A major portion of psychology’s career has been passed with psychologists taking a double-sided and double-minded approach in the nature versus nurture debate. As a rule, the greatest numbers of psychologists believe that both heredity and environment play balanced roles in bringing up a child. This is the era of genetics, however; a time when the ethics of genetic counseling are called into question. Evolutionary psychologists have also arrived on the scene to suggest that human beings are “hard-wired,” playing out the basic behaviors and intentions of their ancestors.
At the same time, psychologists belonging to the old school of the double-sided nature versus nurture debate, wonder how conjoined identical twins who share their genes and the environment among themselves may develop “different personalities, hopes, and ambitions. ” Is there something else behind the interaction between nature and nurture? – they suppose. Or, is it appropriate simply to believe in an undeterminable, invisible interaction between nature and nurture that just cannot be dissolved? How is it possible for conjoined identical twins to have dissimilar levels of intelligence?
If the environment can be seen to have had an equal influence on the twins in the way they have learned to speak with the same accent, why is it that the nature had to interact with the environment to compel the twins to begin speaking at the same age and at the same time as their cohort learned to speak? The complex questions presented above cannot be answered in only one possible way. Whereas some have taken the view that nature is simply a “cultural construct or linguistic artifact,” in other words, a creation of the environment; others have related nature to the character of God.
Most theorists, however, have viewed nature as a necessity in early human development, and many of them have backed up their beliefs in nature with scientific research. CA Thurber notes, In 1961, developmental psychologist Robert Fantz published a summary of his research on infant form perception. At the time Fantz published this work, the scientific community agreed that very young human infants could see light, color, and movement. Fantz and his colleagues set out to learn whether newborns had an innate ability to perceive certain forms,
such as faces. He and his colleagues had already shown that newborn chicks had a preference for objects shaped like seeds. (Fantz had measured the pecking frequency of newly hatched chicks who were given objects of all different shapes. ) With human newborns, Fantz measured how long they gazed at two-dimensional versus three-dimensional circles, high-contrast versus low-contrast designs, and organized drawings of faces versus scrambled patterns of similar shapes. Interestingly, newborns gazed longer at
three-dimensional objects, high-contrast designs, and faces. Frantz concluded that the presence of innate abilities such as the perception of “visual stimuli that are important for survival and later development,” implies a major role of nature as opposed to nurture in teaching human beings what is expected of them with respect to their physicality. At the same time, however, there are children whose abilities to perceive are impaired. How would nature respond to the question of not allowing all children to have equal innate abilities?
While the last question was not answered by Frantz, Thurber describes a variety of studies conducted by developmental psychologists to prove the essentiality of nature in early human development. On an ongoing basis, such studies have proved that human beings are, indeed, gifted with innate abilities that seem to express themselves most obviously through developmental steps that each human must go pass. If human beings did not have to face the force of nature, children would not have grown their teeth or learned to walk around the same age.
The fact that the average child in all parts of the world develops as fast or as slow as his or her cohort, proves that nature is crucial in early development. All the same, the environment must interact with nature to teach the child that he or she is learning to walk so as to become an independent individual. The environment also imparts the knowledge of words to the child, who may sooner or later be able to recognize the objects he or she perceives. Only the lungs and the throat structure, besides other areas of the human body playing a fundamental role in speech – could not have developed the human being.
Rather, the child must learn to use his speech abilities gifted by nature to produce the speech of the environment. In the year 1965, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel, two Harvard neurophysiologists conducted research to discover the neurons of the visual cortex that are meant to be responsible for our innate abilities to perceive. Through this research, the neurophysiologists were not only moving the study of Frantz forward, but also pointing out a salient feature of “nature” as opposed to “nurture.
” Indeed, the significance of the 1965 study lies in the fact that it exposed in the context of developmental psychology that it was impossible for humans to be humans without the nature they have been gifted with. The human body is built with natural forces, and the environment puts on clothes on the human self, so to say. Given that the average human being has eyes, ears, stomach, special neurons of the visual cortex responsible for perception besides countless other physical features – it can be definitely proved that nature is a reality without which even the environment has no influence.
In other words, the special neurons of the visual cortex had to be present for the child to perceive images, long before his or her environment explained to the child the supposed/cultural meaning of his or her perception.
Curran, G, & Koszarycz, YK, ‘Genetic Engineering: Creating an Ethical Framework,’ February 2004, retrieved 17 May 2007 <http://dlibrary. acu. edu. au/research/theology/ejournal/aejt_2/Curran. htm>. Nicholson, N, ‘How Hardwired is Human Behavior? ’ Harvard Business Review, 1998.