Blog Post 1
Nature vs. Nurture: What Makes a Killer
School shootings, serial killers and violent children. Any time a shooting occurs, children lash out, or horrible things happen by the hands of humans, people instantly respond with “It’s these video games today, there’s too much violence on television…” or something of that nature. When horrible things happen, people naturally assume it’s because of the environment in which they’ve been raised, but there might be more to the debate than that. On one hand, the concerned mothers of Call of Duty and GTA players might just have a handle on things. Stemming from the time of the Greeks, Aristotle had the belief that human behavior is subject to laws. This view, known as “Empiricism” was built on the idea of knowledge being gained through experience. This is where the mothers and concerned citizens come in. Children who witness violent behavior on television at a young age and virtually act violent on video games as teenagers are the ones who become violent (according to this school of thought). The Empiricism view is widely accepted due to the success of an experiment run by Dr. Vincent Matthews with his colleagues at Indiana University. Matthews used fMRI tests to scan the brain activity of 28 students. After the initial scans, the men were asked to perform tasks with either emotional or non-emotional content. These men were randomly assigned to play either violent shooter games or non-violent games every day for a week. After the seven days of video games, the same men were rescanned using fMRI while re-completing the same non/emotional tasks to observe differences. Of the results, Matthews said “Behavioral studies have shown an increase in aggressive behavior after violent video games, and what we show is the physiological explanation for what the behavioral studies are showing,” The results showed those who played the violent games showed less brain activity in the areas which involve emotions. The views of Aristotle clearly have some physiological significance to them, based on the results of Matthews study. Opposing the views of Aristotle and the results of Matthews study sits the school of Nativism. According to Plato and Socrates our thoughts, characteristics, and behaviors are all innate qualities. Because this field of study heavily relies on genetics, most studies will look into the heritability of traits such as aggression. In an effort to look at the genetic and environmental influences of aggression, twin male subjects were mailed subscales of the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory. In the results of this study, three of the four BHDI scales demonstrated heritability among aggressive behaviors of a non-additive nature (40% -Indirect Assault, 37% -Irritability, 28% -Verbal Assault). Because of what these BDHI scales indicate, we can technically infer that some forms of impulsive aggression can be heritable in men. While both Empiricism and Nativism are accepted schools of thought with evidence to support both, it’s impossible to say one is more accurate than the other. At best, psychology will uncover behaviors, particularly aggressive and violent ones are a product of a combination of both the environment in which a person is raised and the innate characteristics with which the child is born.