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Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture



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In the following I have 4 questions which I think are too interleaved to separate into 4 different posts. I hope it's not a duplicate, but I didn't find here similar posts.

My understanding (as a layman, based on few non-professional books and some googling) is that the current "state of the art" regrading the age-old question in the title, is essentially as following:

For pretty much any reliable measurement researchers could come up with (in relation to cognitive capabilities, personality traits, interests, confidence, success, etc), 100% of the variance could be attributed to heredity and nonshared-environment (typically in approximately 50-50 split between the two), and effectively 0% of the variance is attributed to shared-environment.

My impression is that the research is vast, the data is ample, and the conclusions are overwhelmingly consistent and accepted.

My first intermediate question: is the above description correct?

Now, that trichotomy, as I understand it, goes like this: by "heredity" people refer to anything identical twins that grow separately share (so mainly genetic and epigenetic factors), by "nonshared-environment" people refer to anything identical twins that grow together do not share (specific social interactions, different life experience, etc), and by "shared environment" people refer to the things non-sibling that grow together share (same parents and family, same home, same neighborhood, same school, same lifestyle etc).

My second intermediate question: is this description correct?

If so, it basically means that a pair of identical twins that grew up together, is indistinguishable from a pair of identical twins that grew up separately, and that a pair of any two random people is indistinguishable from any two non-sibling that grew up in the same home with the same parents.

In shorts, sharing home does not make people more similar, with respect to most reliably measurable properties.

My third intermediate question: are there any notable exceptions? Known traits whose variance is meaningfully explained by the shared-environment?

My forth and last question: Is the socioeconomic status of the family is part of the shared-environment? It seems as it should be (if my description above is not too-wrong), but then it implies that it has no effect on anything other than the future socioeconomic status of the children. Is this really case?

Do things like the neighborhood and schools quality have no intrinsic effect (e.g. on intelligence, inclination to violence, occupational aptitude, religiousness, etc)?


Actually, you are misunderstanding twin studies when it comes to shared vs. non-shared environments. These are defined only in terms of outcomes:

The environmental influences on personality are divided into two main types in the behavior genetic literature: “shared” versus “nonshared” environment. In typical behavior genetic studies, actual measures of environmental factors are not obtained, but influences are inferred from the outcome pattern of observed similarities between subjects. Plomin, DeFries, et al. (2001; pp. 378-379; p. 300) define shared environment as “environmental factors responsible for resemblance between family members” or “family resemblance not explained by genetics”, and nonshared environment as “environmental influences that contribute to differences between family members” or “variance not explained by genetics or by shared family environment”. [… ]

It is important to note that the distinction between shared and nonshared environment is made solely in terms of outcome, i.e., if an environment has the effect of making siblings more similar, it is defined as a shared environment, and if an environment has the effect of making siblings more different, it is defined as a nonshared environment.

But your confusion is common enough

Not only textbook authors, but even reports from behavior genetic studies oscillate between the outcome-based shared/nonshared distinction, and the causal-event-based variety. A recent description of the nature of “shared environment” is given by Reiss et al. (2000) in their book from the well known NEAD (Nonshared Environment and Adolescent Development) twin and sibling study, in explaining the results of minimal influence of “shared environment” (p. 68): “This analysis tells us that the major environmental influences on adolescents' proneness to anxiety must be different for sibs in the same family. This rules out a number of influences, such as the family social class or the level of parents' anxiety, all of which are shared by siblings in the same family.” According to the definition of “shared environment” this interpretation is incorrect when it comes to siblings living in their original family, since two siblings perfectly well can have different responses to a parent's anxiety. Such gene-environment interaction would be accounted as a nonshared environmental effect in many commonly used behavior genetic models, in which nonshared environment incorporates interaction effects.

With this in mind however

The results of many heritability studies of the Big Five personality dimensions show that most of the environmental influence is attributable to nonshared environment. [As defined in the first quote].

Also note that since (according to the review of Turkheimer and Waldron) Plomin's group work was seminal, it makes sense to refer to defer to their definitions.

In what may have been the most influential article ever written in the field of developmental behavior genetics, Plomin and Daniels (1987) reviewed evidence that a substantial portion of the variability in behavioral outcomes could not be explained by the additive effects of genotype or the environmental influences of families. They suggested that this residual term, which they called the nonshared environment, had been neglected by environmentally oriented researchers who assumed that the most important mechanisms of environmental action involved familial variables, like socioeconomic status and parenting styles, that are shared by siblings raised in the same home and serve to make siblings more similar to each other. Indeed, Plomin and Daniels argued, once genetic relatedness has been taken into account, siblings seem to be hardly more similar than children chosen at random from the population. An important indicator of the influence of Plomin and Daniels' (1987) article is that an entire field of empirical research was generated in an attempt to answer the question posed in its title: Why are children in the same family so different? The content of this research was strongly influenced by Plomin and Daniels, building on earlier theoretical work by Rowe and Plomin (1981), who suggested that the causes of outcome differences among siblings were to be found in differences in the environments they experienced.


Nature

Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911)

When we refer to nature, we are talking about our genetics that we inherit from our parents. A fairly recent study (Kamran, 2016) conducted in Pakistan suggests that the parallels drawn regarding the temperament of siblings are due to their genetics. The results of this study states that the genetic makeup of relatives of the family (even deceased) also influence how the child acts. These behaviours of the child are identifiable by the family members even though the deceased family member no longer is present.

Browse through Galton’s timeline and discover his story!

The following pioneers play a key role in what we know about nature and nurture today! The goal of the game is to pair the correct pioneer with the correct fact pertaining to the pioneer. If you place your mouse above the pioneer, there is a fun fact that has a clue to help. Be careful, there is a trick pioneer!

  • Nature: refers to all of the genes and hereditary factors that influence who we are- from our physical appearance to our personality characteristics (definition retrieved from verywellmind.com on November 17, 2019).
  • Epigenetics : the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence (definition retrieved from MerriamWebster.com on November 17, 2019)

15 thoughts on &ldquo Nature vs. nurture &rdquo

I completely relate to and agree with this post. I have four other siblings and two extremely supportive parents who have taught me everything that I know. I definitely do not think I would be the person I am today if it were not for the nurture my parents and older siblings consistently provided. I think the most important lessons my family has taught me is to stay true to myself no matter the cost, and to always treat those around me with kindness and respect. Though I have been positively impacted by my parents and siblings, I believe that family can have the opposite impact on an individual as well. If someone comes from a family with divorced parents or unsupportive parents it can either negatively impact a person or shape them to be entirely different from the family they grew up in. Granted, some people make good arguments about the effect nature has on an individual but I truly believe that nurture shapes the person that you are. I know that there was an old study done on nurture by Harry Harlow from my psych class Senior year. It involved contact comfort with a wire mother versus a cloth mother. The reactions to the cloth mother were much stronger solely based on the comfort level and nurture of the fabric material opposed to the wire. Overall, I think nurture has a more powerful effect on the person that you end up becoming rather than nature.

I also lean towards nurture on this topic of discussion, and I think you brought some valid points to the table. You made good points on how nurture has a greater impact, especially by saying how every life experience, no matter how small, affects who we are and how we act. By using various life experiences, you provide evidence to help prove your initial points, which definitely gives them more of a platform to stand on. A lot of your experiences that you share tie back into you being more prepared for college, which may be a bit of a bias because you’re currently in college. Regardless of that, all of the points you made that tied back to college were entirely valid and served to further prove your statement that nurture has a more significant impact on development than nature.

I lean more towards nurture on this topic. But along with parents that you mentioned, for me my grandparents also had a great impact on me and shaping who I am today. I spent a lot of time at their house when I was younger and they enforced and influenced me and made me follow rules and learn to accept rules since they play a part in every day life. Where I also agree with nature is the environment which we are raised in and that influences who we become. Such as a dangerous city with high poverty, which may impact someone living in it to be violent or poor.. or a small quiet town, where the people may be more reserved. Both sides make very valid points, but I think its a mix of both that influence who we become.

Nature vs. nurture is such a difficult concept to pick a side on because there is strong evidence for both cases. However, I do agree that nurture plays a bigger role than nature. While nature’s influence is evident through the differences in siblings brought up in the same house (for example my polar-opposite sister and me), the traits learned from our environment are so extremely prevalent. I think your college example is a great one, because like you, I was forced to be independent in high school. I did the dishes, worked, and did laundry. When I came to Penn State I was appalled at how little my friends knew about cooking, cleaning, and especially laundry. That was a huge realization to me of how big of an influence one’s family and nurturing affects his or her behavior and demeanor, which is why I lean towards the idea that nurture’s influence trumps nature’s.

Both nature and nurture have significant impacts on our lives, but I agree that nurture often shows greater influence. Our parents have perhaps the most impact on our lives. There is little we can do to change that. Chances are, we will turn out like our parents. Why? Because they are the ones who nurtured and shaped us to adulthood. Certainly we may have our own unique qualities, but often our inborn inclinations are still shaped and influenced by our friends and family and teachers. I have a talent for music, that is something I may have been born with, but my love for music was influenced by my parents and by my teachers. In my experience and, so it seems, yours, nurture is stronger than nature.

I agree with what you argued above that nurture has a greater impact on how we develop as human beings opposed to nature. I also give almost all of the credit of who I am today to my parents. Like you, they taught me very valuable life skills to ensure that when I went off to college I was ready to be more independent, and eventually almost entirely independent when I graduate. Although I believe that nurture is a more dominant influence than nature, there is something to be said for the influence of how you are “wired”. Some people are naturally more optimistic than others and that can be due to different levels of chemicals in their brain. On the contrary, nurture can have an influence on someones outlook on life. There are always going to be outliers, such as, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey who all had a very dominant nature influence which lead to great successes amidst great obstacles. Regarding the average human I would say that nurture is the dominant factor in human development. Both nature and nurture play a hue role in development and depending on who is being studied there will be an uneven balance between the two factors.

Nature and nurture both have big impacts on our lives. Nurture depends on our experiences as well as how we are brought up. Sometimes parents fail to discipline their children and natural tendencies take over. Although in some cases those natural tendencies can not be controlled regardless of how disciplined you are . For example, I was brought up in a strict home but I will always have a stubborn nature. I know when to be respectful and considerate of others but I tend to be stubborn and always chose to do what pleases me. Another way nature can not be changed is the compassionate nature of some individuals. Some people are just naturally compassionate and are always willing to give a helping hand. No matter what they go through, they always seem to care for people.

I found this post particularly interesting because I can relate to your upbringing. My parents taught me a lot. They not only taught me practical tasks like managing money and doing household chores but they also shaped my personal value system. For example, as a child, my dad told me that being a good, kind person was most important in life. He also instilled in me a love of learning and an intellectual drive that I don’t know if I would have otherwise. However, I find it difficult to rank either nature and nurture in terms of importance. How can we know that we wouldn’t be who we are today without the experiences we had? Can we ever really determine how our life and character would be different today had we not gone through past experiences? I see your reasoning but I think nature should not be underestimated. Both forces shape our lives.

Nurture certainly plays a large role in the development of individuals however I think that you disregard the importance of nature a little too much. I agree that nurture seems to play a bigger role in an individual, and my reasoning for this is that it has more visible effects on an individual. Its much harder to gauge if an individual’s behavior stems from a part experience rather than if they were born with a different set of initial conditions. Personally, I think that the way a person changes how they interpret the world comes almost entirely from nature. I relate this idea to a computer that is able to rewrite its own code. In this example, the functioning part of the computer would have its code rewritten on a day-to-day basis, but the underlying program that rewrites that code would change very little.

I really enjoyed reading your post. I agree that nurture (may it be our family, friends, school, job, and relationships) does impact the person we become as we age. I definitely have changed over the years. I have matured from a sweet, young, innocent girl to an intelligent, beautiful, strong, and trustworthy woman. My parents made a huge effort to push me past my potential because they knew how intelligent I was/am and wanted me to realize it and take advantage of it. They raised me to have good morals by forcing me to go to mass, participate in community service, serve breakfast and lunch in soup kitchens, and etc. I was already busy enough with sports, school, and social aspects of my life and at times really wish I didn’t have to however, I had some of the greatest experiences helping those less fortunate than me as well as gaining some of the best advise for elders in nursing homes that I could ever ask for.
I feel as though we truly are innately born with qualities that are unique to ourselves. However, the environment and people we surround ourselves with can greatly impact, mold, and shape these qualities for the better or worse. I do think that both are equally important for our growth as a human being. I feel as though I was born a strong, intelligent individual that would still have strived as hard to get to where I am today, but I am grateful for the environment that molded me and the experiences that I have learned so much from (may they have been through rewards or punishments).

I definitely agree with you that nurture has a bigger impact on our lives than nature. We learn through our experiences as children, and our parents and family life has a great deal of impact on how we turn out as people. My parents made sure that as a child I had a good set of morals. They would not allow me to disrespect adults, or anyone for that matter. I was to treat others how I would want to be treated. Without them, I do not think I would have accomplished as much as I have in life, especially academically. They taught me how important school was at a young age by making sure I had my homework done at a reasonable time. When I was younger, I wanted to do well in school and try my hardest because my parents would be upset with me if I had gotten a bad grade because I decided not to study. They did not let bad grades slide, since they were paying for my education and it was my job to do well. As I got older, it just became part of whom I was to try hard in school in order to do well. I wanted to get good grades, because it made me feel proud of myself. This shows how being encouraged at a young age to do something makes you into the person you are now.

I agree with a lot of the points that you have made however, I do not believe that nurture has a greater impact on an individual than nature. The main reason for my disagreement is due to the fact that I believe that nature and nurture both contribute the same to an individual. Indeed nurture plays a huge role in the person you become such as is you were raised to be responsible for yourself at a young age, you will tend to be much more responsible later on in life than others who didn’t get that discipline from their parents at a younger age. However, there are some things that cannot be controlled which are controlled by the nature aspect. For example, you may be inclined to get certain diseases because it was genetic and your parents handed it down to you. Another example of nature is you height which generally cannot be changed due to how you were nurtured. As you can see, nature and nurture equally influence someone and both play a huge role in how you turn out as an adult.

I agree with you that nurture can have a tremendous impact on the way an individual behaves and acts. However, I don’t believe that nurture necessarily has a greater impact than nature. I believe that they both contribute to a person’s way of thinking and actions in an equal way. For example, say there is a lot of violence in a particular neighborhood. A young child will probably pick up on those violent actions and become to have aggressive behaviors him/herself. This is learning from the environment. Say a new clothing trend is in style, I’m sure people will pick up on those trends and it will influence them on what they start wearing. Also, children pick up on language and imitate language from what they hear in the environment or what other people are saying in a conversation not just from their parents. From the nurture side, I can relate to your stories on how my parents have contributed to me being who I am today. They have taught me the do’s and don’ts and the essentials that I need to know for living a successful, happy life. The way I act today is a huge part of how my parents raised me, but I think Nature and nurture are both equally important topics on how one person is shaped into “who they are”.

I was raised somewhat in the same manner as you were and thought it was funny when I came to college how some people didn’t know how to do things that i had been doing since i was twelve like laundry. I mostly agree with what you had to say but a slight difference would be that i think its more of a perfect balance between nature and nurture that defines who you are as a person. I believe there are situations where how you were raised will take precedence in your characteristics and vice versa. I think its interesting how he theory of behaviorism links up with the concept of nature vs nurture. The idea behind the theory is that behaviors can be triggered by a stimulus and that the behavior that takes place can be controlled based on receiving a reward or a punishment. which would be similar to nurture in that you are taught to do specific things.

I agree with many of the points you made. I believe that how an individual is raised can essentially make or break the person they become. If you are raised in a family that conduces independent behavior, such as your own, then it is almost inevitable that you will grow up to be an independent person. I think that every person has their own unique personality, however that personality can be shaped into one similar to the people they are most often associated with. On the other hand, I am unsure how much nature has to do with who we are. I think that nature in general can put restrictions on how much an individual can handle in their lifetime whether it be mental or physical restrictions.


A Close Look at Nature vs. Nurture

Psychology Professor Laura Lakusta, University Distinguished Scholar 2019-2020

“If you’ve ever been around a crying infant, you may have concluded that the world of a newborn is one great ‘blooming, buzzing confusion’ …” So begins the lecture – and the nature vs. nurture debate – presented by this academic year’s University Distinguished Scholar, Psychology Professor Laura Lakusta.

For the past 15 years, Lakusta has focused on language and cognitive development, and most recently leadership, in research within one of oldest philosophical fields of psychology.

“Is the world of a newborn really a big ‘booming, buzzing confusion’?” she asks referencing theorist William James. “O r do infants initially, and that is from birth, bring a rich knowledge base which may serve as a foundation and support subsequent learning?”

In her lecture to the University community – presented virtually due to the state’s stay-at-home orders – Lakusta explores the timeless theme while sharing her own extensive studies on inherited traits and learned behaviors. Research makes it increasingly clear that both nature and nurture play a role, she says.

The University’s Distinguished Scholar Award recognizes Montclair State faculty who have developed a distinguished record of scholarly or creative achievement, says University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Willard Gingerich. “This award provided Laura with enhanced opportunities to implement two active, competitive research programs and the opportunity to share with the campus community her work exploring the domains of language and cognitive development, and a new line of research that explores the impact of nature and nurture in leadership development.”

As Lakusta explains in the presentation, “Nature and Nurture in Spatial Cognition and Beyond,” the nature and nurture theme is by no means solely of interest to the field of psychology, “but one that applies to a range of disciplines, including philosophy, cognitive science, linguistics, education, biology, genetics, et cetera, et cetera.”

“The field is in agreement that it’s not an either/or question. It’s not, is it nature or is it nurture that contributes to development. But the question is how do they contribute? How can we understand how nature and nurture work together to drive development forward?”

Lakusta has published repeatedly – often with her students – in some of the most competitive journals in cognitive and developmental psychology, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , and since 2008 she has presented more than 50 invited papers and conference posters.

The studies of language and cognition – which have been supported with two different grants totaling about $900,000 from the National Science Foundation – test whether and how representations of spatial knowledge in children 6 months to 5 years can be influenced by environmental input. A portion of this work is a collaborative project with Barbara Landau, professor of Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University.

The main finding is that infants’ representations of events can support language learning. In the lab setting, for example, the researchers look at how infants and children interpret the world around them, and think about objects and actions. As explained in the lecture, this includes simple events, such as a duck moving out of a bowl or a leaf blowing into a box.

“You may be surprised at how much infants actually do seem to know within just a few months of life or even just a year,” Lakusta says.

A new study of leadership development, in collaboration with Montclair State Psychology Professor Jennifer Bragger , explores the broad questions of whether children are predisposed to develop into certain types of leaders and how environmental context may influence leadership development. Specifically, Lakusta and Bragger are testing how children, adolescents and adults perceive the distinctions between different leadership types, and whether Theory of Mind development, humility and self-awareness play a role in leadership emergence.

“We’re looking at how people become servant leaders,” Lakusta says. “These are leaders that primarily lead by focusing on their followers. They lead by empowering their followers by guiding, by developing their followers. By doing this, by focusing on their followers, they’re actually able to attain goals.”

The research takes place in Montclair State’s Cognitive and Language Development Lab , where Lakusta leads teams of student researchers. The lab is among the University’s clinical labs in psychology that have received grant funding for research.

“The students really made it happen,” Lakusta says. “They do everything from reading and presenting empirical and theoretical research to coding and analyzing and interpreting data to assisting me with participant testing. They go out into the community on a Sunday afternoon to help recruit children at community fairs. They assist with IRB (Institutional Review Board). The research would not be possible without them.”


Nature versus nurture

The nature versus nurture debate involves whether human behavior is determined by the environment, either prenatal or during a person's life, or by a person's genes. The alliterative expression "nature and nurture" in English has been in use since at least the Elizabethan period [2] and goes back to medieval French. [3]

The complementary combination of the two concepts is an ancient concept (Greek: ἁπό φύσεως καὶ εὐτροφίας ). [4] Nature is what people think of as pre-wiring and is influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors. Nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception e.g. the product of exposure, experience and learning on an individual.

The phrase in its modern sense was popularized by the Victorian polymath Francis Galton, the modern founder of eugenics and behavioral genetics when he was discussing the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement. [5] [6] [7] Galton was influenced by On the Origin of Species written by his half-cousin, the evolutionist Charles Darwin.

The view that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioral traits from "nurture" was termed tabula rasa ('blank tablet, slate') by John Locke in 1690. A blank slate view (sometimes termed blank-slatism) in human developmental psychology, which assumes that human behavioral traits develop almost exclusively from environmental influences, was widely held during much of the 20th century. The debate between "blank-slate" denial of the influence of heritability, and the view admitting both environmental and heritable traits, has often been cast in terms of nature versus nurture. These two conflicting approaches to human development were at the core of an ideological dispute over research agendas throughout the second half of the 20th century. As both "nature" and "nurture" factors were found to contribute substantially, often in an inextricable manner, such views were seen as naive or outdated by most scholars of human development by the 21st-century. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

The strong dichotomy of nature versus nurture has thus been claimed to have limited relevance in some fields of research. Close feedback loops have been found in which nature and nurture influence one another constantly, as seen in self-domestication. In ecology and behavioral genetics, researchers think nurture has an essential influence on nature. [13] [14] Similarly in other fields, the dividing line between an inherited and an acquired trait becomes unclear, as in epigenetics [15] or fetal development. [16]


Nature vs Nurture in Psychology

The Nature Nurture debate within psychology discusses the extent in which heredity (genetic) and the environment separately affect and influence the individual. Some psychologists argue that nature (heredity) is the most significant and influential on an individual. “Heredity is the passing on of physical or mental characteristics genetically from one generation to another.” Nature argues that people are born with set characteristics that develop changing over time and that the affect that the environment has on the individual’s behaviour is insignificant. Nurture looks at individuals learning through experiencing and applying themselves, which can be altered by changing the environment. “Environment is the surroundings in which a person lives or operates”. Nurture also claims that given the right environment any person can achieve any life goal and or ambition within their own physical limit capability. As a young child / infant, psychological attributes and differing behaviour occurs as an outcome of learning.

It is known that there are certain physical characteristics that are determined by genetics. Things such as colour of hair and eyes and disease etc. are all part of the genes we inherit. Genes heavily influence other physical characteristics such as height, life expectancy, weight, etc. but nurture (environment) also has a significant impact on these physical characteristics. This has led to the speculation as to whether characteristics such as behaviour, personality and mental ability are set before we are born, or can still be changed as we are growing up.

Unlike many other areas of psychology one is unable to use measures to control and understand the key traits of personality in a person. There is also no way to be able to differentiate, which changes are due to changes in the personality states or which are due to changes in the environment. It becomes difficult when trying to determine the effects of nature or nurture on any individual because there is not shared understanding on what personality is.

Personality is not measureable currently with any theory as there is no single series of tests that can be agreed on by the majority of psychologists. Although there is currently no single series of tests the most accepted theory as to define how personality can be measured and defined is the big five factor theory. “there is a growing consensus that personality can be adequately described by five broad constructs or factors…’” (Gross, 2001: McCrae and Costa)

In order to separate and define which personality traits in a person are caused by the environment in which a person is placed (nurture) and which are caused by heredity (nature) there must be an agreed definition and measure of personality. Given there isn’t one it has become difficult and hard to find the evidence as to which traits from which factor.

Both nature and nurture are significant in forming a personality. According to recent studies formed by a range of psychologists show that only around less than 50 % of personality is constructed from the genetic aspect (nature) of the individual. It is suggested that genetics play a more important role in determining the personality traits like learning and skills etc than the way people are raised (environment) within the individual.

It is very problematic to find one that can be questioned to find the effects of the environment and genetics on ones personalities. The only single way to do so is to get identical twins to compare their personalities to non-identical twins. Comparing the personalities of identical twins who were separately brought up is helpful in identifying the key traits in the individual’s personality, as this allows one to develop hereditability estimates. The difficulty with non-identical twins who were raised separately is that they still shared a womb, and have some contact with one another after being separated usually after birth. Another problem is that genetically identical twins like to be unlike one another and diverse. One of the most significant influences in the individual’s life and environment (nurture) is their other twin. This means that the connection is not strong enough between the data to tell which aspects of personality are affected by nurture (environment) and nature (genetics).

According to the university of Edinburgh’s research studies, Professor Timothy Bates states that “Previously, the role of the family and the environment around the home often dominated people’s ideas about that affect psychological wellbeing. However, this work highlights a much more powerful influence from genetics”. Professor Bates also stated “If you think of things that people are born with you think of social status or virtuoso talent, but this is looking at what we do with what we’ve got. “The biggest factor we found was self control. There was a big genetic difference in [people’s ability to] restrain themselves and persist with things when they got difficult and react to challenges in a positive way.” (The Telegraph, Nick Collins). Leading back once again to the suggested fact that nature has a higher and more significant influence on the personality of an individual than nurture.

. [Accessed 19 march 2014]. C. Grand, N. Benson, M. Layzan, J. Ginsburg & M. Weeks, 2011. The Psychology Book. 1st ed. Great Britain: Dorling Kindersley. Nature vs Nurture in Psychology, 2007, Simply Psychology, accessed 20 March 2014, . Personality Theories: Nature versus Nurture, 2011, Health Psychology Consultancy, accessed 22 March 2014, .


Taking the 'vs.' out of nature vs. nurture

Evolutionary and cultural psychologists found common ground at a first-ever conference.

By ALANA CONNER SNIBBE, PHD

November 2004, Vol 35, No. 10

White flags of truce flew over the nature vs. nurture wars at a July conference on mind, culture and evolution, where cultural and evolutionary psychologists swapped findings and philosophies. At stake, said cultural psychologist and conference organizer Steven Heine, PhD, was nothing less than "how to view human nature in psychology."

The three-day conference, "Mind, Culture and Evolution: The First University of British Columbia Summer Symposium," was the first formal meeting of cultural and evolutionary psychologists--two groups that have historically had little to say to each other.

"Basically, there is a turf battle between the two," explained University of Pennsylvania psychologist Paul Rozin, PhD, whose research integrates cultural and evolutionary psychology approaches. "Moderates on both sides recognize that the other side has a legitimate explanatory role, but the question comes down to how much of an explanatory role. Each side wants the bigger piece of the pie."

On the one hand, evolutionary psychologists like David Buss, PhD, of the University of Texas, emphasize that humans' abilities to create, adapt to and pass on their cultures--their beliefs, attitudes, practices and institutions--are a product of evolution. Having human cultures requires having brains that can handle such complex activities as language production and social coordination. Evolution selected these complicated, culture-making brains in humans (and perhaps a few other animals), meaning that early human ancestors with such brains had more children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren than did hominids with different brains. Over generations, evolutionists hold, human ancestors with culture-making brains dominated the ancestral landscape, and their genes dominated the genome, until only Homo sapiens were left.

On the other hand, cultural psychologists emphasize that culture is a second force in human nature--and one that is at least as important as evolution. Unlike other organisms, humans actively create their symbolic, social and material worlds. It is only through interacting with these cultural worlds that meaty human brains become sublime human minds, said Stanford University cultural psychologist Hazel Rose Markus, PhD. "Additionally," Markus continued, "people everywhere ask, 'Who am I? Why am I here? What is the good way to be?' Cultures inform their answers to these foundational questions, and therefore fundamentally shape their psychologies."

Conference organizers gave the two intellectual camps equal airtime to discuss differences and perhaps discover common ground, with cultural psychologists presenting on the first day and evolutionary psychologists presenting on the second. On the final day, speakers presented research that synthesized the two approaches (see Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 for each day's highlights).

MARRYING VIEWS

Conference attendees showed "open-minded good will on both sides," observed McMaster University evolutionary psychologist Martin Daly, PhD. This contrasts with the stereotypes of the two fields, according to which evolutionary psychologists approach culture as mere mud flaps on the eighteen-wheeler of natural selection, while cultural psychologists approach evolution as a salacious soap opera that went off the air 200,000 years ago.

Indeed, many conference attendees were already thinking about how cultural and evolutionary psychologists might integrate their views.

"Evolutionary psychology can examine the evolved human potential for culture, whereas cultural psychology can show how that potential is transformed to yield a functioning psychological system," said cultural psychologist Shinobu Kitayama, PhD, of the University of Michigan. Unified, the two fields might then tackle the larger "why" questions that elude psychologists of all stripes: Why does a given psychological process arise in the first place, why does it persist--not just over evolutionary time, but also over historical and developmental time--and why does it change?

ANSWERING "WHY?"

At a meta-theoretical level, both fields give the same answer to those "why" questions, noted University of Toronto cultural psychologist Glenn Adams, PhD. Psychological processes emerge, persist and change over time because humans adapt to their environments. Cultural and evolutionary psychologists differ, however, in what they mean by the terms "adaptation," "time" and "environment," he said.

Evolutionary psychologists use these terms in their Darwinian senses: Adaptations are biological changes that became more frequent among humans because they contributed to reproductive success over millions of years in the ancestral environment. So, for example, many evolutionary psychologists say that we can thank our Stone Age ancestors for the neural circuits underlying our attraction to symmetrical faces. Among our ancient forebears, facial symmetry on the outside might have meant a strong immune system on the inside--a coup for hominids and their offspring on the primordial savanna, where sicknesses far outnumbered remedies.

Cultural psychologists, however, often use a looser definition of adaptation to mean changes in values, practices and institutions that proved useful in particular social, historical or ecological contexts. So, for example, many Americans can attribute their deep-seated need to work overtime to their Protestant predecessors. For them, hard work on the outside often indicated spiritual worth on the inside--a two-for-one ticket that ensured material wealth in this life and a spot in heaven in the next.

Will the frequency of meetings between culturalists and evolutionists increase? Adaptation is tricky to predict, but people are already asking about a second conference of this sort, reported University of British Columbia cultural psychologist Ara Norenzayan, PhD, who also served as one of the conference's organizers. In lieu of prognostication, Buss simply pronounced the first conference "a smashing success" because it "began to build bridges between the two perspectives, and may ultimately create a unified field of psychology."

Alana Conner Snibbe is a writer in San Francisco.

Further Reading

Heine, S.J., Kitayama, S., Lehman, D.R., Takata, T., Ide, E., Leung, C., et al. (2001). Divergent consequences of success and failure in Japan and North America: An investigation of self-improving motivations and malleable selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(4), 599-615.

Kameda, T., Takezawa, M., & Hastie, R. (2003). The logic of social sharing: An evolutionary game analysis of adaptive norm development. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7(1), 2-19.


Introduction

The study of primary emotional systems represents an important research endeavor to better understand psychological well-being and psychopathologies such as affective disorders in humans [1]. Specifically, it has been put forward that imbalances in these ancient emotional brain systems go along with psychopathologies, e. g. that a lack of PLAY behavior in childhood might be linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) later on or that an overactivation of the SADNESS (separation-distress, psychological-pain) system and the subsequence reduction of SEEKING urges are major cause for depression (for full discussion, see [2, 3]). (Primary emotional systems are printed in capital letters, as a formal designation for primal emotional systems of mammalian brains, partly intended to distinguish them from the vernacular emotional terms commonly used in emotional and other psychological research. The need for scientifically clear designators for primary-process (i.e., evolved) brain emotional and motivational systems is essential, and the formal designators should help avoid mereological fallacies (part-whole confusions) which are abundant in neuropsychological discourse (see [4]). A major goal of Panksepp’s Affective Neuroscience perspective has been dedicated to elucidating how primal (i.e., evolved) neuropsychobiological emotional networks underlie core affective processes (using animal models to illuminate foundational human affects), and how their upward influence in the brain shape diverse higher-order psychological and behavioral processes. By applying techniques such as deep (subcortical) electrical stimulation of the mammalian brain and pharmacological challenges his group has provided evidence for seven distinct primary emotional systems (SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC and PLAY) anchored in phylogenetically old brain areas which not only instigate instinctual emotional behaviors, but also influence and control the secondary processes of learning and memory and tertiary-process such as cognitive decision making [1]. These primal emotions are survival systems, which with various sensory and homeostatic (e.g., HUNGER and THIRST) affects constitute the primal value (reward and punishment) systems of the brain. These subcortical systems are foundational for higher mental processes in all animals since extensive damage to such systems compromise consciousness, and they are envisioned to guide the development of higher mental processes, including personality dimensions which, with maturation, gradually provide higher reciprocal-regulatory cortical control over lower affective processes.

The mammalian (especially human) prefrontal cortex and other neocortical regions can control emotional outbursts from subcortical areas (providing top-down behavioral and psychological regulation). But in extreme situations—such as in high danger—our brains often respond with stereotypic genetically-anchored affective response patterns (instigating bottom–up arousal of higher-order brain processes) such as strategies for fight, flight or freezing (e. g. [5]), which helped our ancestors to not only escape various hazardous situations but to develop cognitive skills to avoid them in the future (see also a new questionnaire measuring these distinct fear tendencies [6]). So different primary/basic emotions have different functions with respect to survival and reproductive behaviors. In the end a better understanding of the functioning and interplay of these emotional systems should facilitate development of new therapeutics to better treat a wide range of psychiatric disorders [2,3].

The seven primary emotional systems of Panksepp’s primary-process affective neuroscience can be divided into two larger groups of positive and negative emotions. The emotional systems belonging to the first group of positive emotions are called SEEKING, LUST, CARE and PLAY (in presumed evolutionary order), whereas the latter group representing negative emotions comprises RAGE (also labeled ANGER in discussions of human personality), FEAR (or “anxiety” in the vernacular), and PANIC (namely primary-process separation distress, or higher-order SADNESS, which we deemed a more clear and appropriate designator for human personality profiling). The SEEKING system energizes human beings and helps them not only to be energized with “enthusiasm” and “interest”, in explorative/investigative way in everyday life. The PLAY system has been best characterized not only by the instinctual nature of rough and tumble play in most mammals–a very bodily evolved form of play–best observed in all young mammals, including human childhood, with the brain mapping providing clarification of brain regions where Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) evokes laughter-type play vocalizations in animal models [7]. The function of the PLAY system probably relates to learning about social structures/hierarchies (e.g., eventual social dominance), learning to cope with losing or being defeated, shaping social-appetitive motoric skills and from a psychological perspective, simply having fun (which may promote bodily and mental health). The LUST and CARE system are of high importance for reproductive success and social bonding and are deeply entwined. The PLAY system is probably evolutionary the youngest with LUST reproduction circuits evolving earlier than the genetic programs for CARE—nurturing other individuals especially one’s own offspring. The FEAR system has been already mentioned above and helps mammals to free themselves from danger. The RAGE/ANGER system facilitates acquiring and holding-on to resources, and can be activated by frustrations (that can arise from higher-order encoding of desires). Finally, the PANIC/SADNESS system reflects arousal of what has traditionally been called “separation distress” the chronic overactivity of which is associated with depression [2,3,8]. For cross-mammalian brain research purposes, this system has been formally designated the PANIC system, which is illustrated by typical panic behaviors and feeling (i.e., separation distress calls, commonly called “crying”) when children get lost and are out of sight of their parents or other caregivers.

Besides the importance of neuroscientific techniques, especially DBS, to study primary emotional systems, Davis et al. [9], published a self-report inventory called Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS), updated and refined in Davis & Panksepp [10], aimed at measuring individual differences in these primary emotional systems. The publication of these scales represents an important addition to the toolbox of biologically/behaviorally oriented personality psychologists, because Panksepp’s primary emotional systems could be viewed as being among the evolutionary oldest contributors to human personality (influencing human personality bottom-up development as reflected by their neuroanatomical foundations in the “old-mammalian” and “reptilian” areas of Paul MacLean’s Triune Brain Concept see also [11]). The ANPS contrasts to classic questionnaires reflecting the Five Factor Model of Personality (e. g. [12]) and may be more appropriate for guiding in the investigation of the biological underpinnings of individual differences in primary sources of temperament, namely one’s genetically controlled emotional strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Montag & Reuter [13] highlight the potential importance of these scales in the context of disentangling the molecular genetics of primary emotional systems and personality. As the Five Factor Model of Personality is based on a lexical (adjective-based) approach it does not help in hypothesizing about diverse neurobiological affect-engendering brain systems that are critical brain substrates underlying human personality. The usefulness of the ANPS for biologically-oriented personality psychology can be best explained by a small example. If animal models show that PLAY behavior in rodents is modulated by opioids (as it is, see [14]), the dynamics of brain opioid systems should also be of relevance for human ludic activities, because these ancient brain systems are highly conserved across species.

As postulated by Turkheimer [15] and newly confirmed within a meta-analysis [16], all human traits are heritable. For the Big Five personality traits, several studies in the past 50 years of research revealed a strong genetic basis for all five personality factors in the range of about 40–60% (e.g. [17]). In terms of environmental contributions, comparable amounts of personality variation can be explained by non-shared environmental experiences. This has also been underlined in a recent meta-analysis [18]. For the ANPS scales, Davis et al. [9] investigated the extent to which self-reports derived from the ANPS questionnaire were related to self-report measures of the Big Five personality traits, i.e. how closely core emotional systems were associated with basic personality traits. Each of the six ANPS scales was found to be closely related to at least one of the Big Five personality scales. The authors concluded that the six core emotional systems assessed by the ANPS scales constituted the roots of adult personality structures, and developmentally contributed to the construction of higher-order emotional traits. Given these findings and the theoretical concept behind the ANPS, one would postulate a strong genetic basis of all the basic emotional systems. With respect to associations among the ANPS scales, which can be depicted by a higher-order positive and negative system, one would further expect a common genetic basis underlying these emotional systems. Please note that LUST was intentionally dropped from the ANPS, because it overlaps greatly with homeostatic affects (e.g., peripheral hormonally-controlled core affects) and because of social reticence or lack of frankness in responding to questions concerning one’s sexuality. Also, such affective responses to one set of questions could potentially create spill-over problems for people responding to other trait questions frankly, but as discussed later, a Spirituality scale was added to evaluate therapeutically-important existential dimensions of existence.

To the best of our knowledge—there are currently no scientific-empirical studies showing the relative contribution of genetic influences on individual differences in these primal emotional foundations of human personality. Hence, the genetic and environmental etiology of individual differences in these traits as well as the etiology of associations among these systems remains poorly understood. Given this fact, the present study aimed to quantify for the first time, the relative influence of both nature and nurture on individual differences in primary emotional systems by means of identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twin study. Univariate and multivariate genetic modeling was applied to investigate the extent of genetic sources on each emotional system and covariations among them to explore the structural nature of primary emotionality.


Nature vs. Nurture in Therapy

In the mental health field, some therapeutic treatments and approaches may be nature-based or nurture-based, depending on which paradigm to which they adhere. For example, an extremely nature-based approach might seek to address mental health on a biological or genetic level, while a nurture-based approach could be more likely to address a person’s learned beliefs and behaviors. Most approaches borrow from both nature and nurture-based philosophies, and many seek to address the interaction between nature and nurture.

For example, using medication to treat a mental health issue may be a primarily nature-based approach, while behavioral therapy, which stems from behaviorist psychology, addresses a person’s upbringing and conditioning and takes a nurture-based point of view. Meanwhile, therapies based in cognitive psychology may be more likely to address the effects of both nature and nurture.

It is possible to find a therapist who takes a more nature or nurture-based approach to treatment. However, many therapists today consider multiple factors, including how the nature and nurture work together, during a session.


Nature vs. Nurture Debate: 50-Year Twin Study Proves It Takes Two To Determine Human Traits

A culmination of more than half a century of research collected on 14.5 million pairs of twins has finally concluded that the nature versus nurture debate is a draw. According to the plethora of data, both have nearly identical influences on a person’s behavior, which suggests we need to stop looking at ourselves as a result of nature versus nurture, and instead realize we are a combination of both.

The recent study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, is the result of the collaboration between Dr. Beben Benyamin from the Queensland Brain Institute and researchers at the VU University of Amsterdam. They reviewed nearly every twin study ever done in the past 50 years. The impressive global twin review revealed that, on average, the variation for human traits and diseases is split almost equally.

“When visiting the nature versus nurture debate, there is overwhelming evidence that both genetic and environmental factors can influence traits and diseases,” Benyamin said in the press release. “What is comforting is that, on average, about 50 percent of individual differences are genetic and 50 percent are environmental.

The finding did not ring true for every case, however, as certain conditions leaned way more than others. For example, in the case of bipolar disorder, this was found to be around 70 percent genetic and only 30 percent due to environmental factors.

Although the finding may be unsatisfying for those hoping that one side of the spectrum held more weight than the other, according to Benyamin, the findings have “implications for choosing the best strategy to find genes affecting disease.” The data may also change the way that scientists approach the study of genetics. In about 69 percent of the cases, the twins' individual traits ended up being the cumulative effect of genetic differences.

“This means that there are good reasons to study the biology of human traits, and that the combined effect of many genes on a trait is simply the sum of the effect of each individual gene,” Benyamin explained.

Twin studies have been an integral part of science because of the unique genetic similarities between twin siblings. Identical twins develop from a single fertilized egg and they have the same genome. This means that any differences between the twins are due to their environment, not their genetics. For nearly a century scientists have used twin studies to better understand the extent to which certain traits are inherited.

Source: Polderman TJC, Benyamin B, de Leeuw CA, van Bochoven A, Visscher PM, Posthuma D. Meta-Analysis of the Heritability of Human Traits based on Fifty Years of Twin Studies. Nature Genetics. 2015.


Nature

Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911)

When we refer to nature, we are talking about our genetics that we inherit from our parents. A fairly recent study (Kamran, 2016) conducted in Pakistan suggests that the parallels drawn regarding the temperament of siblings are due to their genetics. The results of this study states that the genetic makeup of relatives of the family (even deceased) also influence how the child acts. These behaviours of the child are identifiable by the family members even though the deceased family member no longer is present.

Browse through Galton’s timeline and discover his story!

The following pioneers play a key role in what we know about nature and nurture today! The goal of the game is to pair the correct pioneer with the correct fact pertaining to the pioneer. If you place your mouse above the pioneer, there is a fun fact that has a clue to help. Be careful, there is a trick pioneer!

  • Nature: refers to all of the genes and hereditary factors that influence who we are- from our physical appearance to our personality characteristics (definition retrieved from verywellmind.com on November 17, 2019).
  • Epigenetics : the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence (definition retrieved from MerriamWebster.com on November 17, 2019)

Nature versus nurture

The nature versus nurture debate involves whether human behavior is determined by the environment, either prenatal or during a person's life, or by a person's genes. The alliterative expression "nature and nurture" in English has been in use since at least the Elizabethan period [2] and goes back to medieval French. [3]

The complementary combination of the two concepts is an ancient concept (Greek: ἁπό φύσεως καὶ εὐτροφίας ). [4] Nature is what people think of as pre-wiring and is influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors. Nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception e.g. the product of exposure, experience and learning on an individual.

The phrase in its modern sense was popularized by the Victorian polymath Francis Galton, the modern founder of eugenics and behavioral genetics when he was discussing the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement. [5] [6] [7] Galton was influenced by On the Origin of Species written by his half-cousin, the evolutionist Charles Darwin.

The view that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioral traits from "nurture" was termed tabula rasa ('blank tablet, slate') by John Locke in 1690. A blank slate view (sometimes termed blank-slatism) in human developmental psychology, which assumes that human behavioral traits develop almost exclusively from environmental influences, was widely held during much of the 20th century. The debate between "blank-slate" denial of the influence of heritability, and the view admitting both environmental and heritable traits, has often been cast in terms of nature versus nurture. These two conflicting approaches to human development were at the core of an ideological dispute over research agendas throughout the second half of the 20th century. As both "nature" and "nurture" factors were found to contribute substantially, often in an inextricable manner, such views were seen as naive or outdated by most scholars of human development by the 21st-century. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

The strong dichotomy of nature versus nurture has thus been claimed to have limited relevance in some fields of research. Close feedback loops have been found in which nature and nurture influence one another constantly, as seen in self-domestication. In ecology and behavioral genetics, researchers think nurture has an essential influence on nature. [13] [14] Similarly in other fields, the dividing line between an inherited and an acquired trait becomes unclear, as in epigenetics [15] or fetal development. [16]


Nature vs. Nurture Debate: 50-Year Twin Study Proves It Takes Two To Determine Human Traits

A culmination of more than half a century of research collected on 14.5 million pairs of twins has finally concluded that the nature versus nurture debate is a draw. According to the plethora of data, both have nearly identical influences on a person’s behavior, which suggests we need to stop looking at ourselves as a result of nature versus nurture, and instead realize we are a combination of both.

The recent study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, is the result of the collaboration between Dr. Beben Benyamin from the Queensland Brain Institute and researchers at the VU University of Amsterdam. They reviewed nearly every twin study ever done in the past 50 years. The impressive global twin review revealed that, on average, the variation for human traits and diseases is split almost equally.

“When visiting the nature versus nurture debate, there is overwhelming evidence that both genetic and environmental factors can influence traits and diseases,” Benyamin said in the press release. “What is comforting is that, on average, about 50 percent of individual differences are genetic and 50 percent are environmental.

The finding did not ring true for every case, however, as certain conditions leaned way more than others. For example, in the case of bipolar disorder, this was found to be around 70 percent genetic and only 30 percent due to environmental factors.

Although the finding may be unsatisfying for those hoping that one side of the spectrum held more weight than the other, according to Benyamin, the findings have “implications for choosing the best strategy to find genes affecting disease.” The data may also change the way that scientists approach the study of genetics. In about 69 percent of the cases, the twins' individual traits ended up being the cumulative effect of genetic differences.

“This means that there are good reasons to study the biology of human traits, and that the combined effect of many genes on a trait is simply the sum of the effect of each individual gene,” Benyamin explained.

Twin studies have been an integral part of science because of the unique genetic similarities between twin siblings. Identical twins develop from a single fertilized egg and they have the same genome. This means that any differences between the twins are due to their environment, not their genetics. For nearly a century scientists have used twin studies to better understand the extent to which certain traits are inherited.

Source: Polderman TJC, Benyamin B, de Leeuw CA, van Bochoven A, Visscher PM, Posthuma D. Meta-Analysis of the Heritability of Human Traits based on Fifty Years of Twin Studies. Nature Genetics. 2015.


Nature vs Nurture in Psychology

The Nature Nurture debate within psychology discusses the extent in which heredity (genetic) and the environment separately affect and influence the individual. Some psychologists argue that nature (heredity) is the most significant and influential on an individual. “Heredity is the passing on of physical or mental characteristics genetically from one generation to another.” Nature argues that people are born with set characteristics that develop changing over time and that the affect that the environment has on the individual’s behaviour is insignificant. Nurture looks at individuals learning through experiencing and applying themselves, which can be altered by changing the environment. “Environment is the surroundings in which a person lives or operates”. Nurture also claims that given the right environment any person can achieve any life goal and or ambition within their own physical limit capability. As a young child / infant, psychological attributes and differing behaviour occurs as an outcome of learning.

It is known that there are certain physical characteristics that are determined by genetics. Things such as colour of hair and eyes and disease etc. are all part of the genes we inherit. Genes heavily influence other physical characteristics such as height, life expectancy, weight, etc. but nurture (environment) also has a significant impact on these physical characteristics. This has led to the speculation as to whether characteristics such as behaviour, personality and mental ability are set before we are born, or can still be changed as we are growing up.

Unlike many other areas of psychology one is unable to use measures to control and understand the key traits of personality in a person. There is also no way to be able to differentiate, which changes are due to changes in the personality states or which are due to changes in the environment. It becomes difficult when trying to determine the effects of nature or nurture on any individual because there is not shared understanding on what personality is.

Personality is not measureable currently with any theory as there is no single series of tests that can be agreed on by the majority of psychologists. Although there is currently no single series of tests the most accepted theory as to define how personality can be measured and defined is the big five factor theory. “there is a growing consensus that personality can be adequately described by five broad constructs or factors…’” (Gross, 2001: McCrae and Costa)

In order to separate and define which personality traits in a person are caused by the environment in which a person is placed (nurture) and which are caused by heredity (nature) there must be an agreed definition and measure of personality. Given there isn’t one it has become difficult and hard to find the evidence as to which traits from which factor.

Both nature and nurture are significant in forming a personality. According to recent studies formed by a range of psychologists show that only around less than 50 % of personality is constructed from the genetic aspect (nature) of the individual. It is suggested that genetics play a more important role in determining the personality traits like learning and skills etc than the way people are raised (environment) within the individual.

It is very problematic to find one that can be questioned to find the effects of the environment and genetics on ones personalities. The only single way to do so is to get identical twins to compare their personalities to non-identical twins. Comparing the personalities of identical twins who were separately brought up is helpful in identifying the key traits in the individual’s personality, as this allows one to develop hereditability estimates. The difficulty with non-identical twins who were raised separately is that they still shared a womb, and have some contact with one another after being separated usually after birth. Another problem is that genetically identical twins like to be unlike one another and diverse. One of the most significant influences in the individual’s life and environment (nurture) is their other twin. This means that the connection is not strong enough between the data to tell which aspects of personality are affected by nurture (environment) and nature (genetics).

According to the university of Edinburgh’s research studies, Professor Timothy Bates states that “Previously, the role of the family and the environment around the home often dominated people’s ideas about that affect psychological wellbeing. However, this work highlights a much more powerful influence from genetics”. Professor Bates also stated “If you think of things that people are born with you think of social status or virtuoso talent, but this is looking at what we do with what we’ve got. “The biggest factor we found was self control. There was a big genetic difference in [people’s ability to] restrain themselves and persist with things when they got difficult and react to challenges in a positive way.” (The Telegraph, Nick Collins). Leading back once again to the suggested fact that nature has a higher and more significant influence on the personality of an individual than nurture.

. [Accessed 19 march 2014]. C. Grand, N. Benson, M. Layzan, J. Ginsburg & M. Weeks, 2011. The Psychology Book. 1st ed. Great Britain: Dorling Kindersley. Nature vs Nurture in Psychology, 2007, Simply Psychology, accessed 20 March 2014, . Personality Theories: Nature versus Nurture, 2011, Health Psychology Consultancy, accessed 22 March 2014, .


Nature vs. Nurture in Therapy

In the mental health field, some therapeutic treatments and approaches may be nature-based or nurture-based, depending on which paradigm to which they adhere. For example, an extremely nature-based approach might seek to address mental health on a biological or genetic level, while a nurture-based approach could be more likely to address a person’s learned beliefs and behaviors. Most approaches borrow from both nature and nurture-based philosophies, and many seek to address the interaction between nature and nurture.

For example, using medication to treat a mental health issue may be a primarily nature-based approach, while behavioral therapy, which stems from behaviorist psychology, addresses a person’s upbringing and conditioning and takes a nurture-based point of view. Meanwhile, therapies based in cognitive psychology may be more likely to address the effects of both nature and nurture.

It is possible to find a therapist who takes a more nature or nurture-based approach to treatment. However, many therapists today consider multiple factors, including how the nature and nurture work together, during a session.


A Close Look at Nature vs. Nurture

Psychology Professor Laura Lakusta, University Distinguished Scholar 2019-2020

“If you’ve ever been around a crying infant, you may have concluded that the world of a newborn is one great ‘blooming, buzzing confusion’ …” So begins the lecture – and the nature vs. nurture debate – presented by this academic year’s University Distinguished Scholar, Psychology Professor Laura Lakusta.

For the past 15 years, Lakusta has focused on language and cognitive development, and most recently leadership, in research within one of oldest philosophical fields of psychology.

“Is the world of a newborn really a big ‘booming, buzzing confusion’?” she asks referencing theorist William James. “O r do infants initially, and that is from birth, bring a rich knowledge base which may serve as a foundation and support subsequent learning?”

In her lecture to the University community – presented virtually due to the state’s stay-at-home orders – Lakusta explores the timeless theme while sharing her own extensive studies on inherited traits and learned behaviors. Research makes it increasingly clear that both nature and nurture play a role, she says.

The University’s Distinguished Scholar Award recognizes Montclair State faculty who have developed a distinguished record of scholarly or creative achievement, says University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Willard Gingerich. “This award provided Laura with enhanced opportunities to implement two active, competitive research programs and the opportunity to share with the campus community her work exploring the domains of language and cognitive development, and a new line of research that explores the impact of nature and nurture in leadership development.”

As Lakusta explains in the presentation, “Nature and Nurture in Spatial Cognition and Beyond,” the nature and nurture theme is by no means solely of interest to the field of psychology, “but one that applies to a range of disciplines, including philosophy, cognitive science, linguistics, education, biology, genetics, et cetera, et cetera.”

“The field is in agreement that it’s not an either/or question. It’s not, is it nature or is it nurture that contributes to development. But the question is how do they contribute? How can we understand how nature and nurture work together to drive development forward?”

Lakusta has published repeatedly – often with her students – in some of the most competitive journals in cognitive and developmental psychology, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , and since 2008 she has presented more than 50 invited papers and conference posters.

The studies of language and cognition – which have been supported with two different grants totaling about $900,000 from the National Science Foundation – test whether and how representations of spatial knowledge in children 6 months to 5 years can be influenced by environmental input. A portion of this work is a collaborative project with Barbara Landau, professor of Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University.

The main finding is that infants’ representations of events can support language learning. In the lab setting, for example, the researchers look at how infants and children interpret the world around them, and think about objects and actions. As explained in the lecture, this includes simple events, such as a duck moving out of a bowl or a leaf blowing into a box.

“You may be surprised at how much infants actually do seem to know within just a few months of life or even just a year,” Lakusta says.

A new study of leadership development, in collaboration with Montclair State Psychology Professor Jennifer Bragger , explores the broad questions of whether children are predisposed to develop into certain types of leaders and how environmental context may influence leadership development. Specifically, Lakusta and Bragger are testing how children, adolescents and adults perceive the distinctions between different leadership types, and whether Theory of Mind development, humility and self-awareness play a role in leadership emergence.

“We’re looking at how people become servant leaders,” Lakusta says. “These are leaders that primarily lead by focusing on their followers. They lead by empowering their followers by guiding, by developing their followers. By doing this, by focusing on their followers, they’re actually able to attain goals.”

The research takes place in Montclair State’s Cognitive and Language Development Lab , where Lakusta leads teams of student researchers. The lab is among the University’s clinical labs in psychology that have received grant funding for research.

“The students really made it happen,” Lakusta says. “They do everything from reading and presenting empirical and theoretical research to coding and analyzing and interpreting data to assisting me with participant testing. They go out into the community on a Sunday afternoon to help recruit children at community fairs. They assist with IRB (Institutional Review Board). The research would not be possible without them.”


15 thoughts on &ldquo Nature vs. nurture &rdquo

I completely relate to and agree with this post. I have four other siblings and two extremely supportive parents who have taught me everything that I know. I definitely do not think I would be the person I am today if it were not for the nurture my parents and older siblings consistently provided. I think the most important lessons my family has taught me is to stay true to myself no matter the cost, and to always treat those around me with kindness and respect. Though I have been positively impacted by my parents and siblings, I believe that family can have the opposite impact on an individual as well. If someone comes from a family with divorced parents or unsupportive parents it can either negatively impact a person or shape them to be entirely different from the family they grew up in. Granted, some people make good arguments about the effect nature has on an individual but I truly believe that nurture shapes the person that you are. I know that there was an old study done on nurture by Harry Harlow from my psych class Senior year. It involved contact comfort with a wire mother versus a cloth mother. The reactions to the cloth mother were much stronger solely based on the comfort level and nurture of the fabric material opposed to the wire. Overall, I think nurture has a more powerful effect on the person that you end up becoming rather than nature.

I also lean towards nurture on this topic of discussion, and I think you brought some valid points to the table. You made good points on how nurture has a greater impact, especially by saying how every life experience, no matter how small, affects who we are and how we act. By using various life experiences, you provide evidence to help prove your initial points, which definitely gives them more of a platform to stand on. A lot of your experiences that you share tie back into you being more prepared for college, which may be a bit of a bias because you’re currently in college. Regardless of that, all of the points you made that tied back to college were entirely valid and served to further prove your statement that nurture has a more significant impact on development than nature.

I lean more towards nurture on this topic. But along with parents that you mentioned, for me my grandparents also had a great impact on me and shaping who I am today. I spent a lot of time at their house when I was younger and they enforced and influenced me and made me follow rules and learn to accept rules since they play a part in every day life. Where I also agree with nature is the environment which we are raised in and that influences who we become. Such as a dangerous city with high poverty, which may impact someone living in it to be violent or poor.. or a small quiet town, where the people may be more reserved. Both sides make very valid points, but I think its a mix of both that influence who we become.

Nature vs. nurture is such a difficult concept to pick a side on because there is strong evidence for both cases. However, I do agree that nurture plays a bigger role than nature. While nature’s influence is evident through the differences in siblings brought up in the same house (for example my polar-opposite sister and me), the traits learned from our environment are so extremely prevalent. I think your college example is a great one, because like you, I was forced to be independent in high school. I did the dishes, worked, and did laundry. When I came to Penn State I was appalled at how little my friends knew about cooking, cleaning, and especially laundry. That was a huge realization to me of how big of an influence one’s family and nurturing affects his or her behavior and demeanor, which is why I lean towards the idea that nurture’s influence trumps nature’s.

Both nature and nurture have significant impacts on our lives, but I agree that nurture often shows greater influence. Our parents have perhaps the most impact on our lives. There is little we can do to change that. Chances are, we will turn out like our parents. Why? Because they are the ones who nurtured and shaped us to adulthood. Certainly we may have our own unique qualities, but often our inborn inclinations are still shaped and influenced by our friends and family and teachers. I have a talent for music, that is something I may have been born with, but my love for music was influenced by my parents and by my teachers. In my experience and, so it seems, yours, nurture is stronger than nature.

I agree with what you argued above that nurture has a greater impact on how we develop as human beings opposed to nature. I also give almost all of the credit of who I am today to my parents. Like you, they taught me very valuable life skills to ensure that when I went off to college I was ready to be more independent, and eventually almost entirely independent when I graduate. Although I believe that nurture is a more dominant influence than nature, there is something to be said for the influence of how you are “wired”. Some people are naturally more optimistic than others and that can be due to different levels of chemicals in their brain. On the contrary, nurture can have an influence on someones outlook on life. There are always going to be outliers, such as, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey who all had a very dominant nature influence which lead to great successes amidst great obstacles. Regarding the average human I would say that nurture is the dominant factor in human development. Both nature and nurture play a hue role in development and depending on who is being studied there will be an uneven balance between the two factors.

Nature and nurture both have big impacts on our lives. Nurture depends on our experiences as well as how we are brought up. Sometimes parents fail to discipline their children and natural tendencies take over. Although in some cases those natural tendencies can not be controlled regardless of how disciplined you are . For example, I was brought up in a strict home but I will always have a stubborn nature. I know when to be respectful and considerate of others but I tend to be stubborn and always chose to do what pleases me. Another way nature can not be changed is the compassionate nature of some individuals. Some people are just naturally compassionate and are always willing to give a helping hand. No matter what they go through, they always seem to care for people.

I found this post particularly interesting because I can relate to your upbringing. My parents taught me a lot. They not only taught me practical tasks like managing money and doing household chores but they also shaped my personal value system. For example, as a child, my dad told me that being a good, kind person was most important in life. He also instilled in me a love of learning and an intellectual drive that I don’t know if I would have otherwise. However, I find it difficult to rank either nature and nurture in terms of importance. How can we know that we wouldn’t be who we are today without the experiences we had? Can we ever really determine how our life and character would be different today had we not gone through past experiences? I see your reasoning but I think nature should not be underestimated. Both forces shape our lives.

Nurture certainly plays a large role in the development of individuals however I think that you disregard the importance of nature a little too much. I agree that nurture seems to play a bigger role in an individual, and my reasoning for this is that it has more visible effects on an individual. Its much harder to gauge if an individual’s behavior stems from a part experience rather than if they were born with a different set of initial conditions. Personally, I think that the way a person changes how they interpret the world comes almost entirely from nature. I relate this idea to a computer that is able to rewrite its own code. In this example, the functioning part of the computer would have its code rewritten on a day-to-day basis, but the underlying program that rewrites that code would change very little.

I really enjoyed reading your post. I agree that nurture (may it be our family, friends, school, job, and relationships) does impact the person we become as we age. I definitely have changed over the years. I have matured from a sweet, young, innocent girl to an intelligent, beautiful, strong, and trustworthy woman. My parents made a huge effort to push me past my potential because they knew how intelligent I was/am and wanted me to realize it and take advantage of it. They raised me to have good morals by forcing me to go to mass, participate in community service, serve breakfast and lunch in soup kitchens, and etc. I was already busy enough with sports, school, and social aspects of my life and at times really wish I didn’t have to however, I had some of the greatest experiences helping those less fortunate than me as well as gaining some of the best advise for elders in nursing homes that I could ever ask for.
I feel as though we truly are innately born with qualities that are unique to ourselves. However, the environment and people we surround ourselves with can greatly impact, mold, and shape these qualities for the better or worse. I do think that both are equally important for our growth as a human being. I feel as though I was born a strong, intelligent individual that would still have strived as hard to get to where I am today, but I am grateful for the environment that molded me and the experiences that I have learned so much from (may they have been through rewards or punishments).

I definitely agree with you that nurture has a bigger impact on our lives than nature. We learn through our experiences as children, and our parents and family life has a great deal of impact on how we turn out as people. My parents made sure that as a child I had a good set of morals. They would not allow me to disrespect adults, or anyone for that matter. I was to treat others how I would want to be treated. Without them, I do not think I would have accomplished as much as I have in life, especially academically. They taught me how important school was at a young age by making sure I had my homework done at a reasonable time. When I was younger, I wanted to do well in school and try my hardest because my parents would be upset with me if I had gotten a bad grade because I decided not to study. They did not let bad grades slide, since they were paying for my education and it was my job to do well. As I got older, it just became part of whom I was to try hard in school in order to do well. I wanted to get good grades, because it made me feel proud of myself. This shows how being encouraged at a young age to do something makes you into the person you are now.

I agree with a lot of the points that you have made however, I do not believe that nurture has a greater impact on an individual than nature. The main reason for my disagreement is due to the fact that I believe that nature and nurture both contribute the same to an individual. Indeed nurture plays a huge role in the person you become such as is you were raised to be responsible for yourself at a young age, you will tend to be much more responsible later on in life than others who didn’t get that discipline from their parents at a younger age. However, there are some things that cannot be controlled which are controlled by the nature aspect. For example, you may be inclined to get certain diseases because it was genetic and your parents handed it down to you. Another example of nature is you height which generally cannot be changed due to how you were nurtured. As you can see, nature and nurture equally influence someone and both play a huge role in how you turn out as an adult.

I agree with you that nurture can have a tremendous impact on the way an individual behaves and acts. However, I don’t believe that nurture necessarily has a greater impact than nature. I believe that they both contribute to a person’s way of thinking and actions in an equal way. For example, say there is a lot of violence in a particular neighborhood. A young child will probably pick up on those violent actions and become to have aggressive behaviors him/herself. This is learning from the environment. Say a new clothing trend is in style, I’m sure people will pick up on those trends and it will influence them on what they start wearing. Also, children pick up on language and imitate language from what they hear in the environment or what other people are saying in a conversation not just from their parents. From the nurture side, I can relate to your stories on how my parents have contributed to me being who I am today. They have taught me the do’s and don’ts and the essentials that I need to know for living a successful, happy life. The way I act today is a huge part of how my parents raised me, but I think Nature and nurture are both equally important topics on how one person is shaped into “who they are”.

I was raised somewhat in the same manner as you were and thought it was funny when I came to college how some people didn’t know how to do things that i had been doing since i was twelve like laundry. I mostly agree with what you had to say but a slight difference would be that i think its more of a perfect balance between nature and nurture that defines who you are as a person. I believe there are situations where how you were raised will take precedence in your characteristics and vice versa. I think its interesting how he theory of behaviorism links up with the concept of nature vs nurture. The idea behind the theory is that behaviors can be triggered by a stimulus and that the behavior that takes place can be controlled based on receiving a reward or a punishment. which would be similar to nurture in that you are taught to do specific things.

I agree with many of the points you made. I believe that how an individual is raised can essentially make or break the person they become. If you are raised in a family that conduces independent behavior, such as your own, then it is almost inevitable that you will grow up to be an independent person. I think that every person has their own unique personality, however that personality can be shaped into one similar to the people they are most often associated with. On the other hand, I am unsure how much nature has to do with who we are. I think that nature in general can put restrictions on how much an individual can handle in their lifetime whether it be mental or physical restrictions.


Taking the 'vs.' out of nature vs. nurture

Evolutionary and cultural psychologists found common ground at a first-ever conference.

By ALANA CONNER SNIBBE, PHD

November 2004, Vol 35, No. 10

White flags of truce flew over the nature vs. nurture wars at a July conference on mind, culture and evolution, where cultural and evolutionary psychologists swapped findings and philosophies. At stake, said cultural psychologist and conference organizer Steven Heine, PhD, was nothing less than "how to view human nature in psychology."

The three-day conference, "Mind, Culture and Evolution: The First University of British Columbia Summer Symposium," was the first formal meeting of cultural and evolutionary psychologists--two groups that have historically had little to say to each other.

"Basically, there is a turf battle between the two," explained University of Pennsylvania psychologist Paul Rozin, PhD, whose research integrates cultural and evolutionary psychology approaches. "Moderates on both sides recognize that the other side has a legitimate explanatory role, but the question comes down to how much of an explanatory role. Each side wants the bigger piece of the pie."

On the one hand, evolutionary psychologists like David Buss, PhD, of the University of Texas, emphasize that humans' abilities to create, adapt to and pass on their cultures--their beliefs, attitudes, practices and institutions--are a product of evolution. Having human cultures requires having brains that can handle such complex activities as language production and social coordination. Evolution selected these complicated, culture-making brains in humans (and perhaps a few other animals), meaning that early human ancestors with such brains had more children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren than did hominids with different brains. Over generations, evolutionists hold, human ancestors with culture-making brains dominated the ancestral landscape, and their genes dominated the genome, until only Homo sapiens were left.

On the other hand, cultural psychologists emphasize that culture is a second force in human nature--and one that is at least as important as evolution. Unlike other organisms, humans actively create their symbolic, social and material worlds. It is only through interacting with these cultural worlds that meaty human brains become sublime human minds, said Stanford University cultural psychologist Hazel Rose Markus, PhD. "Additionally," Markus continued, "people everywhere ask, 'Who am I? Why am I here? What is the good way to be?' Cultures inform their answers to these foundational questions, and therefore fundamentally shape their psychologies."

Conference organizers gave the two intellectual camps equal airtime to discuss differences and perhaps discover common ground, with cultural psychologists presenting on the first day and evolutionary psychologists presenting on the second. On the final day, speakers presented research that synthesized the two approaches (see Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 for each day's highlights).

MARRYING VIEWS

Conference attendees showed "open-minded good will on both sides," observed McMaster University evolutionary psychologist Martin Daly, PhD. This contrasts with the stereotypes of the two fields, according to which evolutionary psychologists approach culture as mere mud flaps on the eighteen-wheeler of natural selection, while cultural psychologists approach evolution as a salacious soap opera that went off the air 200,000 years ago.

Indeed, many conference attendees were already thinking about how cultural and evolutionary psychologists might integrate their views.

"Evolutionary psychology can examine the evolved human potential for culture, whereas cultural psychology can show how that potential is transformed to yield a functioning psychological system," said cultural psychologist Shinobu Kitayama, PhD, of the University of Michigan. Unified, the two fields might then tackle the larger "why" questions that elude psychologists of all stripes: Why does a given psychological process arise in the first place, why does it persist--not just over evolutionary time, but also over historical and developmental time--and why does it change?

ANSWERING "WHY?"

At a meta-theoretical level, both fields give the same answer to those "why" questions, noted University of Toronto cultural psychologist Glenn Adams, PhD. Psychological processes emerge, persist and change over time because humans adapt to their environments. Cultural and evolutionary psychologists differ, however, in what they mean by the terms "adaptation," "time" and "environment," he said.

Evolutionary psychologists use these terms in their Darwinian senses: Adaptations are biological changes that became more frequent among humans because they contributed to reproductive success over millions of years in the ancestral environment. So, for example, many evolutionary psychologists say that we can thank our Stone Age ancestors for the neural circuits underlying our attraction to symmetrical faces. Among our ancient forebears, facial symmetry on the outside might have meant a strong immune system on the inside--a coup for hominids and their offspring on the primordial savanna, where sicknesses far outnumbered remedies.

Cultural psychologists, however, often use a looser definition of adaptation to mean changes in values, practices and institutions that proved useful in particular social, historical or ecological contexts. So, for example, many Americans can attribute their deep-seated need to work overtime to their Protestant predecessors. For them, hard work on the outside often indicated spiritual worth on the inside--a two-for-one ticket that ensured material wealth in this life and a spot in heaven in the next.

Will the frequency of meetings between culturalists and evolutionists increase? Adaptation is tricky to predict, but people are already asking about a second conference of this sort, reported University of British Columbia cultural psychologist Ara Norenzayan, PhD, who also served as one of the conference's organizers. In lieu of prognostication, Buss simply pronounced the first conference "a smashing success" because it "began to build bridges between the two perspectives, and may ultimately create a unified field of psychology."

Alana Conner Snibbe is a writer in San Francisco.

Further Reading

Heine, S.J., Kitayama, S., Lehman, D.R., Takata, T., Ide, E., Leung, C., et al. (2001). Divergent consequences of success and failure in Japan and North America: An investigation of self-improving motivations and malleable selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(4), 599-615.

Kameda, T., Takezawa, M., & Hastie, R. (2003). The logic of social sharing: An evolutionary game analysis of adaptive norm development. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7(1), 2-19.


Introduction

The study of primary emotional systems represents an important research endeavor to better understand psychological well-being and psychopathologies such as affective disorders in humans [1]. Specifically, it has been put forward that imbalances in these ancient emotional brain systems go along with psychopathologies, e. g. that a lack of PLAY behavior in childhood might be linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) later on or that an overactivation of the SADNESS (separation-distress, psychological-pain) system and the subsequence reduction of SEEKING urges are major cause for depression (for full discussion, see [2, 3]). (Primary emotional systems are printed in capital letters, as a formal designation for primal emotional systems of mammalian brains, partly intended to distinguish them from the vernacular emotional terms commonly used in emotional and other psychological research. The need for scientifically clear designators for primary-process (i.e., evolved) brain emotional and motivational systems is essential, and the formal designators should help avoid mereological fallacies (part-whole confusions) which are abundant in neuropsychological discourse (see [4]). A major goal of Panksepp’s Affective Neuroscience perspective has been dedicated to elucidating how primal (i.e., evolved) neuropsychobiological emotional networks underlie core affective processes (using animal models to illuminate foundational human affects), and how their upward influence in the brain shape diverse higher-order psychological and behavioral processes. By applying techniques such as deep (subcortical) electrical stimulation of the mammalian brain and pharmacological challenges his group has provided evidence for seven distinct primary emotional systems (SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC and PLAY) anchored in phylogenetically old brain areas which not only instigate instinctual emotional behaviors, but also influence and control the secondary processes of learning and memory and tertiary-process such as cognitive decision making [1]. These primal emotions are survival systems, which with various sensory and homeostatic (e.g., HUNGER and THIRST) affects constitute the primal value (reward and punishment) systems of the brain. These subcortical systems are foundational for higher mental processes in all animals since extensive damage to such systems compromise consciousness, and they are envisioned to guide the development of higher mental processes, including personality dimensions which, with maturation, gradually provide higher reciprocal-regulatory cortical control over lower affective processes.

The mammalian (especially human) prefrontal cortex and other neocortical regions can control emotional outbursts from subcortical areas (providing top-down behavioral and psychological regulation). But in extreme situations—such as in high danger—our brains often respond with stereotypic genetically-anchored affective response patterns (instigating bottom–up arousal of higher-order brain processes) such as strategies for fight, flight or freezing (e. g. [5]), which helped our ancestors to not only escape various hazardous situations but to develop cognitive skills to avoid them in the future (see also a new questionnaire measuring these distinct fear tendencies [6]). So different primary/basic emotions have different functions with respect to survival and reproductive behaviors. In the end a better understanding of the functioning and interplay of these emotional systems should facilitate development of new therapeutics to better treat a wide range of psychiatric disorders [2,3].

The seven primary emotional systems of Panksepp’s primary-process affective neuroscience can be divided into two larger groups of positive and negative emotions. The emotional systems belonging to the first group of positive emotions are called SEEKING, LUST, CARE and PLAY (in presumed evolutionary order), whereas the latter group representing negative emotions comprises RAGE (also labeled ANGER in discussions of human personality), FEAR (or “anxiety” in the vernacular), and PANIC (namely primary-process separation distress, or higher-order SADNESS, which we deemed a more clear and appropriate designator for human personality profiling). The SEEKING system energizes human beings and helps them not only to be energized with “enthusiasm” and “interest”, in explorative/investigative way in everyday life. The PLAY system has been best characterized not only by the instinctual nature of rough and tumble play in most mammals–a very bodily evolved form of play–best observed in all young mammals, including human childhood, with the brain mapping providing clarification of brain regions where Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) evokes laughter-type play vocalizations in animal models [7]. The function of the PLAY system probably relates to learning about social structures/hierarchies (e.g., eventual social dominance), learning to cope with losing or being defeated, shaping social-appetitive motoric skills and from a psychological perspective, simply having fun (which may promote bodily and mental health). The LUST and CARE system are of high importance for reproductive success and social bonding and are deeply entwined. The PLAY system is probably evolutionary the youngest with LUST reproduction circuits evolving earlier than the genetic programs for CARE—nurturing other individuals especially one’s own offspring. The FEAR system has been already mentioned above and helps mammals to free themselves from danger. The RAGE/ANGER system facilitates acquiring and holding-on to resources, and can be activated by frustrations (that can arise from higher-order encoding of desires). Finally, the PANIC/SADNESS system reflects arousal of what has traditionally been called “separation distress” the chronic overactivity of which is associated with depression [2,3,8]. For cross-mammalian brain research purposes, this system has been formally designated the PANIC system, which is illustrated by typical panic behaviors and feeling (i.e., separation distress calls, commonly called “crying”) when children get lost and are out of sight of their parents or other caregivers.

Besides the importance of neuroscientific techniques, especially DBS, to study primary emotional systems, Davis et al. [9], published a self-report inventory called Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS), updated and refined in Davis & Panksepp [10], aimed at measuring individual differences in these primary emotional systems. The publication of these scales represents an important addition to the toolbox of biologically/behaviorally oriented personality psychologists, because Panksepp’s primary emotional systems could be viewed as being among the evolutionary oldest contributors to human personality (influencing human personality bottom-up development as reflected by their neuroanatomical foundations in the “old-mammalian” and “reptilian” areas of Paul MacLean’s Triune Brain Concept see also [11]). The ANPS contrasts to classic questionnaires reflecting the Five Factor Model of Personality (e. g. [12]) and may be more appropriate for guiding in the investigation of the biological underpinnings of individual differences in primary sources of temperament, namely one’s genetically controlled emotional strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Montag & Reuter [13] highlight the potential importance of these scales in the context of disentangling the molecular genetics of primary emotional systems and personality. As the Five Factor Model of Personality is based on a lexical (adjective-based) approach it does not help in hypothesizing about diverse neurobiological affect-engendering brain systems that are critical brain substrates underlying human personality. The usefulness of the ANPS for biologically-oriented personality psychology can be best explained by a small example. If animal models show that PLAY behavior in rodents is modulated by opioids (as it is, see [14]), the dynamics of brain opioid systems should also be of relevance for human ludic activities, because these ancient brain systems are highly conserved across species.

As postulated by Turkheimer [15] and newly confirmed within a meta-analysis [16], all human traits are heritable. For the Big Five personality traits, several studies in the past 50 years of research revealed a strong genetic basis for all five personality factors in the range of about 40–60% (e.g. [17]). In terms of environmental contributions, comparable amounts of personality variation can be explained by non-shared environmental experiences. This has also been underlined in a recent meta-analysis [18]. For the ANPS scales, Davis et al. [9] investigated the extent to which self-reports derived from the ANPS questionnaire were related to self-report measures of the Big Five personality traits, i.e. how closely core emotional systems were associated with basic personality traits. Each of the six ANPS scales was found to be closely related to at least one of the Big Five personality scales. The authors concluded that the six core emotional systems assessed by the ANPS scales constituted the roots of adult personality structures, and developmentally contributed to the construction of higher-order emotional traits. Given these findings and the theoretical concept behind the ANPS, one would postulate a strong genetic basis of all the basic emotional systems. With respect to associations among the ANPS scales, which can be depicted by a higher-order positive and negative system, one would further expect a common genetic basis underlying these emotional systems. Please note that LUST was intentionally dropped from the ANPS, because it overlaps greatly with homeostatic affects (e.g., peripheral hormonally-controlled core affects) and because of social reticence or lack of frankness in responding to questions concerning one’s sexuality. Also, such affective responses to one set of questions could potentially create spill-over problems for people responding to other trait questions frankly, but as discussed later, a Spirituality scale was added to evaluate therapeutically-important existential dimensions of existence.

To the best of our knowledge—there are currently no scientific-empirical studies showing the relative contribution of genetic influences on individual differences in these primal emotional foundations of human personality. Hence, the genetic and environmental etiology of individual differences in these traits as well as the etiology of associations among these systems remains poorly understood. Given this fact, the present study aimed to quantify for the first time, the relative influence of both nature and nurture on individual differences in primary emotional systems by means of identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twin study. Univariate and multivariate genetic modeling was applied to investigate the extent of genetic sources on each emotional system and covariations among them to explore the structural nature of primary emotionality.