Often individuals have questions about personality. After all, what is personality? Is it the way we think? Is it the way we act? Or does it comprise of our traits? However, according to the American Psychological Association, “Personality refers to the individual differences in the characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving.” Yet, one of the most commonly asked questions is what influences behavior i.e. the core aspect of personality? Is behavior a product of nature? Or is it an outcome of nurture? To understand this, let us have a deeper look into this debate.
HOW IS PERSONALITY FORMED?
The origin of the term personality is from the Roman word “persona”. This describes the mask that the theatre actors wore during a drama. Thus, personality is something that remains consistent throughout an individuals’ life. Personality is something that causes the behavior to take place. For instance, an individual who is an introvert will be shy in a social gathering. Here, being shy is an outcome of their personality trait and not vice-versa. Personality affects every aspect of a person’s life. There are many theories to understand how personality developed. Some of them are listed below:
TRAIT THEORY OF PERSONALITY:
Gordon Allport was the first one to define personality according to traits. Thus, this theory states that personality comprises certain traits or dispositions. Traits are biologically based characteristic way of behavior. Subsequently, an individual’s traits influence and form the personality. Allport described three major kinds of traits. Common traits that are usually present in all individuals like generosity or kindness. Central traits are the ones that primarily form the personality. For instance, friendliness. Finally, there are cardinal traits. These traits are dominant to an extent. As a result, individuals come to know through it. Like Mother Teresa’s kindness and altruism. These traits together make up the individual personality.
THE BIG FIVE THEORY:
This theory states that there are five main aspects of personality. This includes agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness. Yet, these five traits vary from individual to individual. For instance, a person might be high in extraversion but low in neuroticism. Another person can be high in conscientiousness but low in openness. Henceforth, this theory is one of the most popular theories. It also states that every individual’s personality will fall under the spectrum of the five main dimensions mentioned above.
ERIKSON’S THEORY OF PSYCHOSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT:
Erik Erikson was a well-known psychologist. Thus, he presented a theory on personality development. This theory stated eight stages through which the personality develops. These stages begin from the onset of infancy and continue till old age. Yet, if any problem occurs in any of the stages then it will have an impact on the later stage of personality development.
WHAT IS NATURE V/S NURTURE DEBATE ALL ABOUT?
In simple psychological terms, nature refers to the genetic and other biological aspects that influence human behavior/personality. On the other hand, nurture refers to the external environment of an individual. This might include the type of upbringing, social relationships, and pattern of individual experiences. Another prime difference between nature and nurture is the fact that the former is inherited. While the latter is learned.
Consequently, the nature v/s nurture debate is all about the opposing views on the aspect of behavior. One group sides with the belief that behavior is the handiwork of nature. This group states that behavioral patterns are biological and henceforth, inherited. Nevertheless, the other side of this debate states that behavior is an outcome of learning. That is to say, individuals learn behavior by observing and imitating others. The group propagates that individual behavior and personality are a result of the environment. It includes various factors like the method of parenting, the life experiences of an individual, and so on.
IS PERSONALITY A PRODUCT OF NATURE OR NURTURE?
Consider this scenario. A person is an extrovert as well as achieves great success in academics and career. Is this because s/he is genetically predisposed because of his/her IQ and personality type. Is it because the person had a healthy upbringing? Although physical characteristics like color of the eye, hair color, etc. are a result of biological factors. The same cannot be applied in the case of internal characteristics.
Nonetheless, nativists i.e. individuals who strongly side with nature in this debate often state the example of Chomsky’s theory of language. Known to be the concept of “Language Acquisition Device.” This theory states that all babies are born with an instinctive mental capacity through which they acquire and learn a language. It further states that despite variation in languages based on cultures, all the infants learn it in almost the same pattern. For instance, all infants throughout the world begin the stage of language development through pre-speech sounds. Such as dada, mamma, so on and so forth.
On the other side, there are the empiricists i.e. the ones who strongly believe that behavior and personality are outcomes of nurture. To prove their point, they often cite the example of Bandura’s social learning theory. Bandura’s experiment demonstrated that children learned aggressive behavior (core area of personality) through observation and imitation. This was the well-known Bobo doll experiment. In which children became aggressive towards the doll after they saw the model of the study exhibiting the same. Thus, there were aims behind the attempts of both groups. It was to prove and validate their views through empirical studies and experiments.
The nature v/s nurture debate has continued over centuries. To prove their points, both groups held experiments and studies. However, the present-day scenario is different than the ones in the past. Present-day psychologists and researchers are interested to understand the impact of both nature and nurture. Several even believe that human behavior and personality are a product of both nature and nurture. As a result, they have begun to investigate how the two aspects influence the human personality in different ways. An instance of this could be the study of epigenetics. It is an emerging area. The focus is on how an individual’s behavior, as well as environment impacts the way genes, work. It also emphasizes the ways environmental influence can affect the way of expression of genes.
It is also evident that nature and nurture not only have an impact on personality but on other aspects as well. For instance, the height of an individual. A person who grows up in a family where everyone is tall is likely to be tall too. However, if s/he does not get the required nutrition then s/he might not be that tall. Hence, here the height of the person depends on both the biological predisposition along with the environmental influences.
To some psychologists, it is evident that both nature and the environment play a major role in overall development. Nevertheless, the debate does not come to an end even now. There is still the existence of both areas of thought. Few individuals continue to emphasize the importance and significance of one over the other. Subsequently, the debate goes on. Yet, it is up to the different individuals to know and understand whether nature or nurture of both affects them and other people in general.