This is a dissertation chapter on Psychology:
Psychology as defined in Segal and Kegan’s book on psychology is the “systematic study of behavior and mental process – including thought and emotion – and the factors that influence them”. The behavior aspect of the definition deals with the physical actions that us humans undergo, commencing from the second we wake up from sleep every morning. On the other hand, the mental and emotional processes deal with our thoughts and feelings; the way we feel, think of ideas, and interpret them. Also including emotions that we venture through- ranging from anger, happiness, hatred, sadness etc. Psychology is a systematic study because the theories that are reached are not based on myths and cultural beliefs; but based on substantial methods of experimentation; that is scientific proof (Segal and Kagan 4). Within the realm of psychology there are complex issues that are heavily debated by all branches of psychology– the Behaviorists, Gestalt Psychologists, Cognitive psychologists, Humanists and the Psychoanalysts. All these psychologists attempt to understand the behavior and mental processes that make us humans. There is a need to understand what shapes our behavior – this is where the Nature – Nurture debate comes in. Psychologists need to understand the issue of the Nature- Nurture debate before they continue on to explore, understand, and interpret human behavior. They need this understanding because the very basic of human behavior may be grouped into two – human behavior based on innate tendencies and behavior that is shaped by our environment. Thus, this is when the debate becomes relevant. As this essay carries on, the nature-nurture debate shall be explained in detail and related to the field of psychology.
The Nature – Nurture debate is one of the most continuous, complex issues that have evolved from the field of psychology. This complex issue explores the relationship between Nature and Nurture. Nature deals with the principles of genetics. It starts off with every plant and animal cell possessing a nucleus. The nucleus contains strands called chromosomes and within these is DNA, which provides the chemical basis of heredity. Along the chromosomes are genes, which are DNA that have some control on development. These genes can be said to be the basis for the innate behaviors (California Wadsworth 57).
On the other hand, Nurture deals with how the environment shapes human behavior. The British Philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke take an empirical – that is, experimental approach that focuses on experiences as the basis for behavior. Just as the behaviorist, B.F Skinner explored the idea that if a behavior is positively reinforced it reoccurs, but if it was punished- that is negatively reinforced, than behavior wont reoccur (Tooby and Cosmides 2).
The Nature – Nurture debate is also known to be the genetic/environmental debate controversy. The debate can be shown using examples. The first example is in the case where a baby human and a baby monkey are put in the perfect environment. Even though they grow up together, there will be still some differences between them. These differences could only be of a genetic nature, which shows the Nature aspect of the debate. The second example is with identical twins. If one of the twins is excluded from the environment for a couple of years, the differences in behavior between the twins in seclusion with the twin that was exposed to the environment will be great. Simply because the secluded twin was not influenced by the same environment as the exposed twin. This example shows the nature side of the debate (Fujita 1). Yet, “the way we develop is a combined product of our genes and our environment. If two people develop differently, that difference could be a result of a difference in their genes or in their environment” (California Wadsworth 1).
The Nature-Nurture debate is an issue that is extremely relevant to psychologists. The complete understanding of this debate would ensure that psychologists fully understand the ways of human behavior. The relevance of the debate to psychology could be explained with some issues that stem from the nature-nurture debate. Homosexual behavior has been associated with brains structures, hormones, and genes. In 1991, a neurobiologist S. Le Vay found that within the brain structures of about nineteen known homosexual men that died of AIDS, the hypothalamus had decreased in size. Thus it led the neurobiologist to believe that homosexuality might be innate, that is present in human genes. Furthermore, a research team of L.S Allen and R.A Gorski reported that the cluster of nerve fibers between the hemispheres of the brain, the anterior commissure, was larger in the brain of about thirty-four homosexuals. This would lead to the behaviors of stuttering, being dyslexic, and being left-handed.
The above studies are related to psychology in the sense that physiologists for example would explore the aspect of the hypothalamus and the nerve fibers and use that to further interpret human behavior. This would be in accordance to the nature side of the debate.
According to the article by Thomas E. Schmidt, homosexual behavior can stem from the early stages of development. Usually, at an early stage, children move closer towards the same-sex parent for comfort. The psychoanalysts know this as the Oedipus complex. Normally, as the child grows, the desire for the same-sex parent gets extinguished. However, in the case of those who eventually display homosexual behavior tend to act upon that same-sex desire. The branch of psychology that would deal with this aspect of the debate would be the psychoanalysts, so that they can further their observations of the behavior of children towards their parents. This theory would represent the nurture side of the debate.
Another example is that of the Monozygotic Twins- these are twins that are identical. A study was performed that observed monozygotic twins that grew up apart from each other.
Oddly, enough the twins still shared certain behaviors such as:
· Wearing seven rings on their fingers
· Being habitual gigglers
· Being afraid of closed places, compulsive counters, and walk into the ocean backward
· Amuse themselves by sneezing loudly in elevators for amusement (California Wadsworth 60)
This study shows how some behaviors are innate, a part of one’s nature. Psychologists would use this study to further interpret human behavior and determine the root of it all. The complex issue of the Nature- Nurture debate is still ongoing. Psychologists are performing studies to provide them with answers to the everlasting question- what determines human behavior, nature or nurture? So far studies have shown that behavior is not caused by only one factor, rather nature and nurture are intertwined to produce human behavior. Some behaviors of humans are due to genetics, while other behaviors are the result of one’s immediate environment. This debate is extremely important to the realm of psychology because the primary goal of psychologists is to be able to understand and predict human behavior. This goal needs the understanding of how nature and nurture are essentials in predicting human behavior.
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