Critical Thinking Session

Is it innate, or acquired?

   The other day, I watched a YouTube video in which a female professor spoke about child-raising, and one shocking result found in a comprehensive survey by Harvard University caught my close attention, which showed that our characters and traits are mostly given innate genetically. There are hundreds of surveys conducted by researchers, in which identical twins were adopted to different families right after they were born to see how environments would affect them to develop differently. Surprisingly, those twins formed quite similar personalities even though the environmental conditions were different. Well, the speaker's point was to show parents' roles in child-raising, and how meaningless it is to try to make them become someone who they are not. And yes, it is convincing in the context of her speech.


    However, a question that arose in my mind was: to what extent our lives are pre-determined? Are there anything in ourselves that are more affected by environmental factors than genetic inheritance?


     First of all, let's see our body features. Even though there is room for environmental influences, such as what you eat and what you do, your given physical attributes cannot be changed, unless you get a plastic surgery or get somebody's organ transplanted. Your height, hand and foot size, colors of skin, hair and eye - those are basically pre-determined by your gene, which means your efforts to change those basic structure of your body would be least likely to pay off. Same goes for your body constitution and lifespan. Some people are susceptible to certain diseases while others are not, and some people are meant to be centeranians while others have relatively short lifespans. It is clear that, to some extent, environmental factors have influences on our constitutions and lifespans, but genetic inheritance seems to be much more dominant.


    Secondly, let's take a look into our characters. As I have opportunities to see our members' kids from their infancy, I am pretty much convinced that even fresh born babies are different in characters. Some babies are much more active, curious, and energetic than others. Some babies are emotionally much more stable and less trouble-making than others. There are sociable babies who smile at strangers instead of crying out. Yes, the core of your personality probably is innately given. However, your character is probably not as consistent as your hair color. In fact, it really changes depending on your life surroundings and the circle of people you associate with. A good example is that the fact you tend to copy the behaviors of other people arouond you. Especially, young kids need a role model in whatever they experience for the first time, and who they copy does really affect forming their characters. And this is why one good-hearted person sometimes changes the whole world in a positive way, while one evil-hearted person sometimes drag the whole world down into a quagmire.


    If you were born and raised as Japanese, you certainly have formed yourself as Japanese. However, if you were born and raised as American, you would have formed a character totally different from now. And this is how big the impact your environment has on you. That said, your physical features wouldn't be much different depending on an environment you were brought up, and this shows how dominant your gene is throughout your life.


    Last but not least, we humans have a mind, which is different either from your physical feature or character. Mind is something like an empty bag, and it can change its shape instantly. If we tell our mind that life is good, everything starts to look beautiful, and we will start to love everyhing around us. In opposite, if we tell our mind that life is horrible, everything woould turn grey, and we will start to hate the world and ourselves. What really matters might be neither genetic inheritance nor environmental background, but how we manage our minds after all.


1. Genetic factors or environmental factors, which do you think affected you more in forming your character and personality?


2. Do you think your mind shape is pre-determined genetically? Or do you believe you can become anyone by managing your mind accordingly?