- Education and Science»
- Psychology & Psychiatry
Nature vs. Nurture: Are we shaped by one or both?
The Nature vs. Nurture debate
Nature vs. Nurture is a widely debated topic in the field of psychology. The nature vs. nurture issue has to do with whether biology shapes who we are or environment. Biology is the nature side and environment is the nurture side. There are many psychologists who agree with one of the sides over the other while some psychologists believe that both have an influence on the type of person we will become. However, most contemporary psychologists feel both have an effect on us.
Have you ever wondered if you fear something because it is natural for humans to fear it or do you fear it because society has taught you that you should fear it? Have you ever wondered why you may have the same attitude as a family member, is it because of genetics or the fact that you have grown up with this person in your life? Many questions like these have forced us to wonder what the real cause of all of this is.
Nature, this is the biology of the person, the genetics. We inherit many traits from relatives such as hair color, eye color, height, etc. These are traits that usually cannot be changed naturally. They are a part of our genes that are encoded on our chromosomes. It is a known fact that all of this stems from biology, there is no doubt about that. What the real questions is, when it comes to nature, is whether or not more abstract traits such as behavior, temperament, fear, personality, etc. come from our genes as well.
Twin/Adoption studies are often performed to test the nature vs. nurture issue. What a twin/adoption study, in this case, refers to is when two identical twins are separated at birth, both are living in two different parts of the world and being raised by two different families (both non-biological). Results, sometimes even shocking ones, are found when the twins eventually reuinte and discuss their lives. What is often found is that twins raised in completely different environments share very similar characteristics such as the same interest, talents, personalities, behavior, etc. This goes to prove that genetics can have an effect on the way people behave and so on.
Nurture, this has to do with our environment. The question on the nurture side of the argument is whether or not a person's environment influences the person he or she will become. For example, if nurture is indeed the cause of a person's behavior, attitude, personality, etc. this would mean that others that surround the person have influenced a particular behavior if you may. This would mean that a person is not really born with a personality at all, it will be the people in his or her life or society that will shape the kind of person he or she will become.
British Philosopher, John Locke was on the nurture side of the argument and believed that everyone is born with a Tabula Rasa, Latin for Blank Slate. He believed that at birth, the mind is a blank slate and that our experiences write on these slates. According to this theory, we are born without a knowledge of what we should fear or how we should act, it is up to our environments to teach us how to act and behave.
In 1920, an experiment was conducted by John B. Watson and his assistant Rosalie Rayner at Johns Hopkins University. This experiment included an 11 month old child, Albert. In this experiment, Albert was given a white rat to play with which was now a natural stimulus. Albert showed no fear of the rat, in fact, he reached out towards the rat who walked all around Albert. Later on in the experiment, the rat was again brought to Albert except this time the rat was repeatedly brought to him with a loud clanking noise. This scared little Albert and because of the unpleasant loud noise, Albert would begin to cry. The loud clanking noise was the unconditioned stimulus which resulted in an unconditioned response. After awhile of Albert being exposed to the rat along with the loud noise, he was exposed to the rat alone, without any noise accompanied by it at all. The rat now became a conditioned stimulus. This caused Albert to cry every time he saw the rat, expecting a loud noise along with it. He now feared the rat because he feared the noise. This was a conditioned response. After Albert was taught to fear the rat, Watson continued the experiment by introducing other furry objects to Albert including a black rat, a dog, and a Santa Claus mask with a furry beard. Albert feared all of these things. Little Albert was taught to fear.
An overall assesment
It seems to be that there is a great amount of evidence that supports each side of the nature vs. nurture argument. While many psychologists may choose one side as their support and as much evidence as they may have, there is what seems to be an equal amount of evidence on the other side as well.
Yes, nature does effect us for the simple fact that we sometimes share the exact same characteristics as family members or by the fact that a pair of twins can share the same interests and personalities even though they have never met. And yes, nurture does effect us and we can see the proof through the Little Albert experiment alone. Nature and Nurture are both a part of our lives and they both shape who we are.