Human Behavior Essay

Submitted By Katydaniels
Words: 1769
Pages: 8

Nature Nurture 1. The nature-nurture debate concerns the extent to which biological inheritance (nature) as compared to environmental factors (nurture) shape the individual.
The nature view suggests that all behaviour is determined by hereditary factors. These hereditary factors are genetic make-up that individuals are born with, and all possible behaviours from the moment of conception.
The nurture view however suggests that all behaviour is the result of interactions with the environment – due to the effects learning and the impact of the social and political background into which an individual is born.

2. One piece of research that takes a nature approach to explaining behaviour is Raine’s study. Raine et al. conducted a quasi-expt, in a lab, to investigate the link between murder and brain abnormalities. 41 Ps charged with murder and pleading NGRI were compared to 41 controls with no history of murder (the IV) - as controls, Ps were matched on several variables including age, gender and schizophrenia. PET scans were taken to show level of brain activity in various brain regions (the DV) while all Ps completed the same continuous performance challenge task. Compared with controls, murderers showed less activity in the prefrontal area- this may explain impulsive behaviour and loss of self-control; less activity in the amygldala on the left side- this may lead to individuals showing much less fear in a situation; and more activity in the amygldala, hippocampus and thalamus on the right side – this may result in an inability to learn from experience (often shown by criminal and violent offenders). This study takes a nature approach as it relates brain activity in certain areas of the brain (which is a biological factor you are born with) to aggressive behaviour.

Brunner et al’s study on the behaviour of a large family in the Netherlands where the males are affected by a syndrome of borderline mental retardation and abnormal violent behaviour, including impulsive aggression, arson, attempted rape and exhibitionism. The methodology of the study was case study as it followed a small sample (the five affected males from the family. The data was collected from analysis of urine samples over a 24-hour period. The results took a nature approach as it showed that in each of the five males a point mutation was identified in the X-chromosome of the gene responsible for the production of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). MAOA is an enzyme that breaks down significant transmitters in the brain, including serotonin. A build up of serotonin then occurs, which can cause people to act violently. Brunner concluded that the MAOA deficiency in this family was associated with a recognisable behavioural phenotype for their inability to control their aggression, thus taking a nature approach as it views the cause of the behaviour to be from hereditary factors.

3. One strength of conducting psychological research that takes a nature approach is that if a behaviour/illness is found to have a strong genetic component, a newborn child can undergo ‘genetic testing’ for the gene. If found to have the faulty gene, the parents and child can be advised on what they can do to minimise the risk of that child developing the behaviour.

For example, in Brunner’s study on the behaviour of a large family in the Netherlands where the males are affected by a syndrome of borderline mental retardation and abnormal violent behaviour, discovered that the cause of this inherited behaviour was a point mutation in the X-chromosome which resulted in a deficiency of the MAOA enzyme. If this mutation was screened for, parents could prepare for certain behavioural abnormalities in their child such as impulsive aggression and seek out medical help e.g. serotonin or through counselling as the child develops.

Another strength of conducting research which takes a nature approach is that if certain behaviours are found to be due to nature, ‘inappropriate’