PAPER - Nature vs. Nurture in Relation to Emotion In regard...

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Nature vs. Nurture in Relation to Emotion In regard to explaining the origin of emotions, the debate between nature and nurture is a heated one. The argument stretches many fields of thought, from philosophy, anthropology, and psychology. It is nearly impossible to prove that one is the true cause of emotions, but many believe that one is more of a causal factor than the other. This paper will argue that culture, or nurture, is more involved in one’s emotions than is biology, or nature. Culture and experience shape who a person is beyond his or her genetic makeup. This process begins when a child is young, and everything from parents, peers, school, and entertainment influence a child’s behavior, the types of situations the child is in, and ultimately the emotional responses to these situations. While it may seem that people in all cultures experience the same basic emotions, the degree to which people express certain emotions can differ greatly across cultures. For example, a study was done by Zahn-Wexler et al. in 1996 that compared emotional responses of Japanese and American preschoolers. The preschoolers were asked to say what they would do in hypothetical situations of conflict and distress, such as being hit or hearing their parents argue. The American children generally expressed more anger and aggression than did the Japanese children. This result is thought to have to do with the cultural differences between America and Japan. American parents are more likely to encourage emotional expression than Japanese parents (Siegler, 402, 2006). Contrary to this evidence, a supporter of the biological argument could say that American and Japanese children are genetically different. The difference in genetics could be the cause of this disparity in emotional responses. One famous example of the environment influencing one’s emotions was John Watson’s “Little Albert” experiment. Watson showed that it was possible to create an emotion, in this case
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fear, which would not usually manifest itself in a given situation. Through operant conditioning,
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This note was uploaded on 02/26/2012 for the course HPS 0625 taught by Professor Macheray during the Fall '09 term at Pittsburgh.

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PAPER - Nature vs. Nurture in Relation to Emotion In regard...

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