Recycling 2 cents

Preface: I’m not a big fan of the nature vs. nurture debate because the nature of the question makes it seem that it should be one or the other. Also, when people attempt to address the issue, they make it seem as if there is only one right answer. I always wonder: Why do we insist on making it nature versus nurture? Why can’t it be both? (I really like the nature via nurture idea.) The debate seems to involve way too much drama for my taste. However, for the first time, I enjoyed a nature-nurture discussion in our seminar last Tuesday. I usually don’t offer my 2 cents on this issue, but I did at our discussion. And now I want to (re)extend my 2 cents on the nature-nurture debate to you because it probably won’t again happen for a while (unless I’m forced to in a class.)

When I was younger, my aunts and uncles loved to play around with me because I was the youngest out of all my cousins for a while. My family gave me a Filipino nickname that translates to “cry baby” because (as you can probably infer from the nickname) I cried a lot. And I mean a lot. But I had good reason to cry most of the time (and for the record, I’m not a cry baby anymore . . .) One of the pranks my family tried to pull on me was telling me that I was not my parents’ real daughter. They developed a very elaborate story on how my parents’ “real daughter” and I were accidentally switched at birth, which was not actually necessary because I was bawling 10 seconds into their “revelation”. Of course, my parents comforted and assured me that I was their real daughter and my aunts and uncles had their laughs. However, the possibility that I was not my parents’ real daughter stuck with me for a while. I asked my best friends and classmates if I looked like my mom or dad. My face gleamed with pleasure and satisfaction when my mom’s co-workers told me that I looked like a mini-version of my mom.

Things have changed over the years. I no longer seek confirmation that I am the fruit of my parents’ loins. In fact, in the past couple of years it has come to my attention that I greatly differ from my parents, especially my mom. My mom frequently makes subjective decisions, while I tend to be more objective.  My mom is introverted, while I am extroverted. My mom is generous, while I am quite stingy. On the other hand, things were the other way with my dad. My dad and I are very alike and it is a tad creepy. We have similar idiosyncrasies, the same sense of humor, and identical approaches to problem solving. Of course this all makes sense because my dad is my dad . . . but what if I were to tell you that I didn’t grow up with my dad? I actually didn’t get to know my dad until my junior year of high school. Interestingly, I didn’t have a hard time adjusting to living with him and getting along with him because of our alikeness.

Because I was not brought up by my father, it seems that genes explain our strong nonphysical resemblance. Indeed, twin studies show the power of nature (Connectome, Seung, pg. 100–102). However, I find it difficult to fathom that nature carried so much weight in my situation, probably because I want to believe that nurture is as equally or even more powerful as nature. What other factors could possibly explain my strong similarity with my dad?

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8 thoughts on “Recycling 2 cents

  1. I’m not a fan of the debate, either! Probably because, at this point, I’ve participated in this debate in several classes and we always come to the general consensus that it’s probably nurture AND nature (nature via nurture)… so to me, I automatically think “It’s both! Why are we having this debate again?”

    I think your story about your dad and your similar personalities may demonstrate that nature/nurture’s influence depends on the individual? I’m also FAR more similar to my dad than my mom, yet I spent most of my time with my mom growing up!

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  2. The Nature vs Nurture debate is one that has definitely gone on for way to long ! Yet, I believe it is nurture via nature, due to the fact that one cannot develop within their nurture without a solid nature. For example one who develops brain abnormalities will not be nurtured as well as one who does not develop abnormalities. But thats just my two cents.

    The anecdote about your family is one that is extremely interesting, especially when you find yourself very similar to a parent you didn’t grow up with. The thought that begins to cross my mind is, whether or not one can “inherit” personality traits as opposed to develop them in their environment. In my family, I am much more similar to my mom in personality, plus I “look like her” a lot more than my sister who resembles my father in both looks and personality.

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  3. It’s so difficult to pick a side in the debate — I agree as well that the Nature via nurture is a great way of viewing influences. It’s funny because out of my family of five members, my dad and brother are very alike, and my mom and I are — and then my little sister seems to be a combination of mom and dad, plus a little of my brother and I thrown in. Why is she the way she is? Is it a coincidence that the youngest of three siblings (4 years behind my brother, who is 3 years behind me) seems to have the largest combination of personality traits? It always makes me wonder.

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  4. I also get frustrated when this debate comes up in class, because I am a big proponent of nature and nurture working in tandem. I would agree above with Jon on his point that it might be nurture via nature, because I do think a sound basis of nature is needed in order to develop and experience nurture. Again, that is my own personal view.

    In our class we recently learned that when the brain develops, not every detail is specified in the genome. This leaves room for personal development through our own experiences, which includes the pruning of neurons. I think this is a great example of nature and nurture working together in influencing an individual’s personality and characteristics. You have the nature aspect of genes and neuron connections in the brain, and you also have personal experiences and nurture coming into play, and the strongest ones determine which connections remain in the brain, and which do not.

    As for your family example, I do believe it is nature and genes that have produced similarities between you and your father. I guess I am thinking of some of my own personality traits that just will not change no matter how hard I try, like my patience level. At times I can be extremely impatient, and find certain things annoying and irrelevant. While I have worked on not making my emotions clear to others (especially when they are the ones annoying me!), there is no doubt that I still find these things annoying. I believe this is written in my genome, but I can alter my behavior towards it. My mom is the same way. So, while you may not have grown up with your father, I believe there are permanent character traits you inherited from him that remain similar between the two of you.

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  5. I have admit that the nature vs nurture debate is very frustrating. Everyone can come up with examples for either side, but I support that nature shapes nurture. For example, if a baby is born with Down’s syndrome, that is due to nature. There is no question that a genetic hiccup caused the syndrome. However, the nurture received by that child from his/her mother will be much different because of the Down’s syndrome. This doesn’t mean that the nurture is any less loving, but shaped to fit the needs of the Down’s syndrome child.
    Another, less extreme example is that of a homosexual child. Maybe a baby is born with certain preceptors to be gay and it’s through the baby’s nurturing experience that make him/her gay. Recent studies suggest that certain parts of the hypothalamus are different (in size) in gay men. Does this mean that a smaller hypothalamus will yield a gay baby? Maybe, maybe not. I think that that size difference may influence the child’s orientation to an extent, but the nurture it receives because of the nature might be the ultimate deciding factor. But that’s just my opinion…

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  6. I agree with what everyone else has said, it must be both nature and nurture working at the same time. While I do understand where a few people are coming from when they say that due to a person’s nature (i.e. born with Down’s syndrome) they will be nurtured differently, this isn’t the complete point of the nuture aspect. The concept of nurture doesn’t need to be considered at such an extreme level. Its more about how the environment is affecting the individual, not necessarily just how the child was “nurtured” by their mother. I think that looking at it in this way makes the argument for nuture more accessable because its really easy to see how living in a certain place, with certain people, or going to certain school can have a HUGE effect on an individual. I know that if I hadn’t grown up the way that I have, I would be a very different person.

    I also immediately thought of what Lisa mentioned from class when we learned that not everything in brain development is specified in the genome. This means that ones experiences in the environment are what is making up the rest of their brain and its uniqueness. “Nuture” is part of the carving that makes the final sculpture of the brain.

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  7. I agree with Czarina and with everyone else as well. I am also now wondering if certain’s people’s genes make them more sensitive to the environment and more susceptible to “nature”.Some people are obviously more sensitive to their environment including the people around them than others, but could this be due to their genes? Or could it be due to who has been in their environment in the past? After we have all decided that both nature and nurture are important, it definitely could be and most likely is both. I guess I am wondering if everyone is equally affected by nature and nurture. For example, could everyone be 40% nature and 60% nurture or 40% nurture and 60% nature? The ratios are insignificant, but are they the same for everyone? -Julie

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  8. I find that I am similar both of my parents, but I have certainly become more like them over time. I never went through a particularly rebellious phase of trying to be their antithesis, and was perfectly content to absorb the environment with which they provided me. I know genetics must play some wort of role in shaping personality, but I should think the likelihood of growing similar to people is increased the more time you spend with them. You hang out with a group of friends that uses certain slang or have certain mannerisms and, before you know it, you start to sound or move like they do. Couples begin to develop similar habits. I think these convergences might come as a result of connections being rearranged in the connectome due to simple repetitive exposure, suggesting that maybe nature gives you the boundaries for your connectome and nurture works to fill in the space it’s been given.

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