For centuries, the nature vs. nurture battles have plagued discussions in psychology and philosophy. It is becoming clear now that these two influences may be friends rather than foes.
Despite our general physical similarity as a species, human personality traits vary greatly among groups and even individuals. The diversity of our behavior has influenced psychologists from different perspectives to more thoroughly examine what makes an individual act the way he/she does. This search has been mostly expressed through an ongoing debate that has been around at least since the days of Ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Is human behavior predetermined primarily by our biology or is it developed through our experiences and the environment in which we are raised?
Nature vs. nurture: the famous battle that has plagued studies of human behavior for centuries. “Nature” refers to our biology – our physical and genetic makeup. “Nurture” refers to our environment and experiences – the external world we live in. Which is the primary influence on our personalities? Over the years, this has proven to be a topic of great interest, with many supporters on either side of the issue. Indeed, some of the greatest psychological discoveries of modern times may have resulted from research conducted in the name of the nature/nurture debate.
Most psychologists today, as well as most biologists and philosophers, agree that both nature and nurture are important in the development of human behavior. Furthermore, it is generally accepted that the effects of nature and nurture intertwine. After all, as recent findings in neurology display, every psychological event is linked to a simultaneous biological event. Our behavior, physiology, and environment are all connected, each constantly influencing the others.
By examining the basics of each side of the issue, we can find further examples of how nature and nurture work separately as well as together in the development and expression of human behavior.
Each cell of the human body contains 23 pairs of chromosomes – 46 in total, each consisting of thousands of genes. We receive half of our genes from our mother, the other half from our father. Genes, self-replicating segments of complex DNA molecules, are the biochemical units of heredity. Essentially, they are the blueprints for our physical and behavioral development. Genetically, humans are 99.9% similar. The variation that still occurs in certain parts of our DNA, however, defines our individual differences. In fact, with the exception of identical twins, each person has a unique genetic profile.
Through the extensive work of the Human Genome Project, scientists have begun to identify genes that influence certain diseases and disabilities. For example, Huntington’s disease is considered a genetic illness, and there is a 99.9% correlation between having the disease and the gene associated with it. The same correlation applies for those that do not have either.