Nature vs Nurture: Impact of Genes and Environment on Human Behavior

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Picture this, you are viewing yourself in the mirror and you think to yourself how I received those baby blue eyes from my father and curly hair from my mother. Have you ever dived deep and given thought to where you receive your thoughtful, loving personality and drive for politics, sports or business? Have you ever thought was all of this something learned from your mother or father or even both parents, the people that created you and helped guide you through life or was it already formed and predetermined by your genetic makeup?

To gain an understanding as to why we are the way we are is something we may honestly never even get a chance to know or how much of who and what we are is determined by our very own DNA or by life’s experiences. However, we do know that genetics, human behavior go hand in hand and do each have a vital role to play. One of the most controversial issues that goes back thousands of years is the nature vs nurture theory. Most individuals believe that the theory of nature vs nurture applies more to psychology than biology, however if you peel off the many layers you can come to find out that biology has a factor into this theory also.

The ongoing debate of Nature versus Nurture involves if human behavior is in fact determined by environment, either prenatal or during a person’s life, or by a person’s genes. Since genetics is the blue print which dictates how a person body is created and formed. This research paper will explore the different perspective on how nature vs nurture truly impacts our own human behavior.

Genes Overview

You can’t feel them; they are so tiny you can see them, and you cannot touch them. They aren’t just found in humans but are found in all animals and some plants. Think of the human body as a stage and it is set and each and every gene plays a part and has a role. Genes are the blueprint that makes you who you are, they carry information that forms your traits. Humans have about 46 chromosomes and 23 of these chromosomes stem from the father and the rest of the 23 come from the mother. The human body contains about 25,000 to 35,000 genes. Researchers work very hard to understand genes, being able to understand genes can solve so many issues facing the world.

Theory of Nature vs Nurture

Cousin of Charles Darwin, the phrase “Nature vs Nurture” was developed by Sir Frances Galton an English sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist. Galton founded the science of eugenics which is the movement that is aimed at improving the genetic composition of the human race. (Generation, 2007) Galton strongly believed that intelligence was inherited and that people who were smart happened to be more fit for thinking than say someone who is not smart. There are some who argued with Galton theory on intelligence, and some believed that being smart was something you were born with, basically saying that being intelligence is born smart is dominate than gaining intelligence.

Johnny Rich author of The Human Script: A Novel in 23 Chromosomes said, you inherit your environment just as much as your genes. (Rich, 2013) The idea we inherit our environment just as much as we inherit our genes is truly a fascinating concept that researchers till this day still are trying to find answers. Nature defined in this theory is described to be that genes influence who we are starting from our physical appearance to our personality traits. Nurture defined in this theory is that all environmental aspects impact who we are which includes our childhood experiences, how we are raised, social relationships and the surrounding environment.

Twin Study

Twins are rare and interesting to study. They might have the same eyes, share the same hair color, one could be introverted while the other one has no problem connecting with others. Being able to understand why twins are the way they are can teach us a great deal that we didn’t even think was possible about human behavior and also genetics. If you take a look at any folk lore tales, twins are known to be the majestic heroes having good fortune. While in some other folk lore tales sometimes one twin can symbolize evil while the other twin can be good, bringing up the concept good vs evil. Twin Studies are a major part in understanding the nature versus nurture theory.

The twin study theory has established a strong foundation for uncovering the importance of any potential risk factors on a trait that could begin to form. Behavioral geneticists and psychologies are always eager and ready to utilize this study because they can pinpoint the effect within twins from different perspectives. Fraternal, or dizygotic, twins are two separate fertilized eggs, will develop two separate amniotic sacs, placentas. Identical, or monozygotic, twins can sometimes share the same amniotic sac, which will end up depending on how early the single fertilized egg divides into two.

NASA Twin Study

NASA developed and conducted a new twin study that focused on two retired astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. Scott Kelly on the right spent a year in space, and Mark Kelly stayed on earth. The main purpose of this study was to uncover the effects of space travel on the human body. The study concluded on how the human body can adapt to a major amount of changes that were caused by the spaceflight environment. Twins being separated are known to have a major impact on each other. According to NASA website, Findings from the Twins Study may be used to develop new treatments and preventative measures for stress-related health risks on Earth. For example, telomere research may improve efforts to mitigate the effects of aging and disease.

The proteomic research could have implications for research on traumatic brain injury. Research in astronauts could give new insights into how changes in the body are related to risk factors for diseases. (Monica Edwards, 2019 ) This study provides a new perspective on understanding how twins are when separated but also gives us a new outlook on how the human body adapts to changes that are mentally, physically and environmentally. Having NASA conduct a study like this can revolutionize the way we understand human behavior and genetics.

Gene Influence on Mental Disorders

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year and Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%. (Illness, 2015) According to a study published in the Nature Genetics journal Researchers have discovered that there are five major mental disorders that may be linked to the same common inherited genetic variations. (Whiteman, 2013)

Five mental disorders that are linked to the same common inherited genetic variations are Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD, Depression and Autism. Schizophrenia is defined as having thoughts or having experiences that seem out of touch with reality. Individuals with this disorder may experience events such as hearing things or seeing things that are not really there. According to the Human diseases and conditions forum studies show if one of a set of identical twins has the disorder, there is a 46 percent chance that the other twin will show symptoms of schizophrenia as well Children who have two parents with schizophrenia have a 46 percent chance of having the disorder as well. People who come from families where no one has schizophrenia have only a very small chance (1 percent) of developing the disorder. (Illnesses, 2016)

This shows that genes do play a part into mental illness. Schizophrenia is a very serious diseases, and even if one or both parents have it, the risk of it being passed down is greater. Feeling sadness or despair is a Depression. Depression affects millions of people each year ranging from young to old. Depression is another disorder that has been linked to the genes that a person inherits, but it is a mental disorder that is also very closely linked to environmental factors. (Illnesses, 2016) This proves that depression is more of an environmental element, work, life, relationships can cause depression. Outside forces are a powerful factor in nature vs nurture theory.

Overview of Caenorhabditis Elegans

When you think of understanding inheritance and genes worms does not come to mind. However, scientist use worms as a part of the research process. Since the early 1960’s Caenorhabditis elegans also called C. elegans have been used as the model organism. There are many key reasons as to why Researchers use Caenorhabditis elegans as part of their study.

Why use the worm in research an article on the your genome website states the nematode worm is either male or hermaphrodite which means they have both male and female reproductive organs also it does not have bones, a heart or a circulatory system however it shares many genes and molecular pathways with us. (Genome, 2019) Since the nematode worm has many genes and molecular pathways and is either male or female providers researchers the prospective on male and female without having to track down either gender also having many genes gives researchers the ability utilize that information that can unlock mysteries within genes.

Worm Study

Throughout our lives we were taught that our own DNA and traits passes from our parent to offspring. Epigenetic Inheritance goes against that. Epigenetic Inheritance is defined to the idea that parent experiences in the form of epigenetic tags can be passed down to future generations. Though this concept may be unconventional, and some may believe if this does in fact exists, it does in fact explain some of the strange occurrences of inheritance that have been discovered. This worm study is a relatively new interesting study of how behaviors can be passed down several generations.

Princeton Biologists experimented with C. elegans which are often participate in genetic studies to investigate if behaviors that are learned could be inherited. Pathogenic bacteria which is bacteria that can cause disease played a vital role in this experiment. Coleen Murphy an author of this study stated that Worms are initially attracted to the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but upon infection, they learn to avoid it. Otherwise they will die within a few days. (Irving, 2019 ) The worms in this study were learned to avoid the bacteria due to a unpleasant experience with them, this tells us that even something as little as worms when having a bad experience they learn to understand and avoid the situation to survive.

This speaks volumes in the biology and psychology world, when an individual has a traumatic experience their brain in a sense absorbs that information so when it remembers so if a similar experience occurs, they know how and what to do. During this experience the team uncovered that when the mother worms learned to avoid bad bugs, their babies learned to do that as well. The lesson was passed down through all four generations and by the fifth generation it came to a halt due to the new generation of worms being able to rediscover an attraction to Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

According to the New Atlas article it states that the team found that the original worms needed to actually get sick from them for the genes to be passed down. (Irving, 2019 ) For the genes to be passed down the worms actually needed to be affected by the sickness, this shows us that not only environmental factors but genetic factors come into play as well. Overall this study provides in-depth insight into how behaviors can be passed down and what factors come into play. This study can be extremely helpful for uncovering the mystery as to why behaviors can be passed down many generations.


Overall my point of view is that I do think genes play a part into who we are, but I think environment plays a major role in how we develop. I am a firm believer on the idea of product of environment. I think that people biggest misconception on genes is that they don’t determine behavior. Each of concept have valid points that tough to decide if a person’s development is made in his DNA, or if a majority of it happens to be influenced by life experiences and environment. Both nature and nurture play important roles in human development, but we have not known yet whether we are developed majorly because of nature or due to nurture. Just because our DNA blocks are aligned, it’s our environment that places them together, meaning that our environment shapes us in the biggest way.

Cite this paper

Nature vs Nurture: Impact of Genes and Environment on Human Behavior. (2021, Feb 05). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/nature-vs-nurture-impact-of-genes-and-environment-on-human-behavior/

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