What Determines Our Behaviour – Genes Or Environment?

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will. – Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India.

Much has been written and debated about what determines the behaviour of a person, genes or environment? Are our genes responsible for what we do in our day to day life? Or does environment play a dominant role in shaping our behaviour? This “nature – nurture” theory is a perennial topic of discussion.

The basic unit of heredity in an organism is its gene. Genes are responsible for passing genetic traits to the next generation. The coding sequence of genes decides what the gene does for construction and maintenance of an organism’s cells while the non- coding sequence decides when the gene is active. genee

The Nature Theory

Scientists of Nature Theory think that people behave as they do because of their genetic predisposition. Physical qualities like eye, hair, or skin color, body structure, diseases and characteristics like interest, personality, temperament and sexual habits are also encoded in the genes. Human behavior is less controlled by the environment of free will but more by the genes they carry. Whatever incidents occur and traits that are practiced generation after generation get imprinted on the genes and are passed on to some extent to the next generation.

The Nurture Theory

Some scientists conclude that genetic tendencies do exist, but they ultimately don’t matter because the environmental factors and their upbringing that determine people’s behaviour. A gene may increase the inclination towards a particular behaviour but it does not make people do things unless a favourable environment is provided. If an environment resisting of their genetic tendencies is provided to people, they are most likely to behave according to their upbringing.

Nature or Nurture?

Issues like criminal behavior, infidelity, sexual preferences have been ascribed by Nature theorists to genes.

“We are survival machines,” Richard Dawkins writes in The Selfish Gene, “robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” And “… genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs..”

If we believe this, and people are no longer held accountable for their actions, how will society be possible? On the other hand can we justify criminal behavior by simply saying that increasing summer heat or solar flare leads to increasing levels of assaults and rapes, as some psychologists claim? stylowakobieta

It is believed that as we go higher orders in species like mammals that there is a smaller role of instincts and better environmental and behavioural adaptability in the constant process of survival. Human beings have the least instincts. We have instead a great influence of our surroundings and environment substantially determines our behavior.

A study at the University of Minnesota of behaviours of identical twins reared in different homes claims that approximately seventy percent of the variation in IQ is due to genes. Others believe that isolation of twins could never be complete as they would have some social or cultural commonality and communication in their environment in this world fast becoming socially and culturally uniform.


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