The relationship between nature and nurture has constantly raised controversial debates about the roles of the two factors in heredity and external behavior of a person. As a result, there has been confusion about the functions of nature and nurture in shaping human personality. Some psychologists have shown strong support for nature as a crucial factor that shapes human behavior due to genetic inheritance. However, other psychologists believe that nurture is responsible for the development of personality. This essay explores the nature and nurtures debate in an attempt to provide an insight into the factors that shape the personality of a person.
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Historical Background of Nature and Nurture Debate
Nature and nurture debate has been going on for centuries. However, Francis Galton is deemed responsible for coining the nature versus nurture debate in 1869 (Stiles, 2011). Since then, psychologists have engaged in many studies to establish the role of nature and nurture in shaping the characters of individuals. Each side of the debate has brought forth substantial evidence to support their arguments.
The availability of evidence to support each side of the debate has almost resulted in an impossibility to reach a consensus. As a result, the question of the roles of nature and nurture in the determination of human behavior has remained a dilemma amongst psychologists. Scientists are still pondering on the subject by employing the latest technological proficiency to study the impact of nature and nurture on people in an attempt to establish how the two factors influence personality traits.
In the context of this essay, nature signifies the effect of genes in the DNA structure that are transferable from a parent to the offspring. The nativists, who are the proponents of nature, base their argument on the fact that behavior and personality are transferred to the offspring through the same biological principles (Stiles, 2011). Nurture is used to describe the conditions that characterize the environment in which a person grows. The kind of experiences that people go through since their birth has significant effects on personality traits. The empiricists, who are the proponents of nurture, believe that a person is born with a blank slate or tabula rasa. Eventually, different experiences fill the tabula rasa with diverse knowledge.
The Impact of Charles Darwin’s Natural Selection Theory on the Debate
Charles Darwin is a great psychologist who is recognized for his famous work on the evolution theory. In his popular ‘survival for the fittest’ ideology, Darwin categorically pointed out that any creature must adapt to the changing environment to survive (Davidoff, Goldstein, & Roberson, 2009). In 1871, he developed an explanation of the emotional expressions in both man and animals based on evolution. In this context, expressions refer to the behaviors that are expressed by human beings that can be attributed to evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology is the study of how evolution has brought about changes in the lives of human beings. It explains the parent-child evolutionary characteristics that make them assume resembling or dissimilar traits.
Darwin’s theory of natural selection upholds that some of the most suitable traits to bring about adaptation to the next generation are more transferable through inheritance than maladaptive features. From the genetic composition of the two parents, the most adaptive features are chosen to make up the offspring (Davidoff et al., 2009). This situation makes the offspring assume slight personality differences from those of the parents. Exclusively, different traits are bound to appear in the behavior of future generations due to the accumulation of minute differences over time.
The interventions of the natural selection theory have influenced the works of many psychologists. This situation has led to many questions about how much the selection is possible for adaptation. The natural selection theory holds that blind mutation is responsible for personality. According to Stiles (2011), this ideology supports that nature is a part of the factors that determine the personality characteristics of an individual.
Francis Galton’s position on Nature versus Nurture Debate
A cousin of Darwin, Francis Galton, was impressed by the natural selection theory. This situation compelled him to pursue numerous studies to establish the role of nature and nurture in shaping personality traits, especially on the eminent people who lived in England at the time. He focused on the study of heredity and concluded that nature always prevailed enormously over nurture. His stand can be deduced from his innate views and nativism influences.
For instance, the two famous Indian feral sisters who were brought up by a wolf walked on fours and had a very sharp sense of sight, smell, and hearing (Goldhaber, 2012). Astonishingly, the feral sisters ate their food like the wolf and preferred fresh raw meat. This behavior is not ordinary in human society. The above examples have supported the development of a new school of thought, which holds that nature and nurture determine the character of a person independently.
The neutrality of Darwin’s Theory
Darwin’s theory of natural selection proves that nature assumes a vital role in the development of personality through evolutionary biology (Stiles, 2011). However, Darwin posits that human behavior is prone to change due to competition pressure. The reasoning is a product of intelligence that determines the way in which a person is nurtured by the surrounding environment. Both views in the Darwinism approach make his theory dualistic; hence, it is neutral to the debate. This situation makes the theory irrelevant in solving the nature versus nurture dilemma.
According to Goldhaber (2012), the controversial debate has compelled many psychologists to accept that both nature and nurture play special roles in personality creation. For instance, the behavior of direct twins who are separated immediately after birth is almost the same regardless of their exposure to different environments. This situation implies that their character is a product of genetic inheritance. On the other side, feral children have undoubtedly shown that life experiences that are acquired as a person grows are directly correlated with the kind of behavior they exhibit.
The nature versus nature debate cannot be solved easily. Empiricists such as Skinner, who managed to condition the behavior of pigeons and dogs have shown that nurture is crucial in shaping the personality of a person. Elsewhere, other psychologists in the twin study case have shown that nature plays a very crucial function in personality development. Galton proved that the powerful traits in geniuses are traceable through the family tree. His theory supports that heredity is responsible for the personality traits of an individual. Genes that are transferred to the offspring carry with them hereditary personality traits. Nonetheless, the environment in which a person lives leads to the adoption of other traits through reasoning.
Davidoff, J., Goldstein, J., & Roberson, D. (2009). Nature versus Nurture: The Simple Contrast. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102(2), 246-50.
Goldhaber, D. (2012). The Nature-nurture Debate: Bridging the Gap. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Stiles, J. (2011). Brain development and the nature versus nurture debate. Progress in Brain, 189(1), 3-22.