Research Paper On Following The American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
The argument for or against the innate goodness within humans has been long withstanding among philosophers and psychologists alike. Many theories involving traits, biology, human nature, as well as behavior all plays their part in the argument. Consequently, each theory assumes it explains whether humans are innately good, or they are simply a learned part of our environment. Some philosophers believe humans are innately good, innately compassionate. They believe there dwells within us a moral code that keeps us from acting morally vile against one another, while those who act socially unacceptable are the ones who have done so. In contrast, others believe we learn the difference between good and bad, whether through social constructs or other behaviors allowing us to understand what is acceptable. While each theory attempts to make a valid case, it appears that humans may indeed be innately good, weighed down only by the amount of theories telling them they are not.
Innate goodness, as defined by, “The Persistence of Goodness,” refers to “one’s inborn ability to tell the difference between right and wrong, or good and bad, for which they have not been taught the dissimilarity .” Therefore, when one speaks of innate goodness, they are referring to one’s ability to understand what is good, or pure, without ever having been taught. Trait theorists, such as Gordon Allport, have argued since the early 1900’s that many traits were innate. In fact, Allport catalogued over 18,000 separate human traits he believed to be inborn from birth, and it is arguable that goodness would be one out of those 18,000 . While later, in his work, he was forced to categorize such a high volume of traits into different sections, officiating them as different personality types based on cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits. Goodness was named a cardinal trait, of which we all are capable of having .
Other theorists, such as biological theorists suggest that humans are innately good, but only by omission, and only in some ways. Edward O. Wilson explains in, “On Human Nature,” it has been, “discovered that humans are not biologically predisposed to be violent toward one another, though there is nothing to suggest they are born knowing understanding stealing or verbal abuse is considered bad .” Biological theory, therefore, offers the idea that humans are conclusively born with an innate goodness concerning physical violence. It is biologically instinctive not to physically harm one of our own. Wilson goes on to confirm that harming another human is typically down in a situation that requires defense, or a situation wherein the individual has been trained or taught to do so . This information suggests that a reaction against our instinct is then taught, rather than inborn, reinforcing the argument that, at least concerning physical violence, goodness remains innate within humans.
Humanistic theorists argue also for the idea that humans are innately good. However, humanist theorists do not only argue on behalf of physical violence, but all moral relevancy involving innate goodness. The author of “Moral Judgment and Action in Preverbal Infants and Toddlers,” observed infants and toddlers engaging in moral actions before ever being taught the difference between right and wrong, or good and bad . Hamlin’s study substantiated not only the argument for inate goodness, but also Maslow’s original work in the field, which stated, “humans are born innately good with the capacity to grow with genoristy, kindness, and love; all indecency is learned .” The studies involving preverbal infants, who were not able to explain their actions, nor able to understand the verbal commands of their parents or guardians only proved to show humans are indeed born with a direct moral compass, guiding them against any moral indecency, whether physical or otherwise.
Finally, there are behavioral theorists, who appear to be the only group attempting to defy the three proceeding theories standing for innate goodness. Bruce J. Biddle’s, “Role Theory: Expectations, Identities, and Behaviors,” states, “behavioralism operates under the belief that all or most human actions are taught. We are born blank, and those around us teach us how to act through the process of socialization; we learn our roles and what is expected of us .” Behaviorlists appear to believe that goodness is, then, not innate at all, but something we must learn. An individual is born, and it is up to their environment and those around them whether they learn to become good or bad. The theory is not new, dating back as far as Confuscianism. Revealed in Jinfan Zhang’s article to be a strict teaching of Mencius that is so engrained in Chinese culture, it is now a part of their lawful infrastructure, Zhang comments, “Mencius believed human nature to be learned; nothing about our inner nature was innate, but rather a product of society’s influence .”
Rather than relying on the inherency of trait theory, behavioral theory demands that individuals learn from their environment, those around them, and their own experiences in order to become something. While this can be an empowering idea in some situations, it is dismal in others. For example, a child born with an innherency for being good and kind can be indoctrinated into a religious occult who only perform physically violent bidding. Specifically, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,” affirms, “children are segregated and it is then unknown about their inherency or predisposition for one frame of mind or the other, for they are then programed to do the bidding of somebody who believes they know better.” The authors permit that religious occults do not always force their young wards to commit violent acts, or go against presumed inherent goodness, but the fact remains that the commenced brainwashing disallows any proof behavioralists may hope to observe concerning any inherent traits, whether good or bad.
While behaviorlists make a compelling argument, and we humans may very well be at the whims of our environment at times, there is simply too much evidence to suggest that we are innately good to believe that we are not. Furthermore, biological theory as already proven that all a behaviorlist is seeing when an individual learns to be evil or punishing, is a learned or trained response. It has been proven that with the right training, or the right learned response, that humans can override even the deepest of innate instincts, whether concerning physical violence or not. This information has been used most rigorously, according ro Wilson, on troops being trained in militant special forces across the world . Humans, essentially, need to be not only brainwashed, buy completely dismantled as individuals and put back together as different beings in order to commit acts of evil or violence in a more comfortable manner. More importantly, the committed act is only executed more comfortably within that moment. Many studies have shown these individuals suffer more, as well as longer, from issues such as post traumatic stress, depression, and suicidal thoughts once they have completed their tasks . The evidence further suggests that even if learned responses are able to override initial reactions, or innate goodness, it cannot override an individual’s guilt at disobeying their biological desire to be good to others.
In sum, though many theories have their say on the subject, only one appears to be against it. Trait theorists, biological theorists, and humanists all agree that innate goodness is not only possible, but probable. Biological theorists have managed to prove that innate goodness is factual in terms of physical violence; we have in instinctual desire to care for and be kind to other humans without being taught. Behavioral theorists, however, insist goodness is not an inborn trait. They believe traits are taught and programmed. This is true, to an extent; traits can be taught and programmed into an individual. However, the lasting after—effects of programming an individual to go against a biological desire as strong as not killing another human being are dire. The residual effects of doing such a thing is only further proof that goodness is innate, and to attempt reprogramming such a thing out of a human’s mind only expresses that individual may need to reexamine their actions, rather than attempt to change another person’s actions.
Biddle, B. J. (2013). Role Theory: Expectations, Identities, and Behaviors. Waltham: Academic Press.
Guha, A. S., & Guha, B. (2012). The Persistence of Goodness. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 432-443.
Hamiln, J. K. (2013). Moral Judgment and Action in Preverbal Infants and Toddlers. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 186-193.
LaFollette, H., & Woodruff, M. L. (2015). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Philosophical Psychology, 452-465.
Wilson, E. O. (2012). On Human Nature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Zhang, J. (2013). To Regard Human Being as a Standard, to Promote Morality and to Inflict Penalty with Prudence. The Tradition and Modern Transition of Chinese Law, 41-64.