The Role of the Environment and Genes in Human Development

The Role of the Environment and Genes in Human Development

Words: 758
Topic: Psychology


Nature or Nurture? This is one of the biggest debates that psychologists have been faced with for a very long time. This is because there is no clear boundary on how each aspect contributes to the development of human beings that is in terms of personality, behaviour, thinking and temperament.

This paper will therefore discuss how both genetics (Nature) and the environment (Nurture) contribute to the development of a person’s personality, behaviour and temperament.


There is a conventional belief that everyone is born with some instincts that help him/her to acquire behaviour which drives people through life. De Bono (2002) however, thinks that this behaviour is coined through experience where our thinking is limited to only what we already know or expects. He thus implies that others will influence and judge us according to what they think is wrong of right.

This is the nature part of acquiring behaviour which the author says on its own cannot be enough to sustain the behaviour and this is where the environment or nurture comes in. Behaviour is learnt by reinforcement where by positive behaviour is rewarded and therefore learnt.

For instance a child will learn how to be polite if he/she is taught how to and every time he/she behaves politely then this act should be reinforced. Children are not born with the knowledge of saying thank you or sorry, but rather they are taught. The children who are exposed to an environment that shows them how to be polite acquire this behaviour the ones who are not exposed to such an environment do not.

This is despite the fact that all the children are born with instincts that help them to acquire certain behaviours. Consequently, behaviour that is not rewarded or reinforced is not learnt. This shows that both genetics and environment contributes a lot in the acquisition of behaviours.

De Bono seems to go against this popular belief by saying that one should look at alternative means of addressing the same issue. For example rewarding of a good act can be done differently than the obvious thank you.

Personality is what describes a person and so the environment does not influence this, it is defined by the genes that one has. For example people who grow up in the same environment normally have different personalities. Siblings who are brought up by the same parent in the same environment further exemplify this.

That is if the environment influences personality, then siblings who are exposed to the same attitudes, feelings, thinking, ideologies and emotions would have similar personalities. But this is not the case; each person is unique and has his or her own personality. But it is also true that the environment plays a very important role in the development of ones personality, it is the environment that one is exposed to that help to shape ones character.

Every person is born with temperamental traits, which help to define a person’s character and mood (Richardson, 2000). While as it is true that there are children that are generally happy and cheerful, others are not easy to cheer up. This is what they inherit from their parents.

But if for instance a happy child is placed in an unhappy environment where by he/she is exposed in a lot of violence and there is no peace, then this environment will affect this child.

This means that both genes and the environment have an effect on people, while as such a child was born a happy child, the environment that he/she is exposed to can make him/her an unhappy child.

As much as the genes that one is born with to some extent determine the temperaments traits, these traits are modified by the environment or experience that one faces (Richardson, 2000).

Our thinking styles are also affected by the genes that we have and also the environment that were are exposed to. The genes that we have and the environment that we are exposed to, influence our worldview in terms of our reaction to issues, attitude, ideologies, lifestyles and policies. Hence this is the reason why people react differently to the same issues because their experiences/environment is different.


The above discussion shows that both the genes and the environment influence people’s lives in a big way. Both are important and one cannot outdo the other; that is the genes cannot influence behaviour on their own but they need the environment to influence behaviour. So both are very influential in determining a persons personality, thinking style, temperament and behaviour.


De Bono, E. (2002) Lateral thinking: a textbook of creativity, (London, Penguin)

De Bono’s official website.

Keith, Richardson. (2000), Developmental Psychology: How Nature and Nurture interact, (New York, Lawrence Etlbaum Associates)

Richard, Lerner. (2002), Concepts and theories of Human Development, (New York, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates)

Sigelman, Carol, and Rider, Elizabeth (2002), Lifespan human development 4th edition, (London, Thomson Learning)