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Nature vs Nurture

There have debates whether “nature” or “nurture” is what clearly affects human development. Some say that human development is primarily affected by the person’s experiences. Some argue that genes affect the person’s personality and behavior. As this debate has not resulted to the definite answer, this paper will present the sides of “nature” and “nurture” in human development. The concept of nature vs. nurture has been under the limelight as early as the 13th century in France (Powell, 2009, p. 1). There were scientists and philosophers who have their differing opinion regarding the primary influencing factor of human development.

Philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rosseau firmly believe that a person possesses a “natural, unspoiled state” or a mind that is tabula rasa (blank state) which becomes altered because of experiences. Rosseau claimed that “human development was…a function of experience. However, several scientists such as Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, and Sir Francis Galton believe in the importance of heredity or genes in human development (Kessenich and Morrison, 2009). “Nature” “Nature” refers to the genetic influence on human development.

For many years, scientists, especially those who were involved in plant and animal breeding, have determined that certain traits can be established by genes in each human cell. These traits are eye color, freckles, and hair color, to name a few. There are also abstract traits which are said to be incorporated in a DNA. These include personality, intelligence, sexual orientation, and aggression (Powell, 2009, p. 1). The further advance the arguments of those who believe in “nature” as primary influence in human development, studies were conducted on twins.

One such study was the Minnesota Twin studies which showed the impact of genetics in human cognitive abilities and personality. One of the surprising results of the study was that identical twins that grew in different environments were similar in many ways compared to fraternal twins who were born and raised within the same family. To further solidify this evidence, personality tests were conducted. The results showed that there were similarities in personality profiles in a set of identical twins. Surprisingly, one of the twins was raised by a Jewish father in Trinidad while the other was raised by a Catholic mother in Germany.

The study also evaluated the medical life histories, which showed the importance of genetic influences on one’s behavior. In addition, brain patterns attested to the similarity between identical twins raised in different environments than between fraternal twins raised apart. Furthermore, despite the different environments, there were similarities from the medical and dental case histories (Pearson, 1995, p. 73). The study concluded that the identical twins separated at birth by adoption and raised apart in different environments have strong similarities that the “nurture” theory cannot explain.

Moreover, the study found out that there were little similarities between the personality and intellectual abilities of identical twins whether raised apart or together. The similarities noted were on vocational and psychological interests as well as psychological proclivities. Psychological proclivities include sociability, flexibility, religiosity, and conservatism (Pearson, 1995, p. 73). One theory which proved the importance of genetics on human development is the biological maturation. Those who agree with this theory believe that “biologically and genetically predetermined patterns of change” influence human development.

Sigmund Freud and Arnold Gessell, in particular, argued that an individual’s innate maturational means come first, then experiential influences come second. This argument was popular during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as a result of the advances in the field of genetics and the twin studies conducted and behavioral genetics. In addition, some researchers believed that abstract traits such as personality, language acquisition, and intelligence have grounds in genetics and are controlled maturationally (Kessenich and Morrison, 2009). “Nurture”

“Nurture” refers to the environmental influences on human development. Although genetic influence is not ignored, empiricists believe that environmental factors shape an individual’s behavioral aspects. Studies have been conducted to solidify this argument. One of those who conducted studies was John Watson, a psychologist who was famous for the “Little Albert” experiment. Albert was a nine-month old orphan, and Watson was trying to condition Albert’s severe emotional response. Watson’s experiment provided him evidence that an individual can learn complex behaviors when his environment is manipulated (Powell, 2009, p.

2). Another empiricist which conducted a study is B. F. Skinner, a Harvard psychologist. One of his experiments involved hungry pigeons whom Skinner placed in a cage. The cage has an automatic mechanism delivering food to the pigeon at a regular interval. Skinner found out that the pigeons related the food delivery to the chance actions they were performing at the time of delivery. Some of the pigeons performed the same actions. The experiment showed that a certain pigeon would turn counter-clockwise in the cage. It would turn two or three times between reinforcements.

Another pigeon was conditioned to thrust its head in one of the upper corners of the cage. Another pigeon was known for its tossing response wherein it would place its head under an invisible bar and lift it repeatedly. Other pigeons learned to extend their heads forward and swing from left to right in a sharp movement, and then their return movement would be slower. According to Skinner, the pigeons’ actions were a result of the pigeons believing that their actions would influence the automatic mechanism. Skinner also proposed that the results of his experiment also applied on human behavior.

He proved that conditioning can apply in humans in the same way as in the animals, particularly Skinner’s pigeons (Powell, 2009, p. 2). A study in 2000 showed a study which showed that sense of humor is defined by environment and not genetics. Humor is influenced by cultural environment and family. This study contradicted the theory that individuals carry a joke gene. This is because genetic factors have no impact whatsoever on humor appreciation. This is what researchers determined after conducting the study involving 127 pairs of female twins in London. Out of these pairs, 71 of them were identical and the rest were fraternal.

They were instructed to go into separate rooms and to rate, from 0 to 10, five Gary Larson the Far Side cartoons. Zero rating means that the cartoon was boring, 5 was the average rating while 10 was the highest, meaning that the cartoons were very funny (Viegas, 2000). There were three cartoons used in the study. The first one showed a dog ties to the mast of a Viking ships. It wags its tail upon seeing that its owner was coming from a burning castle. The next cartoon showed a group of people in a doorway towards a room wherein a composer is at his piano whose head is at the keyboard and his arm hanging to his side is just skeletal.

Below the cartoon is the caption saying that “the maestro is decomposing. ” The last cartoon showed a woman in her living room looking at a fishbowl. Her eye was distorted by the water. Another eye was in the window of the room, looking at her (Viegas, 2000). One of the results of the study showed that there were little differences to the responses of the identical twins and the fraternal twins. In addition, it showed that the fraternal twins have responses that were in closer agreement regarding which of the jokes were funny or not.

One of the researchers said that one-third to two-thirds in the variability of the twins’ reaction to the cartoon was attributed to the environmental effects, in particular family upbringing. Authors have found out that genetic factors have no contribution at all. Other influences were classmates, teachers, parents, religion, and culture shaped one’s sense of humor (Viegas, 2000). Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoons were chosen because they have cognitive humor. Cognitive refers to the good sensation one feels when he understands the joke.

The sensation is brought about by mental integration of “incongruous ideas, attitudes or situations. ” In addition, the Larson cartoons elicit variable responses. The authors argued that some people love the cartoons while some do not. Furthermore, cognitive jokes are not generally offensive. What was interesting about the study was that in most cases wherein twins were the subjects, there were always results showing genetic effects (Viegas, 2000). Another way to explain the importance of environmental factors on human development is the environmental learning or empiricism.

It says that empirical learning has an important role to play in development. Behaviorists such as Skinner believe that learning comes from experience. Another perspective which supports this is the cultural-context. It says that biological and experiential factors are sorted out by the social and cultural context. Experience has an important function in forming the customs, activities, and symbols of a particular social group. Also, a person’s cognitive, social development and language are formed by social practices, parenting, and the environment (Kessenich and Morrison, 2009).

For many years, the debate between nature vs. nurture was existing. Studies have been conducted by scientists and philosophers to solidify their belief regarding the primary influencing factor on human development. The nature perspective says that genetics is what predominantly shapes human development. One study to show this involved twins raised apart and raised together. The result showed that there were little differences between twins that were raised apart and twins raised in the same family. The nurture concept, on the other hand, says that it is the environment that affects human development.

One study which solidified this argument was conducted by Skinner. The results of the study showed that human behavior can be influenced by manipulations in the environment. References Kessenich, M. and Morrison, F. J. (2009). Developmental theory – Cognitive and information processing, evolutionary approach, Vygotskian theory – Historical overview. U. S. State University Directory. Retrieved April 6, 2009, from http://education. stateuniversity. com/pages/1913/Developmental-Theory. html Pearson, R. (1995. The concept of heredity in Western thought: Part three.

Mankind Quarterly, 36, 73. Powell, K. (2009). Nature vs. nurture: Are we born that way? About. com. Retrieved April 6, 2009, from http://genealogy. about. com/cs/geneticgenealogy/a/nature_nurture. htm Viegas, J. (2000). Nurture, not nature: study says environment, not genetics, defines sense of humor. ABCNews. com. Retrieved April 6, 2009, from http://genealogy. about. com/gi/dynamic/offsite. htm? zi=1/XJ&sdn=genealogy&cdn=parenting&tm=30&f=21&su=p284. 9. 336. ip_p504. 1. 336. ip_&tt=2&bt=0&bts=1&st=28&zu=http%3A//facstaff. uww. edu/mohanp/twinhumor. html

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