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The purpose of this essay is to describe the arguments relating to nature nurture, providing evidence for both sides of the debate.

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Introduction

Nature Nurture Jennifer Thomson Tutor: Lorna Smith The purpose of this essay is to describe the arguments relating to nature nurture, providing evidence for both sides of the debate. In addition, an analysis of this evidence will be given and a measured conclusion drawn from the evaluation of such. When attempting to understand the composition and contributing factors to the human personality, both nature and nurture should be taken into consideration, in order to develop a balanced conclusion. When articulating this debate it is imperative to understand a definition of both nature and nurture. Nature is the term used to describe the genetic or inherent characteristics of a human and nurture is the term used to define the environmental factors, which contribute to the human persona. Both nature and nurture are now commonly viewed as intrinsic factors, which influence the character of an individual, thus psychologists are interested in the factors which influence behaviour both before and after birth. However this debate has been one of the most controversial and long-standing issues within psychology. Philosopher John Locke, writing in the 17th century surmised that all humans are born "tabularasa", which is the Latin word, meaning "blank slate". Locke suggested that all individuals have the freedom to determine their disposition. This extends the reader an approximation on the length of this debate. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabula_rasa) In opposition to this claim was Francis Galton, who coined the phrase 'nature nurture' in 1883, who published a paper on "Hereditary genius", in which he suggested that typically all distinguished individuals within society were related and that genius is therefore passed on throughout the generations. Galton even went on to argue that individuals with lower levels of intelligence should be prevented from reproducing children. Extremists such as Adolf Hitler later adopted this view during World War two, which subsequently caused the holocaust. (Hayes, 1998, page 31) The quest to distinguish between the biological characteristics of an individual and the effects of environmental stimulus has aroused the interests of many intellects for the past 300 years. ...read more.

Middle

However, environmental factors are now acknowledged as a significant input to these characteristics. It has been documented that children with Down's syndrome under-achieve as a consequence of low-expectations and lack of environmental stimulus extended by parents, deriving from their presumed inability to learn and possibly the stigma attached to this disability. Bayley et al, in 1971 suggested that with the correct 'environmental condition', the IQ of children with Down's syndrome could be improved, resulting in their participation in mainstream education. (Hayes, 1998, page 3-4) It is not only genetic characteristics that are passed on throughout the generations. Some children also appear to inherit behavioural characteristics, such as similar mannerisms and habits, which are virtually the same as their fathers or Grandfathers etc. The genes, which have been passed on throughout the family linage, are commonly presumed to account for these behavioural characteristics. However, there is another explanation - behaviour is learned through experience and in fact may have been 'picked up' through children copying their role models. In 1913, J.B Watson advocated that his theory of Behaviourism should be the new way in which to scientifically study the human mind. Behaviourism is the school of thought, which maintains that behaviour is the only exterior representation of the mind and therefore the only way to observe the mind is to watch the product of its activity through behaviour. Watson maintained that the characteristics of an individual are learned behaviour, apart from rage, fear and love, and as such stated that if he were given "a dozen healthy infants...I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select". Adapting Ivan Pavlov's unintentional discovery of classical conditioning, Watson attempted to conduct a similar study to illustrate the diversity of emotional responses, which can be conditioned in humans. In his 1920's study of 'Little Albert', Watson together with Rosalie Rayner produced a laboratory experiment from which they could condition fear of an object into 'Little Albert', an 11month old baby, who prior to the experiment was referred to as "stolid and unemotional". ...read more.

Conclusion

Freud illustrates that the id is still apparent throughout maturation and its demise is dependant on the environmental factors, which either enforce this selfish behaviour or detracts from it. The ego's development is also subject to environmental stimulus and subsequently cannot develop without interaction, to realise that the demands of the id are irrational. Therefore the ego needs stimulus to learn negotiation - a key social skill. The superego must understand right from wrong to allow it to fulfil its purpose. Learning right or wrong is also an interactive process, which requires a conscience. However, the conscience is only available to those aware of what qualifies as wrongdoing. If this is not learned via the environment or parents, it may never develop. In this writers' opinion, biological influences are vitally important pertaining to gender. The case study of David Reimer from 1966 onwards, contributes to understanding the typical inherent need to fulfil predetermined aspects of genetics such as the 23rd chromosome determining the sex of an individual. However, this is possibly the most difficult aspect of the human persona to alter, without the individual feeling the need to change(sexual differentiation). Perhaps it would have been easier to alter David's habits, such as his mannerisms, via the environment, as opposed to changing his gender. The environment is unquestionably important when attempting to ascertain which element - nature or nurture - contributes more significantly to individual character. With reference to Watson's 1920's study of 'baby Albert', it is possible to extend a significant amount of credence to the environmental factors contributing to the formation of personality. Baby Albert concluded the classical conditioning experiment with phobia 'in hand', after a mere 6 weeks of conditioning. In addition, the Freudian concept of the three inherent elements of the mind, which as Freud suggests all function intrinsically with the environment, offers significant credence to the crossover theory. In conclusion it would appear that an amalgamation of both nature and nurture contribute to the personality of an individual. ...read more.

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