Nature and Nurture

Each response paper must use ideas presented in the lectures and readings (you may also refer to the optional readings or to other scientific papers that you find elsewhere, but this is not required). This one will use ideas about the sources of personality in genetics and the environment, often described as ″nature and nurture.″ Make sure you review the lectures and readings about genetics in Topic 12. Topic 8, on personality development and change, is also particularly relevant, but you are welcome to refer to material from other topics as well.

It is crucial in this paper that you demonstrate that you understand the concept of heritability. Remember that estimates of heritability, in percentages, apply to the amount of variation in a population that is due to genetic variation, rather than to the amount of any one person′s personality that is due to their genetics. What you should do in this essay is to discuss the potential sources of people′s personalities during their development. You should discuss specific environmental forces that might have contributed to their personalities, as well as acknowledging and discussing the fact that genetics also is likely to contribute to any given feature of personality. When you identify life experiences that seem to have shaped someone′s personality, make sure to consider the fact that genetics might have played more of a role there than your initial intuition would suggest.

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You do not have to integrate every piece of course material that might relate to genetics or personality development. Instead, you should make sure you explain the core ideas and then focus on material that you believe is useful for helping to understand the personality or personalities revealed in the personal sketches. Using that material, try to create a coherent argument about how it helps to understand the personalities you′re analyzing. The basic question you should be asking yourself is what insights can you get into the person′s personality (and the way that personality works in general) from the material you’ve learned so far in the class that’s related to the sources of personality in genetics and the environment. Try to say something interesting or insightful about the person based on what you’ve learned in this course.

Your paper should make a reasoned argument based on evidence. It is not just a list of your opinions about a sketch or sketches. This means that you have to explain the logic behind your ideas and back them up with specific examples from the sketches, as well as evidence from relevant scientific research.

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