The Determination of Human Behaviour
The nature versus nurture debate has spanned over decades, and is becoming more
heated in the recent years. Following the mapping of the human genome, scientists are pursuing
the possibility of controlling human behaviour such as homicidal tendencies or insanity through
the manipulation of genes. Is this possible for us to ensure that humans behave in certain ways
under certain circumstances in future?
This is highly doubtful, as the determination of human behaviour depends not only on
genes (nature), but also on the environment (nurture). It is usually the “joint product of genes and
environment”, one of the first principles in Leda Cosmides and John Tooby in “Evolutionary
Psychology: Nature and Nurture” (attached). This remains our group’s thesis.
Take for example this Calvin and Hobbes strip.
We assume that duplication is the same as cloning and therefore the two Calvins are
genetically similar. Hobbes (that is the tiger) implies in the last frame that the two are similar in
behaviour. Ignoring the absurdity, it brings us to a question: Do genetically similar people
behave the same way? That is, can nature alone determine how one behaves?
This seems quite impossible. Take another fictitious, but thought-provoking, example in
Mowgli, from “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling. He is genetically similar to all human
beings and much less so to wolves, bears and panthers, but he behave more like the wild
animals. In this case, it is certainly clear that nature alone cannot determine human nature. The
environment makes a difference.
Behaviour genetics is the study of the extent to which heredity (genes) influence human
behaviour. Genes are found in chromosomes which are made up of deoxyribonucleic acid
(DNA). Our DNA strand determines not only our physical characteristics (known to soem as our
genetic architecture) but also our psychological make up. The human genome project has
isolated certain genes responsible for certain behaviour traits. For example dopamine is
responsible for “risk-seeking” behaviour, as well as hyperactivity (The Economist June 1st).
Although the probability of altering genetic make-up and therefore human behaviour is
... middle of paper ...
...nbsp; The effects of the environment also does not explain why some traits runs in the family.
Charles Darwin, father of behaviour genetics, noted in 1872 that a gentleman had a habit of
raising his arm in front of his face when sleeping and dropping it with a jerk hence hitting his
nose (Darwin, C. The expression of the emotions in man and animals) This is an uncommon
trait. However, years after his death, his son and daughter are also found with the same trait.
Environment cannot give a suitable explanation for this trait. It also does not explain how
identical twins who grow up apart can have the same behaviourism and why while biological
children tend to behave like their parents whereas most adopted children do not. (As found by
the twin study and adopted study of University of Lousiana )
Therefore, it can be concluded that neither nature and nurture is exclusively responsible
for determining human behaviour. Although genes contribute to our physical characteristics
(some of which affects our behaviour) and our psychological frame of mind, our experience and
education are also important in determining who and what we are.
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