Debates and controversies in the field of psychology have existed for several years and continue to be transformed as new evidence emerges from research and practice. Therefore, while certain concepts and theories are unanimously accepted among psychologists, there are some that remain controversial to date. As such, there are differing opinions as to how some issues ought to be incorporated into psychological practice. One of the issues that have characterized contemporary debates in psychology concerns factors influencing human behavior. Psychologists express varied opinions as to what between environmental factors and biological factors has a greater influence on an individuals behavior or personality. This debate if often referred to as nature vs. nurture debate in psychology. Nature refers to a set of various factors that within the human body such as genes. On the other hand, nurture refers to an individuals interaction with the external environment, for example, the way in which one is brought up.
On the one hand of the argument, psychologists posit that human behavior is largely influenced by nature. Theorists supporting this view derive their arguments from the role of genetic transformation and its impact on human development. Numerous psychological studies point to the influence of genes on shaping physical characteristics such as skin pigmentation, eye color, as well as the spread of certain diseases. Also, other studies show the impact of genes on cognitive development as well as other issues such as language acquisition.
On the other hand, environmentalists argue that it is the environment that shapes ones personality to a large extent. They argue that the human mind, at birth, is empty or tabula rasa. Consequently, right from infancy, ones cognitive development begins to take shape as they interact with the external environment. One learns from their association or interactions with others in their surroundings, thereby developing their mind and building their character and behavior.
Nevertheless, in the midst of the debate, I am of the opinion that both nature and nature have an enormous impact on human life affecting different aspects of an individuals life. Both elements affect an individuals traits such as weight, height, Intelligence Quotient (IQ), and ones likelihood of developing problems such as autism and other behavioral complications. Scientific studies comparing the extent to which both nature and nurture affect human life show that the two elements vary. Each of them influences human life in a different way, and different individuals respond differently to influences of either nature or nature. This paper will discuss the impact of both elements on human life and show which of them has more influence than the other.
Nature vs. nurture debate is more about the influence of genetic inheritance and the impact of environmental factors on the development of a person. Nature refers to inborn or innate qualities of an individual that are inherited from ones parents or ancestors. This is also known as innatism or nativism in modern science. Nurture, on the other hand, refers to environmental experiences that shape ones physical or behavioral characteristics. Nurture includes prenatal, parental family and peer influences on an individual, as well as other environmental factors such as media and socio-economic status. The debate about nature and nurture is one of the oldest scientific debates dating back to ancient Greek philosophy. Ancient philosophers like Socrates and Plato believed that humans are conceived with innate attributes that persist regardless of environmental factors. Later on, philosopher John Locke introduced the term tabula rasa, a view that individuals acquire all their traits from the environment. These have been two leading schools of thought in scientific and behavioral studies in recent years.
Those in favor nature base their arguments on genetic studies while those in support of nurture base their arguments on behavioral studies conducted by psychologists such as Ivan Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner. Many scientific studied have been conducted to determine the level of influence of both nature and nurture on human development. A study carried out on identical twins and adoption, where twins are separated from each other and taken for adoption by different families. These studies have shown that separated identical twins share issues such as health complications, personalities, IQ levels and other interests. The twins, however, show tremendous differences in terms of their moral, political or religious beliefs. These studies show that both genetics and the environment contribute to ones development. Whereas ones environment or nurture, impacts on an individuals moral, religious or political opinions, nature or heredity has an enormous impact on the overall personality of an individual.
Maslows theory on hierarchy of needs is also important in explaining the influence of nature and nurture on human life. The hierarchy was developed by Abraham Maslow to explain motivations of individuals to attain certain goals in life. At the lower end of the pyramid are basic needs such as food, water, clothes and shelter; while the highest level of the pyramid contains self-actualization issues such as morality and creativity. Maslows hierarchy can also be used to explain the influence of nurture on human development.
According to the hierarchy, when an individual in a lower category is not having some of his or her needs satisfied, he or she will not be concerned about other needs in high ranks on the pyramid because they are less important. Such an individual will be concerned about meeting the needs in his or her hierarchy. When a child is born, they have great potential with an IQ as high as a score of 130. As the child grows up, he encounters many challenges in his environment in an attempt to meet all the needs in his hierarchy. As a result, the childs IQ reduces significantly, as they grow into adulthood, and they may never achieve their full potential. Maslows hierarchy, therefore, shows the influence of ones environment or nurture on their development.
To conclude, it is quite clear that both nature and nurture exert influence human development in very different ways. Scientists have attempted to study the impact, and extent of each of these elements in human development over the years, but what comes out clearly is that both nature and nurture are essential in human development.
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