Friday, May 02, 2008

Nature or Nurture?

The age-old question: What affects a person’s behavior more: Nature—a person’s genes and other physically intrinsic characteristics; or Nurture—the environment with which a person interacts? While the general population loves to put a “this or that” perspective on things of this sort, I have long believed that it is, in fact, a combination of the two. Science has now vindicated that position.

Daniel Nettle, Reader in Psychology in the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Newcastle University, offers some research presented in the London Times:

Today, personality researchers almost uniformly agree that the things that make you the way you are consist of a combination of your genes, your peers and the idiosyncratic, chance experiences that befall you in childhood and adulthood. Your parents influence your relationship with them – loving or contentious, conflicted or close – but not your “personality”, that package of traits we label extroverted or shy, bitter or friendly, hostile or warm, gloomy or optimistic. Your genes, not your parents, are the reason you think that parachuting out of planes is fun, or, conversely, that you feel sick to the stomach at the mere idea of doing such a crazy thing voluntarily. You can’t do much about your personality, though you can tweak it a bit with cognitive therapy.

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