Nature vs Nurture Running head: NATURE AND NURTURE Nature and Nurture James Wheeler Empire State College Nature and Nurture Nature vs. Nurture is a very long standing debate that has provided researchers with years of work and will continue to do so far into the future. While both sides of this argument have produced significant volumes of research and data on the subject to support their own individual theorems, I must take the standpoint that both Nature and Nurture provide significantly (if not equally) to the growth and development of the personality of an individual.
In his opinion article, Nature vs. Nurture: the Pendulum Still Swings With Plenty of Momentum, Joseph E. LeDoux states that “the nature/nurture debate operates around a false dichotomy: the assumption that biology, on one hand, and lived experience, on the other, affect us in fundamentally different ways” (LeDoux), is, I feel, one of the most informed statements on the subject that I am able to find. Modern Neuroscience has shown that both nature and nurture affect the brain in much the same way, “Both achieve their affects by altering the synaptic organization of the brain” (LeDoux).
Nature is seen as the physical traits and possibly the behavioral traits that are passed from generation to generation through genes. According to Newman and Newman, “Some characteristics are controlled by a single gene. However, most significant characteristics, such as height, weight, blood group, skin color, and intelligence are guided by the combined action of several genes” (96). They also go on to explain that when a characteristic comes from multiple sources, the chances of individual differences increase. Therefore, the variety of phenotypes is astronomical.
Just because your father is the president of the United States, doesn’t mean you will be too because you have his genes. I agree that there are some traits that are passed on through genes and there are some diseases that are very specifically linked to one particular gene. This explains why, from the nature side of the argument, we actually see things that we acquire from our parents. I, like many, physically resemble my parents and siblings. Looking into history through photographs and paintings we can even find similarities in our ancestries.
However, I do not believe that our genes solely make up who we are as an entire human being. This is where the nurturing side of the argument comes in. Nurture is the idea that we behave the way we do because of how we are raised. However, many researchers believe that we are a product of our environments and as such, we react to stimuli in our environment. B. F. Skinner conducted many experiments involving human behavior and came to the conclusion that people, just like animals could be conditioned to behave a certain way when given a particular stimulus.
Joseph E. LeDoux’s opinion on this matter illustrates the idea of conditioning and behavior for us. He has suggested that we have an almost unconscious ability to detect and react to danger, what we might call a reflex (like how our hand jerks back when we touch something hot). However, it is suggested that, “…most of the stimuli that make us afraid are programmed into the brain not by evolution, but by our individual experiences. We are born with the ability to act afraid, but we usually have to learn precisely what to fear” (LeDoux).
All in all it comes down to scientists being able to prove the theories one way or another. Kimberly Powell wrote an article entitled, “Are We Really Born That Way? ” It outlines the search for “behavioral” genes in order to prove the nature theory. However one statement really struck me and really illustrates the point, “While a gene may increase the likelihood that you’ll behave in a particular way, it does not make people do things” (Powell, 2006). It is just like a person born to an alcoholic father. Will this person become an alcoholic as well because of the “gene” from the father?
While this scenario is plausible, and while it may increase his chances of following that path, it is not a guarantee that the child will be an alcoholic. It could also be argued as to whether nature or nurture contributed to this child’s alcoholism. Therefore, we could argue that all men share commonalities in genetics, and we must attribute differences in behaviors and attitudes to life experiences, and parental influence. I have many similar attitudes and behaviors to members of my family, especially my parents, who tried hard to teach me their own set of core values.
If it was up to nature alone, I would have the “gene” to be artsy and crafty like my mother, but unfortunately even though I have the desire to be, I lack the skill. In looking at my own life, I can outline how nature and nurture both take part in the development of the person as a whole. I have a sibling that is so different from myself and our other siblings as to sometimes cause me to entertain the notion that perhaps she may have been adopted. My parents of course adamantly deny this and are also baffled by the drastic contrast of behaviors displayed amongst their offspring.
The only plausible explanation for these differences is in the company that each of my siblings and I kept while growing up. Many researchers suggest that it is not even parents who have the most influence. “…it is hard to imagine that children are shaped by their experiences with their peers, but not by what happens with their parents” (LeDoux). Let us look and my brother and myself for a moment, to attempt an identification of differences. We were born approximately 21 months apart and have the same mother and father, making us from the same gene pool.
We share a gender, so we have similar chromosome structure and hormone balances. Each of us had the same atmosphere growing up, watched much the same television and got into much the same trouble. Aside from a small age difference, one might expect us to look similar in many ways, even to share many of the same values, ideologies and habits. While this is true to an extent, we also differ in many things also. We do not share the same ideas about family structure, religion, industry or even politics. We are two polar opposites and always have been.
It is amazing to see how two people raised in the same environment by the same parents can be so completely different. While nature gives you physical features and possibly potential to develop certain characteristics, you are nothing without nurture which through life experiences can make you into who you really are. Can you really tell if a comedian’s child is funny because he inherited the “comedian” gene from his mother or did he learn it from her (or his friends) growing up? There is no one road to take in this debate as they are more closely linked than you might think. References
Eakin, Paul John. Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves.. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999. Fiske, John. “Popular Culture. ” Critical Terms for Literary Study. 2nd. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1995. 321 – 335. Harrison, Claire. “Links: Whither Thou Goest, and Why. ” First Monday Volume 7, Number 10 20 Aug 2002 25 Oct 2006 . LeDoux, Joseph E.. Nature vs. Nurture: the Pendulum Still Swings With Plenty of Momentum. 11 Dec 1998. The Nurture Assumption. 25 Oct 2006 . Newman & Newman, Development Through Life. 9th. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education, 2006.