Birth vs. Crib

How Genetics and Biology Influence Behavior

One of the more complex questions concerning human behavior and human psychology is how to explain why humans behave in the ways that they do or how personality and behaviors develop. What causes a person to be and react the way they do? It has been a point of argument and theory for many years. However, only two approaches seem viable to take.

One, is that biology and genetics determines personality. That personality is shaped by how the body reacts to stimuli and that is based in the biology of the person. The biology approach doesn’t completely disregard environment but does state that biology is a more important determiner or personality.

Secondly, the other theory is based on behaviorism, which theorizes that environment shapes personality through a series of interactions that are based on rewards and punishments. Without exception these are the two most prominent approaches taken to personality development.

Recently more attention had been given to biology as newer and better studies support this as the basis for personality development. Biology or genetics has come to explain that people possess certain personality traits because of their genetic code.

The study indicates that more than environmental factors that biology shapes person’s personality. Commonsense and everyday wisdom has long assumed that personality was determined by how a child was raised and what sort of environment the child was exposed to while maturing. That parental interactions and input determined the child’s behaviors. Parents in particular want to believe they can shape and influence the character and personality of their children rather than have their personality determined by a genetic role of the dice.

Behavioral theory has long suggested that personality is created by how the child interacts with its environment. Of most note, is the behavioral theorist B.F.Skinner who believed in the shortest possible words: “It has long been known that behavior is affected by its consequences. We reward and punish people, for example, so that they will behave in different ways” He believed that offering rewards or positive reinforcement would affect how people behaved by increasing a behavior while punishments diminished a behavior. In an experimental stage or in a study that is often true. Behavior can be manipulated by a series of rewards and punishments. This is most clearly applicable to learning situations. However, it has very little to do with basic personality traits, such as shyness, or being an extrovert.

While behavioral theories can be proved by studies that give out rewards and punishments for certain behaviors there is a difference in behavior and hard-wired personality. People can experience change to get a reward, but that doesn’t mean the change is sustainable in regard to their personality. For example, a group can get rewards for smiling and saying hello to strangers. And maybe those that are very introverted will do this behavior to get the reward if the reward is appealing enough. Yet it is unlikely that introverted people will do this same behavior once the reward is taken away.

It has become increasingly clear through studies that biology more than environment determines personality. Many new studies have proven for most part that the personality traits studied showed that differences were due to biology, physiology and anatomy. Many newer studies focus on the brain and the nervous system, and it is likely more evidence will be gathered to support these early finding.

There is a certain level of discomfort with these findings. Many parents and people want to believe that their actions have a direct impact on the behavior of their children or students. It is more comforting to believe actions shape a person than to believe that person’s personality is determined at conception.

However, in some ways it is not. Environment interacts with personality traits. A child that is shy is made shyer by parental interactions or less shy with parental interactions. Environment modifies behavior. While biology might determine the larger picture of a person the environment colors in the nuances. Because at least half of a person’s personality is still shaped by environmental interactions and influences.

While personality might be proved to be a direct result of genetics there is still the impact of environmental factors. Newer research might be is focused on the brain and physiology and anatomy as a means to understand the why and how a person behaves a certain way, but it is only half of the picture the other half is how those genetic traits combine with environmental factors to form personality.

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