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Intelligence & the Environment

Updated on August 11, 2014

Human intelligence is not only difficult to measure, but it is also difficult to define. For centuries countless studies have been done to determine whether nature or nurture has the most influence over Human Intelligence. Nature refers to traits that are genetic and inherited, and nurtures refers to environmental influences that occur after birth. While there is evidence to support both sides, it is important to look closer at how environmental influences are affecting human intelligence.

While learning is a natural process that starts from inside the womb, it is the environmental influences that will have the biggest impact on the progression of human intelligence. Many factors influence how intelligence is developed, these include family dynamics, social class and cultural differences. Family dynamics is mainly the idea that the way a child is raised will effect the development and level of intelligence of that child. Social class is a huge factor in human intelligence. Often times in a lower social class, there are less resources available resulting in a more deprived environment. In a deprived environment there educational resources are limited and there is less motivation to advance intellectually. Without the proper resources, intellectual development is limited thus making it impossible to advance.

Lang discussed that "Genetic potentials for competence and character can only become actualized in a stable and supportive environment, But the world we are creating for ourselves and our children is increasingly chaotic, uncaring, and violent. As a result, those are the genetic potentials (i.e., for violence and chaos) that are being actualized in our behavior." (Lang,1995). Without a solid foundation, it is impossible to expect human intelligence to reach its potential. While the genes in which a human being inherits can’t be modified, the progress and level of human intelligence can be. Healy states “Activities, lifestyle choices, and curricula change both brains and genes — for better or worse. They can nudge a child’s development toward more or less ready, and even cause or prevent learning disorders.” (Healy, 2011). This gives substantial proof that in the right environment, human intelligence can be improved and increased. It is the quality of environment that shape human intelligence and determine how far it will progress.

Many researchers are finding that while genetics do play a role in human intelligence, the environmental influences are what continue to have the most impact on where human beings are headed and what the future might have in store. Anderson argued, “Environmental influences would include phenomena such as family dynamics, linguistic and cultural preferences, religious observances, and place of origin. Many in research place a great priority on what happens in early socialization that occurs within the family, as well as the immediate and wider culture a child is exposed” (Anderson, 2009). During the first few years of life is when it is most crucial to encourage and motivate a child. During this time a child begins to develop patterns that will stick with the child throughout their entire life. The experiences children have started very early to set the stage for how well they will do for years to come. If they provide a with positive, structured and stable environment that encourages learning this will build a strong foundation that will have a lasting effect for the future ahead.

While genetics do play a role in intelligence, environment is what plays a continuing role. Human beings need certain things in order to advance. Much like a garden, needs the sun, water, and tending to grow and flourish, human beings are similar in the sense that without the proper care it is impossible to really move ahead and grow to ones’ full potential. While human intelligence might begin with genetics, it will definitely end with the environment. The environment is the flower bed in which the seeds of intelligence are planted. “As expected, studying more, working fewer hours at a job, and spending fewer hours on an entertainment lead to higher grades. The results also highlight the importance of mentors and the usefulness of neat and organized study habits.” (Parker, 2011). Parker explained that without the proper care and attention, progress is a dim reality. We are all products of the environment in which we are brought up. The way we are raised, the ideas we are, we have all come from the surroundings in which we live. While genetics play a role in a person’s intellect, the environment is what shapes human beings and continues to affect the development of intellectual growth.


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