An environment refers to the surroundings of an object. An environment can be categorized into two broad categories: Cultural environment; which explains the culture that an individual lives in as well as the people and institutions that they interact with, and the biophysical environment; which examines the physical and biological factors along with their chemical interactions that affect an organism (Peace 28). Identity on the other hand refers to the principle of logic that makes an entity definable and recognizable.
Therefore, environment and identity as a study is an approach that tries to explain how the environment and its components can affect the identity of an individual. Social environment such as peers may affect an individual’s identity either positively or negatively. It can affect an individual’s critical and creative thinking negatively where by someone is incapable of making sound decisions.
Instead of making a personal decision, an individual first consult with his/ her peers. According to John Stuart Mill cited in Peace (56), an individual is expected to decide on what to do without the influence of others.
Peers can as well affect an individual’s identity negatively by separating an individual from cultural beliefs and practices, for example when a child goes to school and through the little knowledge gotten from teachers and peers, he tries to contradict societal cultural practices simply because such practices are not carried out in his friend’s society. Such behaviors therefore make an individual to lose identity which leads to a different lifestyle from the one expected by the society in which he / she lives in.
Conversely, an individual’s identity can be affected positively by the social environment in that we can borrow good and better skills from our associates, this in turn enables an individual to live in a better and expected life thereby defining ones identity.
Going by the assertions of Beah (126) when he marvels that black people can speak fluent English, it is evident that human behavior is shaped by environmental forces. The environment teaches behavior to rational actors as they learn through observation and modeling which are contributing factors to identity formation.
For the identified case, it is evident that the blacks acquired the language of their new environment and thus they were in a position to communicate fluently just like the white did.
Another excerpt of how behavior is influenced by the environment can be found in the love stories by Megan Foss when he asserts that he was missing his language that had no grammar rules (Foss 17). This is an indication that the environment that he was working in was influencing the persona to observe grammar structures in the new language.
This is an indication that identity and personality are greatly influenced by the environmental forces that people live in. For instance, in the context of the love letters, the university environment that the persona is subjected to make him observe his language structure as opposed to his village’s environment where grammar was not given a lot of importance.
In conclusion, an individual’s environment has both positive and negative effects to the actor depending on factors such as; how much someone is exposed to a particular environment, the level of personality of an individual and how immediate the influencing factor is.
For instance, immediate friends, parents and guardians affect the identity of an individual more than external factors like acquired knowledge from media sources. This therefore confirms that an individual’s identity is shaped by that person’s environment.
Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Print.
Foss, Megan. Love Letters. No Date, PDF file.
Peace, Sheila. Environment and identity in later life. New York: OUP, 2006. Print.