Over the next three weeks, I will discuss the important topic of personality. In this first issue I will present the debate among experts on this topic. In the second issue I will offer some elements of definitions, and in the third issue I will present some practical steps to master your personality traits in a way that supports your personal growth objectives.
“Nature’s patterns sometimes reflect two intertwined features: fundamental physical laws and environmental influences. It’s nature’s version of nature versus nurture.. ”
― Brian Greene
There is no common view among researchers about the degree to which personality and human behaviour are determined by genetics and biology, also called nature, or by environment and experiences, also called nurture. This is one of the oldest debate in the history of Psychology that will certainly continue for some time.
The argument for ‘Nature’ as the prevailing force in the development of human behaviour is supported by observation made by philosophers and scientists for thousand years. The Greek philosopher Galen theorized that personality traits were the result of a person’s relative concentrations of four bodily fluids, or humours, namely blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. In recent years, some of the findings in neuroscience and genetics researches have provided arguments in favour of the existence of behavioural genes through twin studies. It can be observed the same similarities in behaviour and response between fraternal twins reared apart and those twins reared together.
Supporters of the case for ‘Nurture’ argue that environmental factors are the real origins of our behaviour. The English philosopher and physician John Locke stated in 1690 that at birth, the mind was a blank slate and that human behavioural traits develop almost exclusively from environmental influences. In 1920, American psychologist John Watson decided to prove through a controversial experiment, that it was possible to condition fear of a white rat into “Little Albert”, a 9-month-old boy. He went on to say: “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years.”
In recent years, more and more scientists have been presenting a balanced view of this question. It is believed that genetic and environmental influences have a 50/50 impact on behavioural variables, and that in fact they are interwoven with one another. As reminded by David Rettew M.D. in an article published on psychologytoday.com, “genes have an influence on the environments we experience. At the same time, a person’s environment and experience can directly change the level at which certain genes are expressed, which in turn alters both the physical structure and activity of the brain.”
I personally believe that although both nature and nurture play an important role in defining our personality, each of us hold a significant power to influence and decide on our behaviours, and ultimately be who we choose to become.
And you, what do you think about this question? I would love to read your view in the comment section.
Peace, Joy, Love
Written by Maxime Yao
First published 26th March 2018