A lot of people wonder where they get their freckles from, or their edgy and thrill seeking personality. This type of curiosity about where people get their traits from brings about the worldwide debate on nature vs. nurture. There are scientists who argue that people develop characteristics mainly based on their genetic makeup, and then their are people who say that environment and social interactions has more to do with a person’s traits than do genes. People often question why people are the way they are. Nature and Nurture often have a big impact on a person, and can help in explaining why they are a certain way. The nature vs. nurture debate encompasses a variety of major topics, leading to the idea that both nature and nurture influences people in their behaviors and decisions.
Criminals go through different reasoning processes for why they commit a crime. They may have been brought up in a rough environment and are acting out, or because they simply just can not control themselves or their minds. There is evidence which suggests that there could be such a thing as gene mutations that determine our traits. These mutations control how the mind and body react to anger , whether it’s aggressively or controlled. According to Adriel Bettelheim, “researchers studying a dysfunctional Dutch family announced in 1993 that aggressive behavior may be linked to a single faulty gene that causes a shortage of enzymes needed to break down serotonin molecules that transmit signals in the brain.” This idea that criminal behavior may be associated with genetics, opens the doors to many controversial topics such as the insanity defense or the possibility of gene therapy. “For many centuries, people have tried to craft legal distinctions for the mentally ill based on the belief that they should not be held fully responsible for their actions” ().
The insanity defense is believed to often be abused and is the easy way out for guilty criminals to be held accountable. There are also people who support the insanity defense and say that the law needs to protect people who are too mentally ill to understand their actions. For some criminals, it’s not just a matter of their genes but more their environment that contributes to why they commit crimes. “Many social scientists say researchers, in a rush to ‘biologize’ behavior, are ignoring environmental influences, such as poverty, broken families and racism” (). A lot of times the reason why criminals get in trouble with the law, is because they are acting out. Being aggressive or going against authority is like their coping strategy for dealing with their problems. ”The frequency and nature of today’s violence can only point toward an inherent anger or frustration” (). Ultimately, both nature and nurture can affect criminals and people may never be able to fully understand what exactly leads them to make bad choices.
In addition to criminal behavior, there are also many other controversial topics regarding nature vs. nurture, such as intelligence and what contributes to people’s intellectual ability. “Mental ability seems closely related to the volume of those little gray cells in the brain; and differences in that volume seem to be largely a result of heredity”().Scientists are finding that intelligence goes along with the amount of brain cells (gray cells) towards the front of the brain which can be inherited through the family. There is evidence which suggests that if a person does really well with one mental task, they are more than likely to do really well on other mental tests as well. This concept is considered the general mental ability which is associated with those gray cells.
Although intelligence is found as being directly associated with the brain cells, many people believe that intelligence is also based on a person’s environment and how they learn. For a lot of people intellectual ability is not purely genetic. Their intelligence can have a lot to do with how they were brought up or their environment in which they learned. Someone who goes to school regularly will probably have a higher intelligence level, versus someone who doesn’t. How people start off learning is also important because often times, if a child is intellectually stimulated at earlier ages, their brain will mature as the child gets older and that child will have a higher intellectual ability because they started learning sooner. IQ testing is a very controversial topic because many people disagree over whether or not it is a good judge of a person’s actual intelligence. “The rift between psychologists over the value of IQ tests stems from a stark difference in the way they define intelligence: One camp sees a central, dominant intelligence, the other envisions multiple types of intelligence” ().
Although scientists have not found hard evidence to prove that IQ tests are not liable, social scientists continue to go against certain theories, such as the idea of general mental ability. They choose to believe and promote that there are different kinds of intelligence and everyone excels in different areas regardless of genetics. While genetics does play a role in intelligence, if a person works hard in achieving their goals they can become just as intelligent through challenging themselves and excelling in certain areas.
The worldwide debate on nature vs. nurture also encompasses addiction. In a study about drug addictions researchers found, “the correlations with psychoactive substance use largely resulted from social environmental factors in adolescence” (). Family environments are important to young children and can have a huge affect on them as they get older. An unstable family life can cause people to resort to drugs or alcohol to help them deal with their emotions. If a child has social issues with their friends when they are young, that can affect them as well and cause them to resort to substance abuse to deal with their problems. “As people aged, however, more of the correlation in psychoactive substance use resulted from genetic factors”().
As substances such as alcohol are more readily available to adults, genetics can influence them more and also their decisions. If there is a history of substance abuse in the family, that person is more likely to become addicted in their lifetime. In the 1920’s, “Alcohol prohibition lead to a rise in violent organized crime, a trend critics have compared to the ongoing “war on drugs”(). Because so many citizens used alcohol and a lot of them apparently became dependent on it, they felt they had rights to it; so they organized a violent crime movement to prove that. People who were involved in this war with drugs were not just the poor or downtrodden, but also the middle class and the wealthy. Addiction has no boundaries, and can affect anyone whether it is through nature or nurture.
Nature vs nurture will always be a major dispute over genes and environment, but ultimately they both have an impact on people. The reasoning behind criminal behavior is often questioned. Evidence that suggests there are gene mutations, which contribute to aggressive behavior, argues that nature can have a major role in criminal behavior, just like nature affects criminals actions. In addition to criminal behavior, another worldwide topic discussed in the nature vs nurture debate is intelligence. Like mentioned earlier, intelligence is thought to be determined by genes and general mental ability; but there are social scientists who believe that there are many different types of intelligence, determined by environment and not just genetic make up.
Addiction is another controversial subject because addiction can run in families but it also can happen to someone who had no history of it. Addiction also is very much related to a person’s environment and how they deal with their problems. For those who wonder where they get their intelligence and edgy personality, or more seriously why they feel aggressive, or become addicted to drugs, think about nature and nurture , which contribute to people’s personality and traits.
Courtney from Study Moose
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