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The field of psychology has always accommodated wider controversies in the debate between nature and nurture. Nature and nurture relate to an individual’s inner qualities as compared to their personal experiences in the world. Nature is characteristics and qualities inherited from the parents while nurture is influences from the environment. Until the 20th century, many people held the view that a person’s traits are acquired from their environment, which is the society. The society is the main socializing agent that usually dictates different aspects of an individual and in turn shapes how what the individual becomes in the future. Nevertheless, is it true that the behaviors are all acquired from nurture and none from nature?
The nature-nurture debate has caused a lot of controversy amongst psychologists and scientists. We praise people with unique characteristics such as tallness, yet we do not blame short people for being short. Many people love a musician for their music and crowd appeal, but do we love the parents or the voice trainers (Tabitha M. Powledge, 2011). Most human traits are not measurable making it difficult to determine whether a trait is inherited or learned. Take the example of the musician, we know that his talent is learned, but can we determine whether the genes for good vocal cords are inherited? This is the main reason as to why psychologists disagree. Most characteristics are not clear-cut to the extent of allowing the psychologists to judge whether they are inherited or learned.
Most of the psychologists have failed to agree and have disagreed on whether it is the genes or the environment that influences human behavior. In most cases we have always assumed similar structures and appearance with our parents, but our behaviors do not say the same possibly because of the environmental influence (Stromswold, 2001). Nature is regarded as the genetic makeup, biological, or inheritance factors that influence individual behavior while nurture is the environmental influences like the learning, exposure and the experiences that influences individual’s behavior. Various schools of thought like biological approach, psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, humanism, and behaviorism have had their opinions regarding the debate.
Nativists are the class of psychologists who believe that the physical characteristics of individuals are influenced genetically. Nativists argue that the skin color, color of the eyes, straight or curly hair, certain diseases like hemophilia, sickle cell anemia and the rest are determined by specific genes within the individual. In addition, the nativists believe that height weight and hair loss in men have a direct correlation with genetically related people (Wright, 1997). Nativists argue that the fact that those characteristics can be traced in the lineage makes it evident that human behavior is inherited. In addition to that, certain behavioral characteristics like the behavioral tendencies are all glued to human genetic inheritance.
Attributes such as human personality such as sanguine, melancholy and the rest are also believed to be genetically related. Nativists also believe that the changes observed in individuals later in life result biologically due to death of cells hence leading to old age hence not an aspect of environment. The biological clock has also been well studied and usually begins during adolescences and puberty argues the nativists. Moreover, nativists argue that the changes constantly observed in the environment are coming out due to mutations in the environment hence leading evolution (D. M Buss, 2011). Mutations are the changes in the genetic makeup of an organism. Nativists argue that the changes results because individuals struggle to survive and exist in the environment. Such mutations are usually inherited and spread to the next generation argues the nativists. It is therefore believed that the environment plays no role in determining the human behavior.
The empiricists are the group of psychologists who believe that human behavior is as a result of changes in the environment. The psychologists believe that humans are born with an empty slate in their brain as a tabula rasa. Empiricists therefore argue that as humans interact with the environment they gain experience which is further filled and recorded in human brain. The experiences further determine the basis of human behavior (Tsuang M., 2000). The empiricists further argue that the interaction with the environment influences the human behavior. Moreover, the empiricists argue that human characteristics result from the behavior influenced by the environment. That group of psychologists argue that nurture governs the psychological development while maturity is only applicable to the biological aspect.
Various psychologists and theories have been conducted regarding the nurture belief. It is believed that the attachment that the children respond to is resulting from the environmental influence of the parent or the guardian. Empiricists further argue that development of speech and language from the children is also resulting from the environmental influence that the infants get from their guardians and parents. That is why children will only speak the language they are trained to speak (Smoller, 2003). In addition, if no speech is taught to the infants they will not be able to develop good communication skills and may end up even not speaking argues the empiricists. A classic example is the Bowlby’s theory of attachment of 1969 that illustrated the attachment between the mother and the child at the beginning of life. The attachment is believed to be very critical in the survival of the infant. Further studies by Chomsky in 1965 also agreed that the language acquisition in infants is widely influenced by the environment (Plomin, 2005). Similarly, Banduras theory of the social learning also reveals that the observation and imitation from the environment results to aggression that is mostly observed in individuals. That is widely expressed through the Bobo boll experiment. B. F Skinner is also one of the behaviorists whose works have been widely studied. In his experiments Skinner 1957 reveals that the behavior shaping technique helps people to learn certain behaviors (Plomin, 2005).
On the other hand nativists have also engaged in a series of experiments to ascertain that behavior is genetically inherited. For example, the intelligence tests conducted on the separated twins sparked a lot of speculation about the nature nurture debate. Arthur Jenson a modern proponent in the field of American psychology was involved in experiments to determine whether genetic factors influences intelligence (Rokholm K., 2010). In his results, Jenson concluded that average I.Q scores of the black people were relatively lower than that of black people. Jenson concluded that the genetic factors were the cause of the big differences in IQ. In addition, Jenson concluded that intelligence is 80% inherited.
The empiricists were quick to disown the works of Jenson and argued that there was a lot of bias in that research. In addition, the empiricists suggests that the low IQ observed in the blacks was because of the social inequality in the environment (Agrawal, 2008). For that reason, the blacks could not be able to access some of the resources and materials that would play a huge role in improving their IQ. Further queries argue that we may look similar to our parents but our personality and behavior may not resemble those of our parents. Psychologists and scientists are now starting to believe that the nurture vs nature concepts should be abandoned and instead studies should be conducted on how much the two factors influence human behavior. The fields of psychopathology have garnered interests of late with scientists revealing that genetic predispositions together with certain environmental conditions are necessary to trigger mental disorders. It is therefore evident that most of the human behaviors are partly influenced by the environment and genetics (Brent, 2005).
Twin studies are carried out to determine the effects of genes and the environment to a particular trait. An example of such a study is a set of twins who share similar genes, are put to grow up in different families. In another study, pair who is not identical are left to grow up in the same family. The difference between the two studies is the environment (Agrawal A. & Lynskey M. T., 2008). The two identical twins may look alike but will behave differently unlike the fraternal twins. This is due to the set of environments they were exposed to. However, further research shows that genes largely contribute to characteristics such as personality and IQ. The identical twins might have the same IQ or even close while the fraternal twins may have different IQ. This means that nature is the main contributor to an individual’s personality while nurture only serves to shape that personality.
Nature vs nurture depends on how a person or a group of people interprets it. The topic is controversial because of the inability to measure the extent to which a trait is affected by the two aspects. I believe that nature has a great influence on an individual’s personality. I can state that nurture works to shape nature (Tabitha M. Powledge, 2011). This means that the environment will shape the individual’s personality. Genes work to give individual particular traits such as height, IQ, and weight, but environment determines how these traits are presented to the outside world. The inherited genes determine how a person internalizes information from the environment. Psychologists need to understand that the environment is a great determinant of who a person becomes in future but all this is dependent on the characteristics the individual inherited from the parents.
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