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Nature Vs Nurture

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Nature or nurture? Or nature and nurture? 'The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated' Eliza Doolite, My Fair Lady (NB this is just an idea!!) Over the course of the last century one of the greatest debates in anthropology concerns the basis of behaviour, specifically whether behaviour is innate i.e. genetically controlled, or whether it is learnt through the socio-cultural environment. This is often referred to as the Nature vs Nurture debate. There are two main arguments on this issue. The 'Nativist' claim that all behaviour is innate believing that genes control the majority of animal behaviour. On the other hand, the empiricist position suggests that all behaviour is learned through an individuals cultural experience and conditioning - that individuals begin life as blanks slates. This debate has evolved such that I shall argue the question is not whether behaviour is innate or learned, but rather how much of behaviour, if any, is genetically determined - not so much nature or nurture, as nature via nuture. (Matt Ridley - source). One school of thought argues that behaviour is determinant, and that genetics influences on behaviour in a minimal way. ...read more.


Various studies have found that specific strains of mice show consistently similar aggressive behaviour between generations. This implies that there is a heritable 'aggression' gene which is passed on from parent to offspring. However, it was later noted that the differences between aggressiveness was in part due to handling in infancy. For example, the strain C57-black-6 showed increased aggressive behaviour when frequently handled in infancy (Ginsberg, 2001). Thus the simple deterministic view that genes control aggressiveness should be replaced with the view that there is an environmental influence on the expression of genes. The environment can provide the trigger for the genetic basis on the effect. The notion of a trigger in relation to aggressiveness has been accepted by ethologists, all the way back to Lorenz's theory (1966) which proposed that aggression is innate. He suggested that aggression builds up within all species, both humans and animals, until something happens to the trigger (which is usually specific to each species) that release, and that this building up is inevitable. There is no reason to assume that there is not a genetic trigger as well. ...read more.


This data again reinforces the view that both genetics and environmental influence can affect personality, though it does not provide insight into the exact nature of those environmental influences. It seems evident from looking at much of the data that the simplistic debate of nature vs nurture can now be laid to rest, and a new era of thought entered. We must look at behaviour as combined interaction between genes and the environment. It seems from all the examples that I have reviewed that the most important environmental cues come during infancy, and these are the ones that might mediate the genetic response most powerfully. This makes intuitive sense since infant's bodies and brains are more malleable than those of adults, and stimulation of various regions can activate development under genetic control. Thus something like homosexuality could be explained as partly genetic, with some individuals possessing genes giving an increased predisposition to homosexuality, and the environment in which those individuals are reared might ultimately affect the expression of 'gay genes'. The same could be argued for intelligence, as demonstrated by Huttenlocher. Once the complete human genome has been mapped, more meaningful experiments can be done, using infant environmental differences, and looking for relationships between the heredity of specific genes, and how these genes are expressed between individuals raised in different environments. ...read more.

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