Are we just wired that way? Nature vs. Nurture or Neither

First – This Business Insider webpage summarizes many of the amazing understanding about our brain function that I have been reading about lately.

We have significantly advanced our understanding of the brain.  I’m listening to a book called How We Decide.  I’m fascinated learning about how people think, react, what causes us to be and choose as we do.  I love the debate of Nature vs. Nurture.  Are we the way we are because of genetics and biology, or because of circumstance.  (of similar topic is work by scientist Dan Ariely to research the brain and Why We Lie)

On one hand, take two or more people growing up in the same conditions (like me and my two brothers) but we have turned out very different and handle life situations in a very different way.  Certainly our biological disposition alters how we each respond to the same situation.

On the other hand, cultural groups have general characteristics, resulting from common beliefs or behavior.  Hence we have stereotypes for certain groups of people.

  • Debunking/Explaining misconceptions about Russians
  • There are many explanations as to why people from Asian countries are better at math compared to US citizens: Language, Effort, Society Expectations
  • Some stereotypical characteristics result from centuries of control from other cultures, such as the Jews being limited to professions in banking and textiles
  • Are some Italian stereotypes of being overly romantic and easting pasta every day true?
  • Where does the Mexican stereotype of Machismo come from, is it true?

Some stereotypes seem like they are just for show, it’s something shown to outsiders, but not prevalent inside the culture.  Many cultural stereotypes just aren’t true, and it’s often the people themselves with the wrong idea, not others.  In some ways, believing these stereotypes (or racial profiling) can lead us into trouble when we mis-characterize someone.  But when doing business with groups from another culture, it’s important to understand these types of differences.

So what does all of this teach us about environmental factors that affect our behaviors.  How many successful traits can be taught, like the soft skills we must learn by age 6 or so that help us get future jobs and earn more money.  What can we accomplish by focusing on teaching specific skills at each developmental level?

For an interesting conversation on racial profiling (although they only consider potential racism) of black people in the US, check out this On Point conversation.

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