# Day 135 (Nature and Nurture)

They call it the oldest debate in the history of psychology~Nature vs Nurture. Potent arguments have been put forward on behalf of either side from time to time and so it’s difficult to really say whether a person’s character, behaviour etc is already mapped out by his DNA and gene-pool or is it influenced largely by external factors like the environment and life-experiences. For a long time it was generally felt that humans acquired all or most of their traits from nurture…a person being a ‘blank slate’ initially. In our own culture ‘sangati’ (a word that can be best translated as a combination of ‘company, fellowship or association’) has been given a lot of importance and as children one of the lessons impressed upon you time and again was to avoid the trap of falling into bad company or ‘kusangati.’ In the teachings of Guru Nanak and the gurus who followed, ‘sangat’ took on a religious connotation as a fellowship of seekers of truth. One of the most quoted reflection on association comes from Swami Vivekananda where he says~

” The raindrop from the sky, if it is caught in hands, is pure enough for drinking. If it falls in the gutter, its value drops so much that it can’t be used even for washing the feet. If it falls on a hot surface, it perishes. If it falls on a lotus leaf, it shines like a pearl and finally, if it falls on an oyster, it becomes a pearl. The drop is the same, but its existence and worth depends upon with whom it associates.”

And yet, there is also the example of the beautiful pristine lotus that blooms in the dirtiest of swamps…
In fact in recent years, both types of factors have come to be recognised as playing interacting roles in a person’s development. A couple of months back a medical study drawing upon 50 years of research came to the conclusion that the result of this match between the two can only be a ‘draw.’ The study specifically collated data about traits involving fourteen and a half million twins, and compared identical twins, which have the same genetic makeup, to non-identical twins, who only share half of their genes. Their findings revealed that on the average genetics and environment contributed equally to traits, although there were wide variations in individual traits. Genetics influencing mental health and certain diseases more, while environmental factors playing a larger role in social development. The conclusion being that we should stop thinking about ‘nature versus nurture’ but more about ‘nature and nurture’. Modern psychologists consider the question naive and representing an outdated state of knowledge. Donald Hebb, the famous Canadian psychologist has been recorded as once answering a journalist’s question about which of the two—nature or nurture, contributes more to ones personality by a counter question of his own:
“Which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?”


About sunsur81

A gatherer of thoughts...exploring myths,metaphors and expressions of life...
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