Nature vs. Nurture
Curiosity has always been one of the most innate and prevailing qualities of the humankind. Our endless pursuit of truth and reasons has resulted in a lot of crucial discoveries in the world. However, the more we uncover the world, the more we end up generating more questions to answer. Out of all the wonders of the world, the human psychology is deemed to be one of the most alluring and controversial. The complexity of the mind and its reflection on human behavior has been a subject of many study and debates. One of the oldest and, still, most talked about an argument in psychology is nature against nurture debate; this debate is concerned with the idea as to which particular aspect of human behavior is by-products of genetic inheritance or socio-cultural influence. Tagged with controversy on social inequality and racism, the nature-nurture debate, for years, has inflamed the hearts of many scientists and psychologists resulting to decades of tedious studies on the complexities of human behavior.
Nature refers to the biological structure and processes that determine a person’s physical and behavioral attributes. Due to the advancement of genetics, scientists have uncovered that physical traits such as the eye color, skin pigmentation, and hair type attend manifestations of the genetic makeup we inherited from our parents. Further, these studies have proven that the even the height, weight, and life expectancy of a person can strongly be related to the genetic makeup. These discoveries have led to the speculation that, like physical attributes, most psychological characteristics like intellect, personality, and language acquisition ability are already pre-wired to our system through our genetic pattern.
Firm believers of the nature theory also called as nativist, claim that the evolution of man and individual differences of everyone is deeply embedded in our genetic code. They also believe that, like the bodily changes that happen during adolescent puberty, characteristics that are absent from infancy and emerged later in life attend results of maturity pre-determined by our biological clock. Among them are the linguist, Noam Chomsky and the psychologist, John Bowlby. These researchers created theories parallel to the concept of inherent abilities. Noam Chomsky’s theory states that language in an innate ability of humankind. From the moment we are born, the concept of language has already been embedded in our brains through what he called as the “Language Acquisition Device.”Though language is not clearly evident during infancy, a person’s ability to use language gradually develops as the person matures. It builds child’ individuality, no matters where he would be naturally developing a particular language. Another theory is that of John Bowlby. His theory of attachment claims that the strong bond between a mother and child is a pre-programmed process that ensures safety and survival. Bowlby believed that attachment is an innate behavior of everyone and is activated by any conditions that seem to threaten the achievement of proximity to the subject of attachment.
In contrast, nurture theory suggests that behavior is honed from socio-cultural factors. This theory is guided by John Locke’s tabula rasa or “blank slate” theory. Tabula rasa refers to the idea that the human mind, in its primal state, is a blank slate which is gradually filled in with information derived from direct and vicarious experiences. This theory states people’s characteristics and behavioral diversity attend results of social and cultural influences encountered during their development. Scientists like BF Skinner and Albert Bandura used the nurture concept in their study. According to the study of Skinner, language develops through a behavioral pattern.Acquired language gradually develops through mimicry and exposure. Bandura’s theory, on the other hand, focused on human aggression. He suggests that aggressive behavior is acquired through observation and imitation. According to this study, children, who are exposed subjects or environment that exhibit aggression, are more likely to become aggressive people in compared to others who are not.
Through years of studies and debate between the two opposing theories had passed, it is not until the time of Francis Galton that the term Nature-vs.-Nurture debate was coined. Sir Francis Galton, a relative of Charles Darwin, conducted a study employing the theory of evolution to human abilities. According to his research, intellect is a quantifiable and hereditary human trait. He believed that intelligence could be measured by scores with most of the human population falling into the average range. He also had examined in his paper that intellect can be passed from generation to generation. Thus, people with high intelligence have a major chance of having highly intellectual offsprings, while people having lower than average intellect are more likely to have low intellectual offsprings. His study stimulated numerous studies regarding the matter of intellect, heredity, and environment.Consequently, this also created controversy between races.
In a study of Arthur Jenson, a follower of Galton, data showed that white people got higher IQ scores than the black people. Having this result, he deduced that intellect is highly genetic, and particular races are deemed superior to the others.His argument has given rise to a storm of controversies on racial superiority and discrimination. However, Environmentalist, the believers of nurture theory, countered the claim of Galton and Jenson. For them, intelligence scores can be subject to biases. They believed that intellectual ability attends the result of inequalities in access to resource and opportunities. Simply, the impoverished children who are not capable of accessing information and opportunities for learning consider higher chances of getting low IQ scores. Thus, intellect is not a product of heredity but more of a result of the social construct. Intelligence is not the only the subject of debate connected to nature and nurture. The issues of heredity, gender and sexuality are also subjects of debates.
For years, the controversial analysis of nature and nurture has been fought. Countless research and experimentation on genetics and trait to understand human personality and behavior aimed to put an end to the seemingly endless debate. It considered fifty years of study and 14.8 million of experiments for psychologists to arrive at the conclusion that heredity and environmental factors jointly influence a person’s behavior. The plethora of data had reconciled the idea of heredity, and an environment was effective factors that develop human behavior.
Psychologists and researchers of the present have finally started acknowledging the relative connection between heredity and environment. They already embrace the idea that a person’s character is highly influenced by his genetic makeup and the environment. The years of labored research on nature and nurture theory finally have bear fruits. Technology and research had expanded a better understanding of the human personality and mind, and will just continuously do as time passes by.