Nature Versus Nurture: Which Influences an Individual More?

For generations, man has been trying to find answers to the heated argument of the level of influence that nature or heredity, and nurture or the environment has on the behaviors and traits of an individual. Many psychologists and scientists have taken sides with either side of the controversy. Till date, there is no clear conclusion to this debate even though a lot of hypotheses has being put forward by many experts and researchers. Nature here refers to hereditary traits transferred by genes from a parent to offspring. The nature proponents advocate that an individual’s behavior is basically determined by these genetically transferred traits. On the other hand advocates of the nurture, view believes that non-genetic influences from the environment, society and cultural perspectives influence an individual more and determine what the person becomes.

Many centuries back, Plato and Aristotle tried to know what causes human attitudes. They were inspired by the desire to know what is nature and nurture plus and what controls human attitudes. Plato suggested that behaviors were determined by factors that are natural and not the environment. He went ahead to say that humans do not learn anything fresh from their environment, but that the environment only reminds us of things we already know. This view later became the bases upon which more researches on the influence of nature on man based. Aristotle claimed that humans were completely empty of knowledge at birth with the concept he called “tabula rasa” or empty slate showing the fact that humans know nothing at birth but that behavior gets accumulated by the individual through the environment as time progresses. This makes this “empty slate” to continuously get filled with knowledge, experiences, and behaviors through the impact of the environment. This was a very great basis for the pro-nurture advocates. This concept was later emphasized by John Locke but Leibniz took a more neutral stance by latter suggesting that both heredity and nurturing has a proportionate effect on human behavior.

In essence, there is a relationship between the view that heredity and nurturing are all contributors to the complete behavior of human beings. This is based on the understanding that at some points both views can influence the attitude of a person.

Some of the opinions raised for both sides of the debate are in the areas of:

  •  Mental ability and intelligence quotient.
  •  Health conditions.
  •  Bonding in siblings.

Studies indicate that hereditary traits and nurturing affects an individual almost proportionately by an experiment where identical twins that had about 99.9 percent of genes in common were separated and groomed in dissimilar surroundings and by different guardians. The result showed that there were variations in their behavior which indicates that heredity alone cannot be said to be the sole determinant of behaviors.

In academic settings, for example, some academically outstanding students have been found to come from backgrounds where their parents never did well academically.

Mental Ability and Intelligence Quotient

Francis Galton stated that intellectual capacity was more of a hereditary transferred trait than it was of the influence of nurturing. This is a great boost to the opinion of nature as the determinant of human behavior. For him, the tendency for being a “genius” is genetically induced. This necessitated modern day researches in mental capacity testing in the field of psychology. Arthur Jenson went on to find that the intelligence quotient scores of Americans that are black were so much lower than that of their white counterpart. He stressed that the main factor causing this is genetic, that intelligence is up to 80% inherited. However, the nurture proponents say that intellectual capacity differences in humans are due to social inequalities prevalent in societies as regard to how individuals gain access to opportunities and materials for learning. Individuals who were raised in opportunity deprived environments like ghettos usually score lower during intelligent quotient tests because they lack the environmental endowed opportunities enjoyed by the more privileged societies. There is also the discussion in psychology regarding how behaviors in male and female genders are determined by culture and heredity.

Health conditions

Both the environmentalists and naturalists have their divergent views of what affect health situations of people (genes or environment). Some of the health challenges used for this discussion include alcoholism, schizophrenia, and depression. The proponents of nature believe that an addiction like alcoholism is genetically induced. Research indicates that alcohol addiction can recur in families and that the taste of alcohol to an individual can be influenced by some genes. So also the way alcohol reacts with the body. Mental health issues like schizophrenia and depression have been proven to be influenced by genetics. A condition showing this is a case study of identical twins, research shows that if one of them develops schizophrenia then there is 50% chance for the second to also develop schizophrenia. For those who believe that it is nurturing that affects the health disposition of an individual more, they do this with instances of how bullying, childhood abuse, and other tragic experiences contribute to mental illness developed by victims according to researchers at the University of Liverpool. A neuroscientist by name James Fallon said he was born with the brain that has psychopathy tendencies, but that nurturing helped him not to fully develop psychopathy.

Bonding in Siblings

According to studies conducted several times it was found that twins who were reunited many years after they had been separated at birth still felt some bonds to their twins even more than their closest friends. This shows the power of genes! Also, that environment had little impact on twins when they are raised together, but that the influence is only felt when they are raised in a different environment.

To wrap up, the argument as to whether nature determines an individual’s behavior or nurturing does has been on for ages and till date, we have not really come to a generally agreed stance on whether nature alone or nurture alone determines human behaviors, personality attributes, and mental attributes. However, considering facts from both sides of this debate we can deduce that both nature and nurturing has an influence on the way humans behave. But a yet to be answered question is by how much does nature or nurture affects human behaviors?

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