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People behave differently when exposed to similar circumstances; behaviour is an element of genetic factors, attitude, social norms and perceived behavioural conduct that stimulates a response to a certain action or situation.
Psychologists have continued debate whether behaviour is a function of nature or nurture. Genetics predispositions endow human beings with inborn abilities and traits, whereas socialisation process shapes the inborn abilities and traits (Wendy,1999). This paper looks into how genetic predispositions (nature) and environment (nurture) factors shapes human behaviour.
Human behaviour development
Debates on whether human behaviour is affected by nurture or nature started getting attention in the 13th century when some psychologists supported genetic predispositions (nature theory of human behaviour) whereas others were of the opinion that the determinant of human behaviour is the socialization that a person has undergone through (empiricism theory of human behaviour).
Recent research and developments in psychology has found that both nature and nurture have a role to play in human behaviour development.
Biological processes (nature)
A child is a product of its mother and father; physical attributes that the parents had are more likely to be seen in the child. The child may look like the mother or the father and sometimes a relative. The child has these genetic attributes; they are hereditary. When it comes to someone’s behaviour, intelligence, attitude and character, the effect of hereditary aspects is minimal although it has a part to play.
Genetics endows human beings with inborn abilities and traits, they are different in different people; these inborn traits can be traced down a certain family despite the socialisation process its people have undergone. For example, some families are highly tempered while others prefer a peaceful process of solving issues (Vadackumchery & Kattakayam, 2000).
Scientists are of the opinion that abstract characters like intelligence, personality, and sexual orientation can be traced in someone’s deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) analysis. A persons DNA is a factor of biological genetics. Studies done on identical twins have shown that they are different in their own way; however, there are some behaviour traits similar to them whether they have been raised under the same condition or different circumstances.
Their reasoning, attitude and sexual orientation have a great deal of similarities. These similarities are proving that they have some genetic attributes deeply instilled in their behaviour.
Genetic theory of schizophrenia supports that children born by depressed or stress families are more likely to be stressed later in life whether they have been brought up in the family or not. For example, the world’s concordance rate stands at 1%, however the rate is more in MZ twins than in DZ twins where the rates are 50% and 17% respectively.
Research on gender attributes of human being has shown that the identity of whether one is a man or a woman is developed at birth. Some attributes cannot be shaped by socialisation factors for example the differences at adolescent and the effect it has on male and female behaviour.
In the support of genetic theory of gender identity, a research was done on Reimer twins, the twins were born male with XY sex chromosomes. After an accident surgery, one of the children was raised as a girl. At later stages in life before and after adolescence, the child refused to be socialized as a girl and developed male socialisation. This supported existence of male genetics that had been developed in the child at birth.
Some drawbacks of the theory of nature are that when adopted, it can be used to reinforce and justify indiscipline in the community like criminal acts or justify divorce. People may believe that people doing such criminal acts are doing it beyond their control since the genetic powers in them have the control over their behaviour.
The concepts of “born a criminal”, or “born holy”, may be used to define someone’s character. Of late, there is a heated debate whether gays and lesbianism should be accepted in the society; some supporters are using the theory of nature to support the behaviour (Shaffer & Kipp, 2009).
Nurture and human behavior
According to empiricism theory of human behaviour, human behaviour is shaped by socialisation that a person has undergone. The choice of one’s actions, attitudes, perception and personality are shaped by the socialisation that starts before a child’s birth and is unending.
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At birth, a child is seen as innocent; mentors, peers and the environment around him or her shape the character and attitude he or she develops. Supporters of the theory do not discount that hereditary factors affect human behaviour but are of the opinion that they do not matter.
Their influence is only that a person has to be born with some attributes that are reshaped and changed by the environment they are brought up. They are of the opinion that environmental factors are responsible of human behaviour. No man was born a criminal but the criminality in him or her was developed through the process of socialisation. The theory is of the opinion that the learnt behaviour can be changed or moulded by use of appropriate reward/punishment reinforcing mechanism.
People learn through observation and imitation of role models and the learnt traits are reinforced through the process called vicarious reinforcement. For example, a child may observe an adult being generous, and then the adult gets respect and praise from his peers. A child observing such behaviour may decide to imitate and as a result moulds its behaviour to develop a generous personality trait.
B. F. Skinner’s early experiments theory of operant conditioning supports the nurture theory of human behaviour. He demonstrated that human behaviour is moulded through stimulus. In the theory of operant conditioning, certain behaviour exists in the society if the consequences of such behaviour are known. Some people have the potential of being thieves, but when they consider the consequences that they will have when they steal, they opt to change their behaviour.
On the other hand, the theory goes in line with Sigmund Freud theory X of motivation, where they observe that human beings are lazy generally but they work in recognition of the benefits of hard work. Hard work as a human behaviour is developed from the benefits that human beings expect from the virtue but nobody was born a hard worker (García, Elaine, & Richard, 2004).
The sense of humour is thought to be a learnt behaviour that is influenced and shaped by the culture and environment that human beings are exposed. This explains why humour in certain area is not as humorous in another area.
The theory is supported by differences that exist in identical twins, it argues that if the socialisation process has no effect on human behaviour, then identical twins should be exactly the same whether raised under the same conditions or not.
Another observation is seen in discipline forces, why the police and armed forces are likely to think, behave and respond to similar situations in the same way is explained by their behaviour modification that takes place when they are under training. They usually are from diverse background but when on training their behaviour is moulded to behave in a similar manner.
The behaviour of human being is moulded by the environment that he or she is living in, for example, before school going age, a child have some behaviour that has been instilled by early care givers may it be parents or baby sitters. When time comes to go to school, the child is exposed to a different environment that he or she needs to adjust his or her behaviour if he has to cope in the environment.
Teachers’ advice children on how they should relate with each other. In the efforts of reinforcing good behaviour, teachers give rewards and punish children. In this case, the rewarded child learns the benefit of good behaviour or a certain virtue while other admires and moulds their behaviour in anticipation of rewards in the future (Cartwright, 2001).
Human behaviour is an element of biological and socialisation factors. People are born with some character traits that are dominant and run down a family. As one matures, the environment a person is socialized in moulds his or her characters, attitude, personality, and behaviour. Both supporters of nature theory and empiricism theory agree that nature and nurture shapes human behaviour, the contentious issue is which of the two is most dominant.
Cartwright, J. (2001).Evolutionary explanations of human behaviour. New York: Routledge.
García, C., Elaine L., & Richard, M. (2004). Nature and nurture: the complex interplay of genetic and environmental influences on human behavior and development. New York: Routledge.
Shaffer, D., & Kipp, K. (2009).Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence .New Jersey: Cengage Learning.
Vadackumchery, J., & Kattakayam, J. (2000). Human behaviour and law enforcement. New Delhi: APH Publishing.
Wendy, M. (1999). The nature-nurture debate: the essential readings. Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell.