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?

15 comments:

  1. You bring up good questions. I do not know if I have the answers but I do feel that an individuals behavior comes not only from innate traits but also from society. My question is whether it seems feasible to think that it is solely nurture? Such that each individual is actually born with a clean slate and then influenced by society. It seems to me that individuals would act much like their parents, liking similar things, speaking the same, and acting like them since they are nurtured by their parents from birth. This influence in their young lives is bound to play a crucial role in their development, right? The traits that do not correspond to their parents could be from other influences acting on an individual. I don't know I just was thinking about what side I found myself on, Nature or Nurture, and it seems that nurture is more feasible. Which side do you think is more accurate or do you believe it is a mix of both?

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  2. I have been exploring both sides and acquiring evidence to support the nurture theory. However, in my analysis post I looked at both sides.

    From what I learned in psychology, the childhood years are important because it is then where all sorts of traits develop such as language acquisition and thought processes. Where a child lives, whether it is with parents or out on the streets, will surely impact future behaviors.

    In the beginning, I found myself leaning towards nurture. If I were to pick ONE side, then I would choose nurture. Nonetheless, both do play an important role in human behavior.

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  3. nurture is the answer! having a certain behavior is the way your environment is.. not by genetics!

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    1. I find you to be a closed minded idiot, nonetheless, if you actually read a psychology book, you would know that both nature and nurture both play significant roles in human development. Things like sexual orientation, one's susceptibility to substance abuse and, aggression have all been linked to genetic factors, while all of these need a certain environmental trigger to set them off... therefore, both play a significant role in the development of the human mind. I hope you learn more about your topics before you become single minded again, otherwise people might find you to be quite unintelligent, and that would just be too sad. Have a nice day, Tori L.

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    2. why you gotta take life so seriously.. relax please Tori

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  4. All of this is really stupid! Anonymous C.H.!!!

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  5. thank you so much, this really helped me to get started on my behaviorism assignment. Your blog is so informative.

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  6. Thanks so much, this really helped me a lot. I am looking for exactly about this topic.

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  7. nature! you people who say nurture need to read the david reimer story. there is also a video you can watch, a programme on bbc called horizon.

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  8. does this theory in any way erasing what other theorist have been talking about

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  9. both genetics and enviroment conditions the personality of a person.consider Tiger and Fox who argued that social scientist who assume that humam beings behave simply interms of culture of their society this may be true but they are ignoringwhat they called the human"biogrammer"(a genetically based programme which predisposes humanity to behave in certain ways

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  10. Thanks, this is great, I needed this for an important psych assignment and your information totally helped. For those of you who said behavior is learned through environment, please excuse me while I do simple tasks humans wouldn't have known without genetics and adaptations... back... anyway, both nature and nurture work side by side, hand in hand and the versus in nature versus nurture should be tossed out, both play a significant role in the development of human behavior.

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  11. Every one has the innate knowledge, that come from the Creator!

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  12. I think that Locke's tabula rosa theory can account for people's ability to learn or apply knowledge. In learning and acquiring ideas and language, the baby/toddler gains an understanding of how to learn or acquire this knowledge. This is not innate, it is developed and learned from interactions with the environment. Children are sensory creatures (with Locke himself was an advocate of sensory learning) a trait learned from repeated attmepts to interact with their environment. As infants become more physically developed and adroit, they can focus better, for example, to see colour and use their fine motor skills to manipulate objects. In this way, the blank slate is written on.

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