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Environment vs. Genetics Essay

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Personality is a concept that can be viewed so differently among people. There are several conceptual issues that relate to the study of personality but the two that pulled me the most were Genetic Determinants and Environmental Determinants. This is my third class in my Graduate program and I have found that Nature vs. Nurture is an “argument” that is a constant factor in individual development and personality. I am swayed more toward these two factors of personality development due to several personal experiences.

Upon referring to the text and reading various articles, one would be able to conclude that genetic evidence of personality development come from several studies of twins. “Surprisingly, some attitudes and beliefs show almost as much genetic influence as do other behavioral traits. One focus of recent interest is traditionalism, the tendency to follow rules and authority and to endorse high moral standards and strict discipline.

For example, a large twin study estimated that half of the variance on this measure is due to genetic influence, and a report of twins reared apart has also found substantial genetic influence for traditionalism” (Plomin, 1989). Throughout my lifetime I have encountered several sets of twins. Some have been friends, teachers, coworkers, etc. Throughout grade school and into my high school years there were a set of female twins that were in various classes of mine.

The twins parents insisted that they become separated because they wanted them both to form their own identities. Throughout school one twin was very athletic and belonged to several academic and drama clubs. The other twin appeared to be more introverted in the school setting. What I found most interesting was certain patterns they followed. No matter how different their environments were they always followed set rules in the same manner. They were both extremely polite and spoke very eloquently.

When they were together it was as if the rest of the world did not exist and they had become one person. I say this because their personalities (in my opinion) showed that they both shared a genetic makeup that made them so similar that it was almost impossible to tell them apart when it was just the two of them. They moved the same, they showed the same responses to humor or fear. These actions came through when they were together and even when they were apart. Their reactions to events were uncanny. I have a biological sister that is 9 years older than me.

We live in different states (and only see each other every 2-3 years) and (again in my opinion) genetic influence would be the only explanation for various aspects of our personality. With this being said however, I was also able to see the environmental influences on their lives of the twins that affected their personalities. I, myself, tend to believe more in environmental factors influencing our personalities and behaviors. There are several aspects of our environments that can have an effect on our personality but peer influence can be one of the strongest throughout our lifetime. The answer to the question ‘Why are children from the same family so different from one another? ’ (Plomin & Daniels, 1987) is, because they have different experiences outside the home and because their experiences inside the home do not make them more alike” (Cervone, Oliver & Pervin, 2005). I believe most of us would be able to reflect back in our life and choose several moments in which our peers, whether young or old, have influenced our decisions and had an effect on our personalities.

I am fascinated by this because I am always talking about how others influence my personality due to the things I admire about them and would like to mimic and also due to behaviors in which I disagree with. On several occasions I have found myself to become more aggressive and judgmental due to a peers beliefs/actions. For 4+ years I worked in the field of nonprofit. I worked with individuals with very low income that were considered “at-risk”. In an article written by Piff, P. K. , Kraus, M. W. , Cote, S. , Cheng, B. , & Keltner, D. I discovered some information that I found to be very true from my own personal experiences. Across 4 studies, lower class individuals proved to be more generous (Study 1), charitable (Study 2), trusting (Study 3), and helpful (Study 4) compared with their upper class counterparts. Mediator and moderator data showed that lower class individuals acted in a more prosocial fashion because of a greater commitment to egalitarian values and feelings of compassion”(Cheng, Cote’, Keltner, Kraus & Pff, 2010). This information is very interesting to me because it does not outwardly state whether these behaviors/actions are based on environments or genetics.

I would love to ask my classmates their opinions on these behaviors. Do you sway more toward believing environmental factors produced these individual’s personalities or genetics? As you can see, the debate over environmental and genetic influences is one that fascinates me. I find these 2 things to be the strongest determinant in overall individual development. In this field of study it is obvious that there will never be a “solid” conclusion as to whether one is the ultimate determinant but with more study we can determine which one influences certain situations more.