after the separation of my parents when I was 7 years old. Due to the environment that I was in I would lash out on my siblings, rebel against my parents, did not focus in school, barely wanted to be home and developed severe separation anxiety. After time passed I returned back to “normal” behavior but was never the same as I once was before everything happened. This, in my opinion and own experience, was 100% attributed to the nurture factor of the nature vs nurture debate. Of course as a science major I am well aware of all the genetic components that develop behavioral patterns as well. This is just one example of nature and nurture coming together to create a behavioral change.
In conclusion, there are numerous factors that are attributed to someone’s behavior. Genetics, environment, social norms and expectations as well as influence of others are all factors that are combined to create human culture, behavior and personality.