Final Project Psychology

Temperament: Genetic Inheritance versus Environmental Influence

Temperament can be said to be the aspect of individual personality or reaction to various stimuli from within and without. There has been a long debate as to whether temperament is inherited genetically or is made to develop by the environment in which a particular person lives in. this has prompted various experiments and researches conducted to determine what is the role of biological orientations as compared to the environment as noted by Mercer. The best candidates for such experiments are infants because of the naivety that they have and the minimal influence that they have from their environment. This is then compared to the maturing and the already matured individuals. In this study we are going to shed light on the amount of influence that the environment plays in the development of a child’s temperament as compared to the natural or genetic influence.

It is only natural that we inherit some physiological and to some extent behavioral characteristics from our parents. This has been proved over time both in scientific studies and simple observations. This shows that the genetic factor cannot be wished away in its influence on the temperamental development. For instance if we take some temperamental factors such as the activity level of infants and critically analyze it. One can observe that a set of siblings or more specifically twins can display a different characteristics of activity level whereby one is hyperactive while the other one is hypo or dormant.

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These characteristics determine the traits that the two display in terms of mood and reactions to various circumstances. One can be cheerful and easy to impress while the other display exactly opposite traits. As the infants mature the effect of the environment is inevitable but there are those little characteristics that can’t be changed. The aspects of introversion and extroversion in individuals can be said to be inborn and are seldom changed, Mercer. There are those individuals in the family settings who are always cheerful and easy to get along with because of their outgoing nature while others have a hard time doing the same because of their introversion and self-confiding nature that is hard to please.

The explanation for these circumstances from the biological point of view is that the genes influence the nervous systems and the mental makeup. The nervous system is responsible with the physical stimuli such as pain, discomfort or any other physical contact with the body or the psychological stimuli such as humor depression and so on. Because the genetics combine in a unique manner in the phase of development of the human beings it is then obvious that the offspring will take the uniqueness of the characteristics of the parents to come up with their own combination.

Several Approaches to the Infant Temperament

There are several approaches to the infant temperament but the most common one is the analysis of the activities such as activity level, regularity, adaptability, mood, initial reactions to the environment and so on. These hypothetical characteristics are used to portray both the natural influences and the nurtured ones. It can be seen that if one infant is introduced to new people or places, the reaction may be completely different from other kids who are introduced to the same environment. Some kids may respond by crying while others don’t and will display a good mood meaning some inborn characteristics of adaptability determine how the infant will respond to these challenges.

However, there are supporters of the fact that the nature of the environment that we live in greatly influences the response to the stimuli and the temperament that we develop as we age. The most used experiment in this circumstance is the classical conditioning theory that shows the relationship between the responses of the mind towards conditioned stimuli. In simpler terms the mind can be made to adapt to circumstances such as timing, events or behaviors through various controlled conditioned. The experiment used the bell and a dog as the exhibits of the experiment where the bell rang just before the meal was served. After that was done for a while, the food timing was changed however the bells timing was not. It was observed that the dog reacted to the bell knowing that the next event was food being served hence a conclusion that conditioning of the mind is possible.


This experiment shows that the environment that one lives in can influence the temperament that they acquire as they grow older. This is why identical twins portray a different way of behaviorism as they grow older. Theoretically speaking the twins should be the same since they resemble in looks and posture.

The environment affects human behavior because of the constant circumstances that an individual is brought into contact on day to day basis. The aspect of education, family and even media may affect the children’s psychological function for the better or not.

In conclusion, one can safely say that the human development of traits in terms of temperament is not influenced by one set of factors such as the environment or the genetic makeup. Rather it is influenced by a combination or mix of both set of theories. The supporters of the genetic influence say that the inherited combination is responsible for the trait mix while those against that say the environmental conditions to a greater percentage determine how infants will develop the characteristic and temperaments into their later years.

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