Nature V. Nurture: Individual Differences In Physical And Behavioral Traits Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Human, Family, Psychology, Nature, Behavior, Environment, Development, Children

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2021/02/18

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In the seminal collection of works known as the Analects, renowned Chinese scholar Confucius declared: “Men’s natures are like; it is their habits that carry them far apart” (Myers, 2008). Determining and assessing the extent that human characteristic traits and behaviors are governed by the environment and/or genetics is critical from a theoretical standpoint and view within the field of psychology. Humans indeed share an adaptive capacity that has emerged as a hallmark trait of fundamental human behaviors (Myers, 2008, p. 71). As such, basic, normative, and physical human traits such as having symmetrical two ears and two eyes, develop in a homogenous fashion within any environment while other characteristic traits manifest themselves based on a confluence of factors. If an individual walks around barefoot all throughout summer in the desert, he or she will develop callused, hardened, toughened feet due to the biological adaptation of the human body to the force of friction. The individual’s neighbor conversely would likely have quite tender skin on their feet in comparison because of the environmental effects and biological mechanisms that facilitate the development of the human species and the human’s adaptability to diverse environmental conditions. The analogy of genes and environment to the dyad “nature and nurture” exhibits how the two forces operate together in nature and create biological diversity. Genes are responsible for the coding of particular proteins while also responding to environmental stimuli. Ultimately, it is clear that humans and the human condition are the product of a litany of interactions between the environment and human genetic predispositions because genes influence how individuals react to and influence humans themselves, which demonstrates that biology does have real, material ramifications in the social and cultural arenas.
An evolutionary psychological perspective and understanding on human nature focuses on what makes humans similar by invoking principles that inhere the process of natural selection—the principle that inherited traits are passed down to generation after generation that increases the likelihood of survival and reproduction—to understand human cognition and behavior (Myers, 2008, p. 73). Human genes retain a capacity to learn and adapt to diverse environments, which has contributed to human fitness and their capacity to both survive and reproduce in order to populate future generations. A forty year experiment conducted by renowned Russian scientist Dmitry Belyaev and his disciples on a wild breed of fox perfectly demonstrates the principle of natural selection. Although this breed of fox was originally wild, untamed, and uncouth animals, over the time span of forty years, Belyaev selected the top five percent of the most tame males and approximately twenty percent of the calmest female foxes. He then measured the tameness of the foxes by judging their responses and reactions that the foxes gave when they were petted, fed, or handled. After four decades of observation, analysis, and assessment, Belyaev’s successor, Lyudmilla Trut, remarked that a new breed of fox had unequivocally evolved from their feral ancestors. These foxes exhibited an attenuated docility, a desire to please, a desire for the human touch and human contact, and exceedingly domesticated characteristics (Trut, 1999.p. 79). Evolutionary psychologists came to their conclusions based on the central principle that nature selects behaviors that increase the probability of transmitting one’s most favorable genes to subsequent generations.
The evolutionary perspective, however, continues to be critiqued by laymen and psychologists alike who fear that evolutionary psychology could spawn adverse social ramifications because it not only undermines moral obligations but also suggests that genetic and biological determinism are paradigmatic factors that are at the heart of efforts to reconstruct and reform society (Myers, 2008, p. 76). Rather than looking to the innate human qualities exhibited by an individual, an individual’s personal experiences as a result of environmental influences accounts for individual differences in behavioral and physical traits. Family, social structures, and cultural idiosyncrasies often influence gender differences, which manifest themselves in mate preferences. The environment profoundly influences behavior even at the very beginning at conception when parents nurture their children even as a child develops in the mother’s womb. Both nature and nurture play a significant role in the maturation process and in the development of a child’s brain during his or her early education. However, parents often are blamed or credited for the achievements, failures, and/or vices of their children as well (p. 80). Although studies have proved that parental influences do matter and impact the development of young children, such environmental influences do not impact immensely or change the trajectory of the human personality, as two children who belong to the same family often exhibit disparate character traits (Scarr, 1993). As children mature and develop, peer influences increasingly play a significant role in shaping their decisions and outward comportment in various situations. Harris (1998) studied the conformity of children and ascertained that preschoolers who dislike particular food groups because their parents force them to consume them are willing to eat those same foods with their peers. Furthermore, teenagers who smoke cigarettes are more likely to be friends with those who also smoke cigarettes rather than parents who smoke because of the perception amongst social groups that smoking cigarettes represents a cool yet pleasurable activity. Howard Gardener (1998) concluded that peer and parental influences are indeed quite complementary in nature because parents usually select what culture and/or society their child will develop and mature in.
Beyond parental and peer influences, cultural influences and cultural norms that include gender development profoundly shape human behaviors (Mullen, 2006, p.7). Normative behaviors differentiate and develop in an idiosyncratic fashion across various cultures and temporal contexts, thereby prescribing what behaviors are acceptable and which of them are not. Individuals thus become the product of their culture, traditions, experiences, and historical memory. Psychologists have come to a consensus that humans organize the world in simple, clear-cut, and often dyadic categories (p. 87). Biological sex is invoked in order to define concrete gender categories, which has proscribed particular characteristics and connotations associated with each. Nature and nurture combine together to cultivate various commonalities and differences in human comportment in public and private and behaviors, which the example of gender as a manifestation of social diversity reveals. Notions about aggression and social, political, cultural, and economic clout and agency have shaped the contours of acceptable and normative human behaviors for many centuries (p. 88). Gender thus clearly is a social construct that biology sets into motion and that culture underscores. The developmental experiences of humans depend on both biological dispositions as well as environmental contingencies and influences.


Gardener, H. (1998). Do parents count? New York Review of Books, 332.
Harris, J.R. (1998). The nature of assumption. New York: Free Press.
Khalidi, M. A. (2002). Nature and nurture in cognition. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 53(2), 251-272.
Mullen, J. D. (2006). Nature, nurture, and individual change. Behavior and Philosophy , 34, 1-17.
Myers, D. G. (2008). Exploring psychology in modules (7th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Plomin, R., & Asbury, K. (2005). Nature and Nurture: Genetic and Environmental Influences on Behavior. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 600, 86-98.
Scarr, S. (1993). Separate lives: why siblings are so different. New York: Basic Books.
Trut, L.N. (1999). Early canid domestication: the farm-fox experiment. America Scientist, 87, 160-169.

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Nature V. Nurture: Individual Differences In Physical And Behavioral Traits Essay Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 18, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021.

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