Category Archives: Nature/Nurture

Psychoanalysis and trauma

Psychoanalysis is a theory that assumes that the past shapes the present and stresses the importance of unconscious factors that can influences our conscious thoughts and actions. In other words psychoanalysis analyzes how unconscious factors influence conscious thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Sigmund Freud was the first psychoanalyst. With the discovery of the unconscious, he developed the idea that the ‘unconscious conflict’ is significant in subsequent normal and abnormal behavior. He then pursued a theory of psychoanalytic treatment that would help patients recall suppressed traumatic memories and form ‘associative connection’ with conscious thoughts. Psychoanalytic treatment or therapy tackles conscious thought by tracing these thoughts to their origin.

My mom is a therapist and a psychoanalytic fellow at Penn. She brought up in a conversation an article she read about a woman who went through psychoanalytic therapy. The woman began therapy for depression; she also struggled with aspects of her social, economic, and intimate life. She did not know why. Slowly, the woman began to talk about how she would feel distraught visiting her parents, and feel extreme discomfort regarding a tree that stands in the yard behind her parents house. When asked about adult relationships as a child and the potential of sexual abuse, the woman said no confidently. The psychoanalyst began to realize the woman may have dissociative symptoms related to a trauma she may have experience as a child. After working through unconscious mental processes with her psychoanalyst, the woman began to have vivid flashbacks of being tied to the tree for hours by a family member and abused. In an article on Psychoanalysis, the experiments conducted by Jung and Riklin are discussed. They found that the process of association is a process that is beyond a subjects control and attention plays the greatest part in the process of association. The above example exemplifies the minds power to dissociate traumatic events and bury them into our unconscious memory because they are too painful. While rehashing these events were painful, the woman was able to work through the behaviors and emotions related to her trauma that she was playing out in other aspects of her life such as social and professional relationships.

Sources –

Arden, Abraham. Psychoanalysis: its theories and practical application. New York: n.p., 1972. 116. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. <;view=1up;seq=2>.

Pfister, Oscar, and Eduard Hitschmann. Definition and history of psychoanalysis and Freud’s theories of the neuroses. New York: n.p., 1916. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. <link –> >.


Nature vs. Nurture in Music

The concept of nativism revolves around the idea that our characteristics, ideas, intellect, etc. are all inborn. The nurture concept, or empiricism, is the idea that these things are gained through experience. In modern day psychology, most experts believe that both of these concepts have influence over behavior and development. An article written for the Peabody₁ Magazine discusses the impact of nature and nurture in the development of young musicians. The Peabody Institute, a music conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland, sees a large number of young, talented musicians. Many of these young musicians are considered musical prodigies; they have the natural, inborn inclination to be musically talented. Some of these individuals go on to become world-renowned musicians, playing in the top orchestras and symphonies across the globe, while others realize that they simply do not love making music and that they could live without it. The latter individuals have all the tools required to becoming world-class musicians like the former set of musicians, except they do not have the passion to continue making music.
This raises the question: Are people born with a propensity to love (making) music, or is a love for music something that must be learned? I think that the answer is both. Some love performing right away, they need no encouragement, while others need to be shown how to love it.
I am a student in the School of Music here at Penn State, so I have witnessed some of this first hand. I know that my talent for music is something I was born with, though I am certainly no prodigy. But talent is a combination of nature and nurture; I had to work hard to get where I am today, I was not born with that. Same goes for my love for music. Sure, I may have always had an inclination to like music, but I know that I would not love it the same way now if I did not have the experiences that I had growing up.
I was exposed to music from a young age. Both of my parents are musical. My dad played trumpet and sang in choir when he was in high school. My mom has played guitar since she was ten years old and she sang all throughout high school and college. She would sing me and my siblings to sleep at night when we were very young. My mom was also in a local music group that would perform in the State College area and at the annual Arts Festival in the summer. Music was already an integral part of my life before I myself was even involved in it. My own involvement (beyond singing to myself and around the house) started with my church. I became a part of the children’s choir as soon as I was old enough. Then in fourth grade I was given the choice to join choir in school and/or start playing an instrument. I did both. I started choir and I started learning to play the clarinet, and I have been doing both ever since.
For me, it has been my exposure to music that has shaped my love for making it. I have seen how much the people around me love music and it has transferred to me. It was nurture. It was shown to me and I developed a love for making music. It started with nature, but the rest of it was nurtured.

Birch, Kristi. Nature or Nurture? Peabody Magazine. Web. Feb. 4, 2013.

Nature vs. Nurture

Ever since the beginning of the scientific study of behavior and mental processes (psychology), the concept of Nature vs. Nurture has always raised many questions. The idea of Nativism or Nature is that our thoughts, ideas, and characteristics are inborn. Basically, everything about us is just something we were born with. On the flip side, the idea of Empiricism or Nurture is that knowledge is gained through experiences and our senses. It is the idea that the way we are raised and our surroundings influence our personalities and lives. Most people and psychologists will agree that both of these ideas affect people and their lives. But many people also can’t decide which plays a bigger role.

I look at my family and I have no idea which influences us more – Nature or Nurture. I have two brothers and a sister. We were all raised together by our two loving parents. I’d say with my siblings and myself, we all have similarities, as well as differences. One of our biggest similarities are our morals and values. I believe this is because of the way our parents raised us. We are devote Catholics because we were raised going to Church every Sunday but now that we’re older we choose to be. Would we be Catholics if we weren’t raised that way? Who knows. But I believe Nurture has definitely influenced this part of our lives.

Another aspect in my family’s lives is sports. We all love sports, both watching and playing. This makes me wonder if it was because we grew up with sports or if we just have a natural love for them. My dad played college football which my older brother is now doing as well. While my younger brother plays college basketball. Although I don’t play a college sport, I still love watching all types of games. But is that because I grew up always watching my brothers or do I just have an inborn love of sports? This is just one of the many examples that may never be completely resolved with the ideas of Nature vs. Nurture.

I took a psychology class in high school and ever since I first learned about this Nature vs. Nurture concept, I have been intrigued. I want to know which plays a larger part in someone’s personality and way of thinking. However, I don’t think we ever will completely know which has a greater impact. I do believe we are born with certain characteristics but then again I also believe that the way you are brought up really affects someone as well.

Nature v. Nurture

While I believe that both nature and nurture play a role in human development I often think nurture plays a large part. By nature and nurture I mean Nativism and Empiricism. Psychology Dictionary online defines Nativism (nature) as “Nativism implies that the brain has certain structures which play a role in the creation and development of knowledge and that part of this process is simply innate.” ( In more simplistic terms, Nativism can be understood as a person is born with a preconceived personality, how they will behave, see things, etc., based on how the brain s structured during fetal development. On the other side we have Empiricism (nurture), which is defined as, “… the approach to epistemology holding that all knowledge of matters of fact comes from experience or needs experience for validation” ( This basically means that a person is who they are based on how they were raised, where, and the experiences they’ve had in those developing years.

In my opinion, Empiricism is a stronger influence on a person but Nativism is involved, just not as much. I feel this way because of years of observing the difference between my family and my best friends family. By family I primarily mean how my best friend and I grew up (we are only two days apart in age) and how her brother and my brother (who are only a few months apart in age) grew. Although both are families lived in the same town and we attended the same schools we were raised very differently. My home being colder, religious, strict, and putting strong emphasis on college and a career vs. my friends family; very warm, family oriented, laid back, and putting their emphasis on togetherness. While me and my brother have different basic personalities, instilled in my opinion due to our brain structure, many things and life choices have been made I believe because of how we were raised, and same goes for my friend and her brother – personality different and yet, many are the same. I came to this conclusion during my first month here at school. I called my friend and asked her to come visit me at school. She responded by saying, “I can’t. Everyone in my house is sick (mind you two 40 something, able-bodied adults, and a 24 year old man), I have to take care of them.” I remember being so angry at that response. I said, “Dude, you’re 20. They’re all adults, they can survive without you making them soup-like are you serious?” and she responded with, “It’s just how I was raised Sarah, I don’t know what to tell you”. I remember calling my mom immediately after, very annoyed by my friend’s response, and I told her, “Mom, if you’re sick, honestly, I don’t care. I haven’t lived with you in 3 years. (Both my friend and her brother live at home still). I just expect you to take care of yourself, likewise as you would me”. And my mom simply responded the same way as my friend, “well sweetie, that’s just how they were raised” and I then thanked my mom for not treating me that way.

As I thought about this more I realized that me and my brother did a lot of things similarly as did her and her brother. Yes our basic personalities were different, as I believe all people are born with Nativism but we grew up the same as our siblings, our views of certain situations, our beliefs, our relationships with one another and our families have all to do with how we were raised and what we experienced-Empiricism.


Work Cited

 Psychology Dictionary: (Empiricism)

Psychology Dictionary: (Nativism)


Are We In Control?

One of the most interesting topics covered so far, to me, has been the argument of nature versus nurture. This argument is if certain things in a person’s life, like their personalities or psychological problems, are the result of genetics or how that person was raised. An argument can be made for both in what seems like every situation. We are discovering more and more everyday about the brain and just how much it does.

Last semester, I attended a lecture given by a professor from Harvard who discussed her findings concerning genes that directly affected a type of lab mouse’s behavior. Basically, she and her team discovered the exact genes that controlled things such as if this type of mouse would dig a hole to live in, how deep that hole would be, the angle of the entrance, as well as if it would have an exit. They were able to implement these genes into mice that did not have them, and the result was the mice demonstrated what the gene coded for. The significance of this discovery in terms of nature versus nurture is that I for one never imagined that something like this could exist, let alone be discovered. Now that it has been, it begs the question of how far can this trend of genes controlling actions go? Is there, hypothetically, a gene that is controlling what I think about during the day. I almost don’t want to find out the answer of just how much these genes can control.

On the other side of the argument, the argument that nurture shapes who we are is deeply rooted in our society. If you have ever heard something along the lines of “learn from your mistakes” you have heard a basic argument for the idea that nurture can shape who we are. This makes sense to me, because I know I am (at least partially) the person I am today because of the way I grew up. My personality has definitely been affected and changed, both for good and bad, due to my experiences. The way I think about nurture in our psychological life is that if we have the ability to change other things about ourselves, such as our physical health, why can’t we shouldn’t we be able to ourselves psychologically?

Obviously both sides of the idea of Nature vs. Nurture have merit. Clearly some things in life are due to one or the other; it’s the grey area in between where if could go either way that is what is being contested. As we advance in our learning about our own bodies that grey area is getting smaller, and that scares me in a way. Ignorance can be bliss in some cases, and the thought that I may not have as much control over myself as I currently think I do makes me want to really never find out the real answer.

Nature vs Nurture

For my blog assignment, I decided I wanted to write about nativism versus empiricism. It has been argued by people for many, many years on whether certain things in people are born in them and genetically wired in them or that people are affected by what they grow up around. While there is evidence that supports both, in my opinion, nativism dominates.

There are a few reasons why I believe that nativism dominates. There is one particular thing that stands out to me most though, and that is athletic ability. I grew up in a small town where sports meant everything. I was huge into basketball in particular. My best friends and I would play all the time, it was our favorite thing to do. We worked hard to have the talent that our team did. While our hardwork could only take us so far, we ended our season to a team much taller and more physically sound than us, with our tallest player being 6’3 and there tallest player being 6’ 11”. While I do believe that hard work in sports can take you to great lengths, it cannot take you all the way to the professional level. I had a very good friend who was a star basketball player. Not only was he talented, but he was the hardest worker I knew. He was always trying to better himself whether it be on the court or with just with the diet he had. He was always looking to get better. The problem was that he was only 5’ 9”, this led to some problems in the basketball world. I do know there are some players that short in the NBA, but they are extreme exceptions. This is why I believe it is almost born into us through nativism to become whatever we may become in the future. In this case, to play professional basketball, you need to be gifted at birth with something in you genetics that allows you to have an outstanding physique needed to play professional basketball. It is not normally something you can just work for, it is something you are born with. This is why I believe people are born with certain gifts and talents and why nativism is more relevant.

Nativism vs. Empiricism in my life

It has been long debated whether a person’s personality is determined more through nativism or empiricism, nature or nurture.  These terms date back to the ancient Greek philosophers:  Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  Socrates and Plato believed in nativism and Aristotle in empiricism.  Most early psychologists thought only one or the other to be the determiner of any person’s personality, but now we know that both play important roles in developing anyone’s character.  In most people, however, either nature or nurture seems to take a more overwhelming role in the creation of personality.

In my life, nurture seems to have been a stronger determiner of character than has nature.  I say this because I had a very different personality in my early childhood than I do now.  As a young boy I was very outgoing and always wanted to be the center of attention.  This gradually changed to until I became what I am today, someone who fixes to stay out of the spotlight and keep to himself.  My nature was to have a big personality, but through experiences in my childhood I was changed.

These changes occurred when, as a child, I went slightly too far in my openness, compared to the opinions of those around me.  I could say that my family taught me to be less outgoing, but none of these “teachings” were voluntary.  Usually the instances consisted of me saying something slightly offensive and my parents and siblings acting as if I had caused some sort of catastrophic disaster.  As a young and very impressionable child I took being outgoing to be bad behavior and thus slowly did away with it in my life.

Now I can look back and see that my parents were just embarrassed with my behavior and this embarrassment was then copied by my siblings, who then sought to share this humiliation with me in order to get me to stop.  The cessation however didn’t end with just one incident, it stopped my openness all together.

Attempt at conditioning

Last semester, my close friends and I spent a lot of nights staying up late.  Staying up till 3 am maybe watching a movie, or just talking.  Eventually it caught up to us and we would feel tired throughout the whole day, but we would still just sit around.  Soon enough we became more productive during the time we stayed up late.  We would bring in some work, and many of us had similar classes, so we would be able to work together and help each other out as we worked.  But the only problem with this was one of our friends would still decide to not do any work.  This problem is still occurring now, and we are trying to help our friend start.  During past few weeks, due to a lack of difficult work, we all just hung out, not doing much.  But now that some exams are coming up, everyone started to study more.  We attempted to get our friend to study by having everyone around our friend study.  We would all be quiet, and focused, hoping that would persuade our friend into wanting to study too, since it would be like a last option for our friend.  Our friend’s mind was still set on not doing work, even though there is an exam coming up very soon.  We all want to have fun, but we are too worried that our friend may get stuck behind because of the lack of effort our friend puts forth into studying.   A big part of the problem we have with getting through to our friend is the fact that our friend is often alone doing whatever, so if our friend were to get bored of us studying, then our friend can leave and do whatever.  Hopefully we can get our friend conditioned to study with us when we study, especially since we can all help him with at least one of his classes.

Nature Vs. Nurture in a Modern Family

I was born into a sports oriented family. My mother was an elite ice skater until she was 18 years old and my father was a college soccer player. Even after their sports’ careers ended, they continued with their passions in their free time. When I reached the appropriate age to play sports, I was immediately enrolled in all possible sporting teams. However, ever since I was a child my parents knew something about me was different from them. I would put on impromptu performances in the living room and I would sing as I walked around the house. I would complain whenever I came home from practice and would beg my parents to enroll me in artistic activities. Luckily, my parents listened.

I have not played a sport since 8th grade and am very fortunate that my parents listened to my requests. In high school I was in 8 musicals and have so far been cast in 4 musicals at Penn State. Had my parents ignored my requests as a child, I most likely would have been nurtured into an athlete of some sort. I wasn’t bad at athletics; in fact I was pretty good. However, it wasn’t my passion. This exemplifies the difference between nature and nurture. Nativism is the idea that our thoughts, ideas and characteristics are inborn. Nurture, on the other hand, is the idea that someone’s experiences and environment shapes them. This is one of the key concepts with which psychologists often deal.

In this example, nativism deals with the fact that I was born loving singing, dancing and acting even though that was not how I was raised.  Not only did I love the performance arts, but I was also talented in them. My parents often question where my love of theatre came from since neither of them had ever had any interest in it. Had I been forced to continue with sports, I would have been nurtured into an athlete. I would probably be faster and stronger than I am today; however, my dancing, singing and acting skills would not be as refined as they are. Of course, my parents have come to every single theatrical performance in which I have ever been involved. This has led them to be nurtured into theatre lovers. In other words, had my parents forced me to continue with sports, I would not have been able to explore my native characteristics and they would not have been nurtured into more well rounded people.

Nature vs. Nurture

There are many different ways that psychology, the scientific study of behavior and mental processes, has been interpreted and studied.  The Greeks first brought up the ideas of Nativism and Empiricism.  Nativism is the viewpoint that people are the way they are because of genetics.  Nativists, who take this “nature” approach, believe that human characteristics, thoughts, and ideas are all gained hereditarily, through genetic code.  Empiricism, also known as the “nurture” approach, is the belief that experiences create who a person is and somewhat mold a person.  Empiricists think that a person’s beliefs and actions are a direct correlation to how they were nurtured and raised as a child. Empiricism and nativism are two opposite approaches to determining how people are “programmed” and in response how they act. This argument is often called “nature vs. nurture”. (Wede Psych 100 Lecture 2)

At first, thinking about nurture and nature, I would assume that nurture has the biggest impact on a person.  However, when thinking from personal experience, of being around my aunts who happen to be fraternal twins, I think that nature has the greatest effect on people.  Personally, I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that people are simply born programmed to be a certain way, but the facts around me that they are indeed are extremely evident.  My aunts were both born and raised in the same place and the same values were instilled in each.  Neither was favored over the other and neither excelled in school or athletics more than the other.  That being said, today they are polar opposites in every aspect of life.  If nurture determined how they acted and what they believed, then being brought up the same, theoretically, from an empiricism view, they should be the same.

Although they are twins, they differ in genetic makeup because they are fraternal.  My Aunt Becky happens to be very outgoing, lesbian, and democratic.  My Aunt Krista, on the other hand, is introverted, straight, and republican. They are both very independent, yet their lifestyles differ drastically.  Aunt Becky, for example, went to school for architecture and moved to Alaska on a whim; however, my Aunt Krista was an English major and is now a professor.  Krista leads a very organized life and keeps to herself, while Becky is outgoing and enjoys doing things that are unplanned.  The two were raised almost identically and yet those same experiences led to two completely different personalities.  Their ideas and characteristics must have been inborn, and nurture, while probably playing a tiny role, did not change their paths.  The two are so much opposites, that they often “butt heads”.  The views of nativism and nature have to have some sort of influence on a person.  Genetics is the only thing that could be used to describe the reasoning for such different personalities, beliefs, and thoughts between my aunts, if indeed it was an argument of nature vs. nurture.