Thursday, November 5, 2009

Self-Analysis Post (UPDATE)

Here is an ADDITION to my previous "Self-Analysis Post" that was posted earlier:

My development of knowledge has expanded over the past month while creating this blog. In the first couple of posts, I introduced nature vs. nurture. Although I already knew what this concept was, I still learned from writing about it. For example, in my nature post, I did not know that the presence of certain genes cause an individual to have diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Before, I thought that everyone will eventually get Alzheimer’s because of old age. However, this can be reversed by the environment’s effects. Reading and doing puzzles frequently can reverse the predisposition to memory loss.

In a debate with two opposing sides, it is important for bias not to be present. In my blog, I introduced both sides and developed an argument based on evidence, not general assumptions. Facts that are relevant to my topic are introduced to support my claims. For example, in my “Evidence Supporting Nurture” post, I examined the effects of supportive parenting on substance abuse. I described how even though a child is predisposed to substance abuse due to a gene, parents can help reverse that by simply being supportive parents.

I also explored various topics such as my own traits, love, fear, homosexuality and blank slate, some of which were suggested by classmates who were curious about the topic. While researching some of these topics, I found further evidence for nurture. For instance, in my “Love” post I state that the foods children eat at a young age and at adulthood are different. You may have hated salad as a child but love it now.

Although I have investigated several topics, I have not covered EVERYTHING because there are numerous possible issues. Humans have a handful of traits (humor, shyness, sensitivity, ambition, outgoing, etc.), and it would be never-ending, or so it may seem, to examine each and every one of these human characteristics. The category of “human personality traits” is too broad to explore in detail. The topics that I have covered are either controversial or just interesting to explore.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cartoon - Homosexuality

Just a little cartoon to depict the controversial topic of homosexuality. In this cartoon, the person claims that he was born this way.

What made me laugh (although I am aware that this is a serious topic) somewhat was the second part of the cartoon. A rainbow of colors spreads out when the mother delivers her baby. This is just exaggerating the assertion that homosexuality is genetic.

(If you have difficulty seeing the image, then click here)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Implications Post

The answer to the question, “Is this behavior caused by genetics or environment?” is usually “both.” Strong genetic factors do not mean that environment cannot affect the behavior, and strong environmental factors do not mean genetics cannot intervene.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Why the debate?” Well, the nature vs. nurture debate became so contentious in the first place because people were curious and did not know an answer as to how people came to be, personality-wise. It is difficult to say that either nature or nurture shape who we are because both essentially do. However, there are strong proponents of each side who believe that nature or nurture has a stronger influence.

The simple acceptance of the statement that “nature gives us inborn abilities and traits” and nurture “takes these genetic abilities and shapes them as we learn and mature” appears to be the end of the debate. However, it does not stop there. Scientists are still researching to determine exactly how much of human behavior is attributed to genes and how much to environment. It is difficult to say whether or not this debate will ever end because as each day progresses, there will be more discoveries to be made, furthering the debate.

One technological advance furthering the debate is DNA testing. This opens the eyes of many in the nature-nurture debate because evidence reveals connections between a gene and behavior. When a violent gene is coupled with a bad environment, a child may be raised to become aggressive and violent. Supporters of nature attribute this behavior to genetics, since it first initiates the behavior.

The pendulum swings from side to side depending on the era of time. Earlier this century, it swung almost entirely to the nurture side as psychologists performed several studies favoring nurture. Now, since society is heavily technological, the pendulum swings toward the nature side. Like the nature of a pendulum, this debate will most likely keep swinging back and forth until the end of time.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


This is a video on racism in relation to nature vs. nurture. Here are some quick points mentioned in the video:
  • Younger children spend more time staring at different races from their own when presented with photographs
  • Toddlers notice race more than gender
  • Kids pick out friends based on skin color
  • Kids’ brains categorize world and assume people that look like them are more similar to them
  • Conversations about race are difficult for parents
  • Why point race out if it doesn’t matter? (Everyone is equal) But science says in absence of communication, kids will make errors.
  • Self-segregation at schools goes up as school diversity goes up

The information presented here is quite interesting. I did not realize how important race was at a young age. Come to think of it, did I think of race when I was younger? I probably did but was unaware of doing it. Younger children are still developing and do not know much about the world, and this is where curiosity kicks in. They are curious as to why people look different from them. The video also mentions that kids choose friends based on physical similarities. Now, people of all ages have friends that are completely different or strikingly similar.

The point about self-segregation at school reminded me of my past school years and the present (no doubt that it will happen in the future…it is inevitable). I remember in high school, people had their own cliques to hang out with: African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Whites and others. If an Asian was seen with a group of African Americans, it would be looked at as “weird.” However, there is nothing strange about this situation. Diversity is stressed in schools communities, so why don’t some people accept it? Does hanging with only people your own race make you feel comfortable and fit in? If so, then that is not right. As the old saying goes, “it’s not the outside that matters, it’s what inside.” For example, some people stereotype African Americans as those who usually commit crimes and therefore associate African Americans with “bad” activities. However, that is not always the case. People are programmed with these stereotypes from a young age and then learn to associate certain acts with certain people once they see it occur several times.

We are not born with the ability to sense that “African Americans commit crimes”, “Asians are smart” and “Hispanics are illegal immigrants.” We learn to associate these traits as time progresses in our early stages of development. So why are we so fascinated with race in the first place? Is it because our differences help define who we really are? Until now, I thought racism was all learned, but apparently it has its natural roots as well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Annotated Links Post

This image captures the debate on the general scale. However, it can be misleading. It appears that nature is stronger, but in reality, it is just two different people (although one may interpret it as nature "winning" the fight).

General Information
This is an page that provides basic information regarding nature vs. nurture. The website describes each side in the debate and then goes further on to point out relevant facts to support or counteract claims. Nature-nurture is not the same as cause-effect; if you were born that way, then that does not necessarily mean that you will behave that way forever. Personality can change over time.

Personality Development
An understanding of personality development is essential before delving into the nature vs. nurture debate. Personality is basically comprised of three components: temperament, environment and character. Temperament is the genetically determined traits, environment is the adaptations and influences surrounding the individual and character is the emotional and cognitive aspect. Personality is examined in the early stages of development (infancy) to later stages (adolescence).

Chameleon Effect
The chameleon effect, a psychological phenomenon, is mentioned in this article. This effect is similar to the nurture theory, in saying that people imitate the behaviors of others around them. The environment in which we live and the people around us affect how we behave.

Although not necessarily a link, this YouTube video sheds light on the controversial homosexuality issue. Two cases are presented: one of identical twins and one of fraternal twins. Both of these cases show that homosexuality is not ENTIRELY dependent on genes, as previously believed.

Evolutionary Psychology
This site has a section on evolutionary psychology in relation to nature vs. nurture. With Darwin and the theory of evolution, personality is formed for the survival of the fittest, meaning that our genes change over time to meet the needs of the world in which we live in today. Some of these evolutionary psychologists say that certain fears (death, injury, snakes) and traits (shyness, addiction, criminality) are inheritable, but this has drawn criticism.

Fact or Fiction?
Helpful to those who are gullible, this website lists ten politically incorrect truths about human nature. You all have heard various rumors throughout your lifetime thus far, and this Psychology Today article separates fact from fiction with relevant explanations. Topics covered include attractiveness, marriage, divorce and criminality.

Tabula Rasa
Tabula rasa, or blank slate, is the “modern denial of human nature.” Investigated by John Locke, this theory states that humans are born with nothing. However, this cannot be entirely valid because in order to acquire new behaviors, humans must have the inborn ability to learn. The blank slate theory does provide a strong argument for debate.

Some say nature, some say nurture...but a lot say both. Of course this is true, so you are wondering why there is an argument in the first place. There is an argument because exactly how much of a role nature or nurture plays in the development of personality are still at debate. Genes interact with the environment to form traits; it is a nature VIA nurture type of pathway.

So, there are the links that outline the general topic of nature vs. nurture. While researching, I found quite a bit more evidence supporting nurture. In the end, you cannot have one without the other.

Self-Analysis Post

Throughout the duration of this blog project, my knowledge of the nature vs. nurture topic has expanded. I began with the basic information about the two: nature says that genes influence behavior, and nurture states that environment affects behavior. I was aware about some controversial topics such as homosexuality and obesity, but I was not fully knowledgeable about the details until I further investigated the topic.

The question of inherited or acquired traits are at the center of this entire debate. People do not know what traits can be attributed to what cause. For example, if a child is obese, then who is to blame? Parents or the environment? An interesting concept that I came across while researching was the “genes being affected by genes” statement. By this, I mean that a husband and wife raise a child in their own home and teach them everything, confining the child to within home limits. What is this considered as? Parents share genes, yet parents also serve as the nurturing component. I thought about this and decided that this situation is mostly genetic. A child gets his or her genes from parents, and the entire situation is connected by genetics.

The definition of nature vs. nurture is “a traditional and long-standing disagreement over whether heredity or environment is more important in the development of living things, especially human beings.” This then lead me to think…what exactly is environment? When I think of the word “environment,” the idea of a person’s surroundings comes to mind. There could also be a family environment, one could argue for that. However, parents’ genes and the child’s genes are very similar, and being around a similar set of genes is not considered nurture. This is also supported by twin studies.

Observing parent-child behaviors is much like observing twins interact. Twins share genetic material as well as social and cultural environments. Keeping them together would do no benefit in observing their behaviors; they need to be reared apart. When twin behavior is observed when raised together, researchers are most likely to attribute behavior to nature, not nurture.

Another intriguing facet of my discoveries includes the concept of feral children. Investigating this topic made me realize the importance of education in order to become a human (Yes, that may sound awkward: having to be educated in order to act like a human being…but it is true). When you think about it, people must learn how to eat with etiquette, walk, talk, etc. These abilities do not come inborn; they must be learned. However, natural bodily functions are excluded because a child does not need to learn how to breathe and blink (these reflexes are more towards the biology aspect, which I will not delve into at the moment).

A few weeks ago, I caught myself in a thought-provoking conversation with my roommate. She asked me what makes us human. I came up with several ideas such as language and thought; however, animals communicate and analyze situations as well. The answer was a much broader one. Culture makes us human. Then I thought to myself, culture is learned and is not inborn…so this even strengthens the nurture argument. Who we are and how we behave directly correlates to our lifestyle and culture.

The statement of culture is learned reminded me of the statement “behavior is learned” from psychology. The entire field of learning psychology, or behaviorism, is to show that behavior is indeed a learned trait. The nurture movement was driven by the social sciences. Sigmund Freud stressed the importance of childhood experiences, and B.F. Skinner proved that behavior can be conditioned. Bringing psychology into the field creates a whole new world. A simple nature vs. nurture argument can be expanded to include several subjects such as biology, chemistry, psychology and anthropology, just to name a few.

This expansion of the nature vs. nurture theory led me to think about all behavioral traits and abilities that humans are born with or acquire. It has made me question my own traits, as presented in a previous blog. I have thought about how I have come to like or dislike certain things. Although I find lots of evidence for the nurture theory, it does not mean that I deny nature. Evidence is necessary in order to form an argument.

In the end, both nature AND nurture play a key role in human development. Nature is there before birth, and nurture presents itself after birth. Most psychological behaviors are connected to a biological behavior. As humans, we have the capacity to adapt to new situations and change our behaviors. Genetics does influence behavior and may predispose us to some ailment; however, genetics is not a prediction of life in the future. What you do and how you live your life is what matters most. While nature may be better at explaining mating, nurture better explains differences in cultures. Ultimately, it is the interaction between nature and nurture that determines human behavior.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This cartoon reminded me of a section in my analysis post regarding children raised in the wild. Trevor, as seen, was raised in wild by sloths. He therefore behaves like a sloth by hanging upside down.

There have been cases where children were raised in the wild and develop no sense of language, empathy or morals. I wonder if this can be reversed since nurture does affect human behavior. Before the child lived with animals, and now the child will live with humans. Will the humans eventually influence the child to act like a person?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tabula Rasa ("Blank Slate")

An English philosopher named John Locke postulated the tabula rasa (blank slate) theory, which states that people learn and acquire ideas from external forces, or the environment. Humans are born with an empty mind, having no knowledge whatsoever. People acquire ideas from the surrounding world, turning simple ideas into complex ones. This blank slate of mind starts off devoid of any knowledge, but then it is “written on” as a person lives and experiences. Therefore, a person has no identity until after birth.

The tabula rasa theory has strikingly similar characteristics of the nurture theory because the environment has the ability to shape an individual’s mind and experiences. Each new experience serves as a stage of growth, expanding possibilities and gathering new knowledge. Both nurture and tabula rasa view the environment and an individual’s surroundings as essential in forming human traits.

If this theory holds true, then how are instincts and intuitions explained? The critics of the blank slate theory state that the theory cannot hold true because then the mind would need to have the “ability to learn or apply knowledge.” An adjustment to this theory can be made so that the ability to acquire knowledge is innate. Other than that, the human mind is a blank slate.

Evolutionary psychologists believe that the human mind has been changed very little since the existence of humankind. The main assumption of evolutionary psychology is that the human mind is essentially a working computer, evolving and adapting by natural selection. Minds are pre-programmed with certain mental functions, such as perception and emotion. With this in mind, evolutionary psychologists invalidate John Locke’s tabula rasa theory.

The theory that humans have a blank slate at birth can be valid, to a certain extent, because the environment does influence traits and actions. The only exception is when innate characteristics are considered. However, innate ability and blank slate are two totally opposing ideas, so how can they coexist? Can you say that the human mind is a blank slate, yet the capability to acquire knowledge is innate?

Monday, October 26, 2009


“AHHH!!!” Screams the little child as she exchanges paths with a spider. Now this leads me to wonder...WHY are we afraid of certain things? HOW do we develop these phobias?

William Hamilton and George Williams, through Darwin’s theory of evolution, say that “fear of death, fear of injury and fear of snakes are main examples of inheritable behaviors.” Additionally, according to Stephen Pinker, an MIT psychologist, fear of snakes and spiders are in our DNA as a result of natural selection. However, not everyone is afraid of these items listed above. For example, some people are not afraid of snakes (don’t you remember those on the Discovery Channel doing dangerous stunts with snakes?). Also, in New Guinea people exhibit little apprehension when in the presence of snakes. It is not valid to assume these fears.

It is also a generalization to say that everybody is afraid of death. There are certain stages in life where the phobia is distinct. When you were a little child, did you think of dying? Most likely not. You were just born and just experiencing the world, yet to understand its complications. Death is a natural process, so being afraid of it makes this phobia seem unnatural. It will happen to everyone. Being afraid of it does not make it come sooner or later; it depends on how you live your life and the day-to-day events that spontaneously occur. However, “a healthy fear of death would be the fear of dying unprepared,” as humans dislike experiencing the unexpected: loud noises, sudden pokes and startling appearances. Being prepared can only go so far…you cannot be prepared for everything that happens in life. How does one prepare for death? A realistic answer would be to set up funeral arrangements and the details associated with the death process, such as clothes and burial or cremation. In this discussion, fear of death appears to be learned. Little children do not perceive death as threatening until later on in life. Also, with the snake example, fear of snakes is learned. What we see our environment influences how we view the world and how our mind is shaped. People develop phobias through learning and association.

Class Links Post

In addition to my blog, there are other blogs that you should visit.

This is a blog on the environment, and the main focus here is on climate change. The blogger investigates various alternatives of energy such as solar and wind as well as their pros and cons, which shows that this is an unbiased blogger because information is supported by evidence. The Earth is our only home planet, and we must protect it by being eco-friendly. Harming the environment does no good because if you are damaging the environment, then you are equally damaging your life. Where you live and what you breathe matter.

In addition to alternative energy sources, other ways of improving the environment are mentioned such as composting. Those who do not know what composting is can visit this blog because the blogger provides adequate information.

Going green and being eco-friendly does not have to be expensive, as proved by the blogger. Each small step develops and grows towards larger ones. With this, the change is gradual and beneficial. So if you want to know more about climate change and the environment, then visit this blog!

Drinking Age
Interested in the drinking age? Well, consider this blog. There has been a debate going on about the drinking age in the United States. It is currently 21, while in other countries it is 18. The legal drinking age was once 18 in the United States, but it was increased. Now, people are trying to push to lower the age once again. This blog is worth visiting because it examines an issue relevant to all college students, no matter if you are a freshman or senior. A freshman can get in trouble if drinking illegally, and a senior can be caught if providing alcohol to minors. Either way, the decision is difficult.

There are two sides to this argument: lower the drinking age or keep it the same. The proponents of lowering the age argue that since 18 year olds can fight in wars, vote and do jury duty, they should be able to drink. On the other hand, the supporters of keeping the age the same argue that lowering the age would cause more alcohol-related accidents. This blogger fights for the lowering of the drinking age because then teenagers would not be so excited to try something new and break the law. Drinking would be considered as a social activity, not one that is “just for fun.”

Legalization of Marijuana
This blog investigates the legalization of drugs and more specifically, marijuana. Ever since the beginning of the debate, Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” making this sound like a negative aspect of life. However, drugs not only do harm, but also good. Marijuana provides medicinal qualities when used appropriately. The blogger makes a good point by saying that alcohol and tobacco are legal and also pose health risks, so why not legalize marijuana?

The blogger describes the history of marijuana and how it became so controversial. Analysis of historical aspects shows that the “drug-as-vice” perspective has roots from centuries ago. If the drug were to be legalized, then people would not be so inclined to smuggle. Similar to the drinking age issue, breaking the law is bad, yet people still do it anyway. After several instances of breaking laws, the “bad=cool” connection is made; cool people break laws. Overall, arguments are very well-structured and develop a central theme: marijuana legalization.