Brain-Behavior and Nature-Nurture: Two Interacting Scientific Debates

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Brain-Behavior and Nature-Nurture: Two Interacting Scientific Debates

Whether there is more behind human behavior than can be explained solely by neural phenomena has been the subject of much time-worn scientific and philosophical debate. In regards to this question, two primary classes of alternative explanations come to mind: the human soul and the environment. The former of these involves a possible internal, individualistic force guiding behavior beyond the guides provided by the brain; many feel that the topic of the human soul is best left in the realm of the philosophical. Environmental influences on behavior, however, are quite pertinent to scientific investigations into the brain/behavior dichotomy. Whether and to what extent one’s environment effects one’s behavior, personality, even destiny is embodied by the widely publicized and highly politicized nature-nurture debate. Generally, those factors thought to come from nature are those that are inherited, and those thought to be nurture-bred are inculturated. It seems, then, that a discussion of neural control of behavior necessarily involves this nature-nurture question; the interplay between inherited brain structure and inculturated experience offers insight into the roots of behavior.

Vitalists and reductionists, empiricists and situationists, geneticists and sociologists all have something different to say about the degree to which the human genome specifies human traits. Many of these traits are behavioral, thus, these people also have much to say about the role of the brain in guiding behavior. It is estimated that sixty percent of human genes are dedicated to neurological development (5). This is an immense amount of genetic material, and, particularly du...

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... still be subject to biased interpretations of which we are capable as human-mammals. “Our concepts of reality will always be shaped by our genetically-inherited mental models” (3). Subjecting myself to biased interpretations, though, I feel that an individual drawing breath each day in the context of many, nestled environments much akin to the Bronfenbrenner ecological systems theory **, behaves ultimately because of the brain and the genes from which it originates.

WWW Sources

1) Compton’s Encyclopedia

2) The Eye of the Frog

3) Sociobiology page

4) Of Mice and Men

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