Why we are Who we are

DEAR LUCY: a Memoir


What makes a person become who they are?

The nature versus nurture debate involves whether human behavior is determined by the environment, either prenatal or during a person’s life, or by a person’s genetics. 

Behaviorists propose that a baby is born as a “tabula rasa”, or “blank slate”; whatever and whoever they become is a result of exposure to stimuli.  In simple terms, a child becomes who they are as a result of the behavioral reinforcements, including the quality of parenting, present in their world.   Behaviorism dominated the psychological approach to human development in the 1950’s and 1960’s and B.F. Skinner popularized the theory that all behavior stems from one’s environment.  

Fortunately, human development is a bit more complicated than behaviorism would suggest.  From the 1970’s to the end of the 20th century, a noticeable shift occurred as knowledge of the brain and genetics began to promote the appreciation of nature as a critical influence on a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior.  Twin studies eventually became easier to perform and by the late 1990’s an overwhelming amount of evidence had accumulated that amounted to a refutation of extreme behaviorism. 

 We are all born with a genetic template which informs our emotional, mental, and physical characteristics.   The environment into which we are born then molds and shapes the formation of that genetic predisposition.

We are who we are because we are.  

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