As I began searching the topic I discovered human behavior is explained as a result of either nature or nurture and influences decisions far reaching from everyday households. It also influences social policy relating to problems like crime, poverty and violence. Research continues to challenge the genetics versus environmental factors and it is interesting to note, this debate has been going on since the days of Aristotle and Plato.
Both heredity and our environment ultimately create the potential for our character and personality to be all it can be through relationships and experiences. Additionally, studies indicate even prenatal conditions have direct influence on childhood behaviors and behaviors later, as an adult.
In addition to this research, a new idea has been suggested in an article, “When It Comes to Nature vs. Nurture, It’s All Relatives” by Becky Ebenkamp in 2004, that who you socialize with and their habits will have much to do with the concept of nature versus nurture. People with large extended families, who in turn have large social circles, are more likely to favor the liberal responses to issues that face our nation while those who relate to the expression “The family that prays together….” will most likely lean more to being Republican. According to Ms. Ebenkamp, this sets the groundwork for how problems are perceived and solved politically.
As mentioned, both Plato and Aristotle had views on this subject centuries ago, and Plato recognized what it has taken years for researchers to admit. It is not one or the other, but both nature and nurture. Plato believed it is life’s ups and downs and how we relate to them or how situations are handled that makes a human behave one way or another.
It is often believed in the business world that management and labor are not able to work together. It seems to be the nature of management to be against anything labor might find helpful or want. Businesses are now evaluating the idea of nature versus nurture and trying to incorporate ideas where the two elements could work together rather than being in opposition. In theory this idea can then be taken into the outside world and change attitudes that will ultimately reduce social issues.
Research indicates each of us has inherited genes that have the potential to mutate into something positive or negative. This mutation, however, often depends upon the environment in which we live; even to perhaps the prenatal stage, as mentioned earlier. What we do and how we behave when we are thrust into situations over which we have no control like a trauma, poverty or some other horrible situation depends on what we “choose” to do with the “cluster of genes” that is now mutating. This idea has huge ramifications in court cases. We do not have total control over our genes, …but we can still make decisions and are accountable for our behavior!
Social issues like crime, violence, social orientation and others are hugely political. People feel the need to choose, nature or nurture, as the culprit. For many years nature was in the lead and this has created a new problem. Many issues facing the nation have become “medicalizied” meaning if you have a “condition” for which we really do not have an answer we will give you medicine and you are no longer accountable for your behavior! So someone who commits a murder, but can blame it on a medical condition, may not have to bear the consequences. Even the issue of alcoholism is in debate here. Is it really all biology or is it also environment? Since alcoholism has become considered a medical condition it is assumed the person has no control; he is not accountable. This is not always the case. The bottom line is we still have choices.
It seems both nature and nurture are “players” in our behavior; not one or the other. Both elements create the conditions for our behavior. I challenge you this week to consider your personal views on the subject. How do you view “nature” or “nurture?” Who is ultimately responsible for their behavior? Does this idea have an effect on how you view social problems? I invite you to share your thoughts.