Nature vs. Nurture

Exactly my point. So, when isn’t doing something a socially determined behavior?

I’ll grant the possibility of “turning them off” if you’ll grant the possibility that specific socialization may have no affect whatsoever. Deal?

Sure. There’s also truth in the old sage that “that’s just what scorpions do”.

Now that I think about it, “clay” is a really bad analogy (per your cites). There are lots of better ones; perhaps you’d consider a muscle, a fire, or an ant colony.

And yet, your essential claim is that anything and everything can be determined via socialization. How is that not dismissing the results?

Except that you left out the important part. The questions were posed to contrast natural vs. adopted children. But, as I said, I actually don’t think it’s very good debate fodder and won’t be fruitful.

Picking one tidbit (the article by Perry) from that site:

In terms of the nature vs. nurture debate, no one (in this thread, at least) is denying this. Yes, if I stick my hand in a lawn mower, I’m likely to lose a finger or two. Given what we now know, Rousseau had it wrong: of course a child deprived of all human contact will be maladjusted or bordering on non-human. Perry presents close to the cartoon caricature I’ve been complaining about; not surprising, given the topic of “feral children”. Certainly it’s good and worthy science, but it says little about the “statistician view” I mention above.

So, this post has, up until that last, been a bunch of one-liners that I suspect isn’t very gratifying for any of us. I still don’t have a good grasp of your position; I’m asking about subtleties and getting extremes. Nor do I have a good idea of your view on the definition, relationship, and limits of “traits”, “behaviors”, and “values”. Let me try another tack: can you give a percentage for what you think the ultimate influences of nature and nurture are for a “normal” child / adult, possibly broken out in terms of those three items?

Furthermore, would you care to address the point(s) about modifying behavior with drugs such as anti-depressants? Are you aware of any research addressing the hereditability of such traits? The success / failure of socialization on them? It seems to me that you’re saying that with “proper” socialization, depression (for instance), alcoholism (another for instance), or anger/violence (a final for instance) can be “eradicated”. Is that right? It also seems to me that socialization cannot have the power you assume it has, for otherwise, chemical treatment would not have the prevalence it does.

How do each of you feel about the definitions I offered up for personality, values, and behaviors in post#16?

I don’t see the difference, frankly. Of course you would treat the children of your own class differently. Even modern prositutes are usually from the “lower” classes, and children of the rich elite are not usually the target of modern sex-slavers.

Secondly, Plato and the like weren’t condemning pdererasty for “the sake of the children.” He was suspicious of any all-consuming relationship, meaning he would have been equally dissaproving of a man who was madly in love with his wife. He thought we ought to subdue the flesh in favor of the mind.

Does it really change matters, in your opinion that it wasn’t “universally” endorcsed-- that if, say, eighty percent of an area endorsed something, the fact that the twenty percent didn’t is massively significant? Remember that culture was not homogenous. Even within the same city-state there might me great differences between groups.

That Hadith has always been controversal and has always raised eyebrows. It certainly does not establish that prepubuscent sex was considered acceptable. See here

There is debate in modern times. I see no evidence that his marriage was controversial at the time.

I am guilty of over-simplification in the interests of brevity when I make my posts (which is what got me into this mess in the first place.)

To make sure I’ve got this right (slightly edited for clarity):
[li]personality (traits): characteristics like adapatabiltity, openess, etc. and basic strengths, like a tendency for musical aptitude, or math, or verbal skills[/li][li]values: principles / beliefs one holds to be important, including some measure of relative importance[/li][li]behaviors: specific actions resulting from some combination of traits and values that always happen in, and are contingent upon, a real set of circumstances[/li][/ul]
They certainly seem accurate at first glance; however, I have to wonder if they’re too vague. Especially in the context of a nature vs. nurture debate; it seems to me that some notion of genetics and socialization need inclusion. Are we to assume that “traits” are exclusively genetic? That’s silly, as it rules out developmental influence of environment on biological structure. Are “values” exclusively socially determined? That’s silly also, as it denies “human-ness” (i.e., it says that a non-human put in human society would miraculously become human).

And I suppose that’s the question / debate, yes? I don’t have answer (obviously), and am intrigued by establishing ways to tease them apart.

Mental illness, for one. An example of this would be a mentally ill man who soils his pants in public. (I chose soiling the pants because it is one of our most intently socialized behaviors.) Interestingly enough, out of all of the violent and “sick” inmates who have passed through the prison in which my husband works, none (except the mentally ill) have been willing to break that taboo.

Many of them have problems when they first arrive at the prison because there is no privacy in the toilets. (There is a small “modesty wall” between each, but no doors.) We have been intently socialized to keep our bathroom activities private, though this is certainly not a “norm” for human behavior. (Think of old outhouses which have multiple seats.) In Western culture, we are also taught shame about body odors. Even the most criminally depraved inmates don’t want to break this taboo.

In many cases, inmates come from sub-cultures in which criminal behavior is a norm. Secondly, there are “normal” people who chose willingly to go against their socialization. Someone raised in a “normal” home with ethics and values being emphasized can become a criminal. We are heavily guided by our socialization, but again, we aren’t prisoners of it, though some behaviors are trained so deeply within us that most people would never dream of disobeying that training.

Well, “turning them off” may have been too broad of terminology/ It seems that some traits can be neglected and the areas of the brain in which they seem to exist show decrased neural activity.

True, but almost any social animal can be trained to go against their natural inclinations. Going back to dogs, I could take a puppy and put a plate of meat and tofu in front of him. He’d naturally go toward the meat, but if I beat him every time he approached meat, he would soon completely avoid it in favor of the tofu. I think Sigfried and Roy could testify that a tiger is still a tiger, but they could also tell you how they’ve managed to turn a lot of tigers into housecats.

The “results” of a study are usually how the researcher interpreted the data. The data itself is the part which I would be interested in studying.

As an example off the top of my head, remember the famous Hershey study which found that chocolate is actually “good” for your teeth? While the “results” are mostly bunk, the data of the study shows that stimulating saliva after eating a meal does, indeed, help keep your teeth cleaner. While chocolate isn’t the ideal, the data could have a sensible application-- chewing sugar-free gum, for example, to get the same results.

It’s hard to say, because there aren’t any “normal” homes. Even in what we would consider “normal” socialization can take on different levels. In other words, a child socialized by merely watching his parents’ activities isn’t going to be as firm in adherence as a child who was raised with discipline backing up that socialization-- permissive households are going to produce a different “product”, and every household differs as to its methods.

Off the top of my head, though, I would attribute maybe 10% of human behavior strictly to nature (barring mental illness.)

Traits-- The inborn tendency we have toward certain characteristics, such as a short temper, intellectual curiosity, or being mathematically or verbally attuned. It also determines whether we have a dominant or submissive demeanor.

Socialzation-- the process by which we learn to deal with the enviornment around us. We learn which traits and behaviors are valued and adjust our behavior to please our socializers. (i.e if cruelty is valued, as in the Ik, we will strive to become more cruel.)

Behavior-- How we act, to put it simply. The way we choose to present ourselves to others, how we react to stress and temptation and how we handle day-to-day tasks. It is mostly based on our socialization, what we’ve learned is acceptable and what is not.

Personality-- A combination of our natural tendencies and our socialization. These two are always in a state of slight conflict in most people, especially in those who have “undesirable” traits such as a dominance.

Some mental illnesses seem to be inherited, such as schizophrenia and other organic disorders. Depression might be inherited–I haven’t studied it enough to form an opinion. Perhaps the tendency to have lower seratonin levels is an inherited “flaw” in the brain. As for substance abuse, I’m still a little shaky on that, as well. (Have to study the children of addicts which have been raised in non-addict homes.)

Mental illness is incredibly powerful, moreso than traits or socializtion. All bets are off. I’ve seen it cause kind, warm people turn into cruel and heartless bastards, and it can make people do things they’d never dream of doing otherwise.

My aunt suffered from post-partum depression. She had her last child at age forty, and it hit her like a sledge-hammer. Unfortunately, my aunt was also a very intelligent woman. She knew how to hide it from those who loved her. She killed herself one month after having her baby. If you had known my aunt, you would have bet the farm that she would be the last person on earth to ever even contemplate suicide. PPD was stronger than her dedication to her family and children, and enough to overcome her incredible strength of will.

To put it simply, I expect my toaster to act like a toaster, I have set it to toast bread to my preference, but if there’s a short-circuit in its wiring, ot may burn my toast or not work at all. Human brains, of course, are much more complex and certainly not mechanical, but a mental illness or “short-cicuit” can cause it to function completely differently than it should,

It seems that we are making some progress here. yes Dig that sums it up. Which doesn’t stop me from going on about it a bit more long-windedly!

It wasn’t that long ago that Skinner’s brand of infinitely malleable minds and Bettelheim’s refrigerator mother etiology of autism held sway. The tide began to turn in the late fifties and the seminal studies were those done by Drs. Stella Chase and Alexander Thomas on infant, childhood, and adult temperment. This long-term prospective longitudinal study found that infants are born with particular tempermental characteristics and that these characteristics are remarkably stable across the lifespan. Of course no one needed to really tell that to parents, who like RaftPeople had discovered that for themselves. They described theese tempermental characteristics as varying across nine dimensions and since then others have been added. A great resource for anyone interested in these tempermental dimensions and how to help cope with them as parents would be Stanly Turecki’s The Emotional Problems of Normal Children. His list of dimensions include such things as: predominant mood (cheerful to gloomy); disposition (calm to highstrung); consistency of mood; emotional sensitivity; sociability; expressiveness; initial response (approach to withdrawl); expression of anger; self-control; intensity; activity level; concentration; regularity; adaptability to change; sensory threshold; preferences in food and clothing; negative and positive persitence. There is certainly nothing magical about his list of dimensions, but is a fairly broad one that allows for a clear description of what turn out to be very stable tempermental traits. These traits are indeed stable and are likely to be primarily biologically based, but stability is also not inviolate. We do learn how to express these tempermental characteristics to our benefit or to our disadvantage as we grow. Life experiences can significantly effect them. Children neglected in institutions can become withdrawn or emotional hypersensitive as a result, for example. If, theoretically, a child had a defect in which they could not adequately time motor responses which allowed for socially salient rewards and interactions, then one could expect that social skills would be impaired as well as language. (I am aware of a paper about that possibility having something to do with autism.) Turecki’s focus is on giving parents the vocabulary to recognize their child’s inherent strengths and weakness and some tools to help deal with how those traits fit into their family structure. Put those tempermental characteristics together with intelligence(s), which include verbal, non-verbal, musical, artistic, etc, and you have a panopoly of fairly stable traits from childhood on.

The twin literature is actually quite extensive and quite powerful. It does seem like further explanation is needed of how they work. Some twin studies indeed look at statistical associations between identical twins raised apart and have found that they were concurrent on many trait dimensions despite being raised apart, and more concurrent than sibs adopted into the same families but of different biological parents. The other sort of twin study, and these are done more frequently just because the n is bigger, compared the rates of particular traits in identical vs fraternal twins. these sibling pairs are each expereincing similarly similar home environments nd similarly different unique environments. Traits significantly more common among identical than fraternal twins, are therefore highly likely to be hereditable to a significant degree. These studies also very consistently show that most of the above sorts of traits have very significant hereditable components. I’d be happy to look up specific studies for you if you want.

The twin studies and the longitudinal temperment studies do not however comment on values. Here I believe that socialization plays a more significant role. Of course we each have inherent biological drives: to satisfy hunger, to avoid pain and seek pleasure, to like to eat things that are sweet, to gain social approval, etc. These inherent drives also result in a learned overlay of internalized external ideals for behavior which we want to satisfy as well. Socialization is the process of internalizing those external ideals and prioritizing which of these drives gets satisfied how under which circumstances.

Behavior is indeed what we do as a result.

Lissa, my condolances on your aunt’s illness and death, even if it was a past event. My family also has significant experience with PPD and I have tried my best to help increase awareness among us pediatricians that it is an easy thing to screen for and that we are in the best position to do so. Over 10% of Moms expereice a significant level of PPD, even if very few complete suicide. That said, recognize as well that even mental illness is subject to cultural relativity. Today’s schizophrenic was some ancient world’s prophet or witch. The line between illness and normal is often fuzzy and subjective, dependent on what environment one needs to function in. But that has been the subject of many past debates …

But this still doesn’t really address my point. From post #13:

Axiomatic foundations: we’re rather bluntly reducing causes of behavior to only two categories, biological and socialization. You acknowledge that there are (extreme) cases in which behavior is solely due to biological causes. You also acknowledge a substantial interplay between the categories; that is, that there is a some amount of both at work in causing behavior. And yet, unless a behavior’s cause can be attributed solely to biological causes, you assert that socialization is always the be-all and end-all for determining behavioral influence, categorically overruling biological influences. You don’t see the issue there?

This way of thinking about things leads to unjustified assumptions and sloppy inferences. For instance, the “clay analogy” leads to sloppy inferences. My point in calling it a really bad analogy is that it ignores all the developmental interplay, making the implicit assumption that biological influences are set initially, period, end of story, and are then “shaped” via socialization. But you readily admit and know that’s not the case: just like a muscle, physical structure can change with stimulation or neglect; just like a fire, the intensity of heat and light are contingent not only the type of wood, but on the amount of available oxygen, the layout of the logs, and the addition / depletion of wood over time. I hope that’s adequate; I don’t feel like setting up the ant colony analogy. By ruling out the development, it’s only natural that the inference is drawn that socialization can change or control all but the most extreme examples of biological influences.

To give an example of unjustified assumptions, take your outhouse scenario:

To me, a better reason that outhouses with multiple seats were the “norm” is that…it’s a pain in the ass to build separate outhouses. The time, effort, and resources required to construct separate structures is so onerous that it just didn’t happen. At this time, in our society, we have plentiful resources and it isn’t such a big deal to build single-person bathrooms. So we do.

Am I saying that keeping our bathroom activities private is an expression of a biological influence? I don’t have enough evidence to determine that; to some (perhaps very small) extent it is. I have no clear evidence to support that, but could probably manufacture some hypotheticals (e.g., it’s an incidental result of the fact that human waste poisons nearby water supplies, necessitating that “bathroom activities” be done away from social gathering places; or that it’s a result of the biological instinct for self-preservation in that the process of voiding oneself in a dangerous environment leaves one open to harm – it’s tough to be on alert for predators / foes when distracted by bodily functions, not to mention that having one’s pants around one’s ankles makes it awfully tough to run away).

Are you saying that it is not even possible that socialization would have no effect on some behavior?

I’m going to split the following up so that no response gets lost in a flurry of words.

No, I’d say that’s simply not true. For instance, I’m quite sure that you cannot universally train men to be women or vice-versa (not referring to anything stupid like socializing a man to be able to give birth). Men, due solely to the fact that they’re men, have a larger ratio of testosterone to estrogen. IIRC, a causal link has been established between testosterone levels and certain types of behavior. Ergo, socialization cannot, in principle, serve to remove “maleness”.

I understand that you weren’t offering this as an example with supporting research, so I feel justified in simply saying that I think it’s wrong. I think, with a large enough sampling, you’d find that a good percentage of dogs will not get to the point of avoiding the meat. If you can provide non-anecdotal support, I’d be interested.

I don’t think you could’ve chosen a worse example; which one was it (Sigfried or Roy) that was mauled by his “housecat”?

Data without interpretation is useless. To reject any study, you have any number of options: the methodology, the sample size, inaccruacy or incompleteness of the model, etc. Sure, you can re-analyze the data and add your own interpretation; doing that because a study concludes a heavy “nature” influence is assuming the conclusion.

Just one more quick thing, as this is already much longer than I wanted.

I’m not talking about conditions so extreme and out of character that they would qualify as mental illnesses that lead to suicide. I’m talking about, say, people who are taking Paxil or Zoloft to treat a mild, but constant, case of depression. Or those who suffer from social anxiety disorder. Or attention deficit disorder. My guess is that the majority of people taking these drugs could not only survive, but lead “normal” and “productive” lives (quotes used to stave off the “but there is no normal” objections; of course there is, as it’s just a matter of statistics applied to whatever measure you select). However, the drugs are indeed an improvement and make their lives even better – by influencing the biological mechanisms they’ve ended up with.

I should note that I’m not pulling a Tom Cruise and claiming that such drugs are unnecessary and detrimental; in fact, I think the stigma associated with going to a “shrink” is bad and that it’s great that people now have this option. My point is only that the extreme case is just that – an extreme, which, when used as the exemplar case, hides the impact of day-to-day “nature” influences.

Now that I’m embroiled in the debate, twin studies strike me as being one of the few options to feasibly tease apart nature / nurture influences. At some point, I need to become familiar with them; the WP link supplied by Lissa was very interesting. It would also be informative to trace their evolution; the critiques, how those critiques were addressed, subsequent objections, etc. While I’ll not protest references, my book-type / serious research reading queue is still overloaded (and getting ever larger!) with prior recommendations. With that said, have at it.

Interestingly enough, I ended up looking into some related material on values / morality as it relates to this discussion. This is very much out of my area, but I came across Kohlberg’s Moral Stages. From the “How Development Occurs” section:

Now this is of particular interest to me, in that I’m particularly interested in the notion of reflection as it pertains to consciousness. The added influence of introspection, separate and distinct from – although, of course, dependent to some degree on – either nature or nurture provides a whole new level of complexity to the debate. Just what we need. But I thought I’d throw it out there as a matter of interest, even if I’m very much unprepared to debate it.

No, I guess I don’t. Unless you were raised completely isolated from others, your behavior is going to be influenced by socialization. It’s only natural that socialzation would take precedence over biology-- that’s what civilization is all about, taming the natural impulses in order to live in a peaceful society.

I don’t rule out development, but I do believe that it is “tamed.”

In places like schools, there were seperate outhouses for males and females which still had multiple seats, implying that two or three women could use the structure at the same time.

Outhouses were not the only example of “public” bathroom activites. Bathrooms still exist from the ancient Roman times which are just a row of holes, with no dividers of any kind between them. In some cultures, people went out into the fields to eliminate, carrying with them a small pitcher of water for cleansing. In many houses, the family all slept in the same room, and used the chamberpot in that room, as well as the wash stand.

Pants are a pretty modern invention, mind. For most of human history, people wore robes.

Secondly, germ theory is also a modern discovery. People did not understand water pollution as they do today, and would dump their waste in the same river that others used for drinking water. (Think of floating corpses in the Ganges and the river Thames in London). They used to use wells in cemetaries in England. (In the late 1800s, a vicar at St George-In-The-East hung a sign over the water pump in the cemetary reading “Dead Men’s Broth” to try to discourage people from using it.)

Of course, the smell probably encouraged most people to eliminate away from the living area, but I’ve seen archaeological digs in caves inhabited by Neandertal and early-humans which have found human feces in the living areas.

Nothing is impossible, but the forces of social control are extremely powerful. As I said, even the most uncontrollably violent criminals are still held back by social shame when it comes to soiling their pants. To me, this is rather significant.

Gender is a whole 'nother ball of wax, and is a debate in of itself. Of course, testosterone/estrogen has a certain influence, but how it is displayed is dependant on the culture in which the man or woman was raised.

Well, these sort of experiments are not acceptable today, but I’m sure you’ve heard of studies done on learned helplessness. Anecdotally, the dogs which are used in the prison in which my husband works have been trained never to accept any food from anyone other than their trainer, no matter how great the temptation. The trainer once told me that they put the dogs through a test in which the food (hotdogs in this case) was offered to the dog, and then everyone left the room. The dog completely ignored the food, even though the trainer knew he was hungry. Dogs are naturally scavengers who will instinctively take advantage of any food they find, but this one had been trained to ignore that impulse.

I chose that example intentionally. As I said, they would tell you that a tiger is still a tiger, despite living companionably with humans for years, but that doesn’t cancel out the decades of suscess they’ve had in training these animals to suppress their natural impulses.

I think this has a lot to say about the power of socialization. You could not take a tiger which has lived in the wild all of its life and train it to be as domesticated. Most animal trainers raise their animals from the time they are very young. Tigers are naturally solitary creatures, but they’re socialized to accept living among others peaceably. I find this even more remarkable because tigers and other animals operate from their instincts more than humans do. If socialization can bring such powerful results in a tiger, what more could it do to humans?

But, what happened to Roy shows us that we are not prisoners of our socialization. One of their tigers, simply put, decided to act like a tiger. Humans can also decide to go against their socialization in some areas of their behavior, but vestiges of it will always remain. The most powerful lessons-- those dealing with potty training, not touching one’s self in public in “shameful” areas, etc.-- will most likely remain. Likewise, though that tiger attacked Roy, it likely went back to behaving as it had the day before. It would still know its tricks and where to eliminate.

Oh my, I disagree heartily with this statement. Data is pure. Interpretation is subject to corruption. The data can be studied again and again, from all sorts of different angles, with the original “findings” being totally dismissed. The data retains its usefulness where as the interpretation does not.

In my job at the museum, I have to use data quite frequently to answer historical questions. Records of marriage and births, for example, can be compared to find the incidence of unwed pregnancy an the percentage of brides who went to the altar, if you’ll excuse the expression, with buns already in the oven. I once used the results of a study on the cargo carried by river boats to determine clothing fashions.

I’ve never been one to dismiss a work simply based on the perspective of the author. I’ve read Pinker, even though I don’t agree with him. I don’t believe in venturing an opinion on something unless I’ve read material from researchers on both sides of the issue. If you’d look through my library, you’d assume it had to be the collection of two different people.

A mental illness or disorder doesn’t have to be crippling for it to affect behavior. A chemical imbalance can overcome traits and socialization.

I am increasingly struck by the fact that this debate is asking a nonsensical question and one that distracts from asking the right ones. The question is, of course, not is it nature or nurture? Development doesn’t work that was. Nature uses nurture as part of development. The mamalian visual system requires exposure to shapes in order to be able to develop to see them. Is seeing stripes nature or nurture? A nonsensical question. These are the better questions (IMHO):

How does cognitive/emotional/social development occur?
What parts of the process reliably occur independent of experience but expectant of it?
What parts of the process are experience-dependent?
What degree of plasiticity is there in each domain?
What are the means by which that plasticity occurs?

What is remarkable about the human beast is not the degree to which we are predictable products of of inate tendencies, which we most certainly are, but the plastic nature in which those tendencies result in particular behaviors, and the manner in which we have formed a meta-organism of society, which by means of culture, self-similarly develops plastic variations about the basic form, emergent from its parts even while it constrains the actions of its parts.

It seems to me that moral systems are always go both directions: top-down and bottom-up. There are ways that we behave that are the result of inate predispositions and negotiated behaviors that work in complex social structure. To some degree we have those behaviors and create the axioms that justify the rules. Society, in turn, imposes values constraining the behavior of its members. And at the individual level we learn from our immediate society, our families, how to delay satisfaction of our immediate drives and internalize a set of higher-order drives.

This impulse control emerges less out of reflection, I think, than the internalization of our parents voices. During the second year of life a child begins to stop before touching the forbidden object … briefly. The child clearly hears that small parental voice saying “no no” but the drives are too loud and the voice too quiet. The parent is still the super-ego and picks the child up and takes them away. By the end of the year the voice is loud enough to listen to more often. The impulse is constrained.

Would that voice be loud enough to overcome any drive? No of course not. Are some drives inately weaker and more easily overcome than others? Of course. We have many behavioral predispositions. Like stripes in the visual system, however, they require experience in order to develop and odd experiences can distort the development. Is every individual going to react to the same socialization the same way? Of course not. We come with different sets of traits and responses. Will we develop the same exact way in different social structures? Of course not, we learn specific sets of rules and are designed to want to conform to social expectations to a large degree.

It is easy to make an analogy to your field, Dig: an AI could be imagined that has multiple drives to satisfy in order to work cooperatively with humans. It must look out for its own ability to continue to function, to get power with increasing urgency as its levels run low and is farther away from a refueling point. It must monitor its subsystem and keep track of what needs to be repaired, fixing it itself if possible, or getting help, and recognizing how to function with that part down. It must complete its primary task, whatever it may be. It must avoid harming its co-workers. And it must “please” its human co-workers. Each of these drives have dynamic states of satisfaction and a range of values acceptable. It would adaptively learn tactics to balance those drives to keep them all within acceptable limits and decide which would have to be deferred when. Socialization is the process by which the individual AI adaptively learns tactics to keep the drives balanced and satisfied. The way that the AI would non-linearly interact with its coworkers creates a small society. The rules that such a small society created emergently would be its culture and an additional AI joining the society would both influence that culture to some degree but would also, to a larger degree, be adapting to it, to the degree that its programming allowed. Would an AI need axioms (morals) to justify those rules? Hmmmm. I doubt it, but humans do.

Is that AI a product of its design (nature) or of its environment (nurture)? Or is the question a silly one?

Of course behavior is going to be influenced by socialization. Yargh. OK, let me put it in a logic framework:

Let B be the entire set of behaviors, B={b1, b2, b3, …, bn}. Let N={n1, n2, n3, …, nn} be the influence of biology on each item in set B and S={s1, s2, s3, …, sn} be the influence of socialization on each item in set B, where every item <ni, si> in sets N and S correspond to <bi> such that ni+si=1. (In more descriptive terms, one can view N and S as the percentage of influence on behavior.)

  1. Axiom. There is at least one case, say “b1”, where n1 = 1 and s1 = 0. (That is, there is at least one behavior such that all influence is biologically determined.)
  2. Axiom. There is at least one case, say “b2”, where 0 < n1 < 1 and 0 < s1 < 1. (That is, b2 is determined by some mixture of nature and nurture.)
  3. Your assertion. Let bi = some element of B, such that bi != b1, then si=1 and ni=0. (That is, socialization is always the be-all and end-all for determining behavioral influence.) But s2<1 and n2>0, as per 2.

That’s the issue, in it’s simplest form. To accept 1 and 2, yet claim 3 is to assert a contradiction – in principle. Note that I’m not saying that there is no behavior that isn’t solely determined by socialization. Also, my opinion is that the vast majority of behaviors fall under axiom 2.

But there’s a bit more: a person’s biology changes and can be affected during development by their socialization. Conversely, the degree to which socialization is effective not only changes, but can be affected during development by their (changing) biology. “Nature” is not set in stone at conception, nor at birth, nor most likely at any time during someone’s lifetime (although certainly biology “hardens” throughout development). Is it more clear now?

Stated in that form, I believe you’re simply wrong (although philosophers have certainly made careers over it). What I mean is: “natural impulses” are not necessarily contrary to “living in a peaceful society”. If they were, the altruistic behavior found in various non-human species could not have developed. And I’m not trying to minimize norms, mores, convention, etc., but only pointing out another faulty assumption. There’s survival benefit to living in society; of course biology would adapt to it.

If you said “affected”, I’d have been right there with you, with the qualification that effects are sometimes nil.

And none of that addresses my point, which is that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation outside of socialization for the historical lack of bathroom privacy.

Yes, yes. Pants are a new-fangled invention that only those young whippersnappers wear. They’re just a fad, anyway. :slight_smile: My phrasing was just to avoid indelicately saying that it’s difficult to run away while one is squinty-eyed, forcefully pinching a loaf. But now my sensibilities are offended. :wink:

As to the second, people did not need to understand water pollution. Simple observation – Zag drinks from stream. Zag gets sick. Zog drinks from elsewhere. Zog doesn’t get sick. Both Zag and Zog do their business near where Zag drank, but neither near where Zog drank. That’s all it takes.

OK, good, nothing is impossible. The question then becomes a “statistician view” query – how much of a given behavior is dependent on what part of the mixture? Various behavioral expressions may satisfy the same biological influence. That doesn’t make them due to (nor controllable by) socialization.

First of all, no – gender (and it’s possible that you’re using “gender” in a specific way that has connotations I’m not considering) is not a whole 'nother ball of wax. It just happens to be an extremely clear case of biological influence. Second, of course behavior is at least somewhat dependent on the culture; I’ve never denied that. The question, as you well know, isn’t “nature OR nurture”, never the two shall meet; it’s “nature AND nurture”, in what parts?

No, I’m not familiar with “learned helplessness”. A question: what percentage of dogs – across all breeds – do not “graduate” from this training? That’s the question here – not whether it can be done in a given case, but what the broad percentages are.

And again, no one is saying that socialization is not powerful. If you accept Pinker’s estimate, there’s about a 50% influence (in humans). That’s actually amazingly powerful – saying that choosing 1 out of 2 people randomly, you could arbitrarily socialize them to be mass-murderers or saints.

But you miss the intent of the statement. Repeating: data is useless without an interpretation. It’s just that you disagree with a given interpretation and supply your own, perhaps unrelated to the original intent, as you proceed to outline.

As I said, on the one hand, I agree. On the other, it seems to me that there’s an implicit acceptance of the symmetric view in the above. Should that research be given less distrust? Or are you saying that researchers that conclude socialization is overwhelmingly influential are just better, more honest, and less biased? I’m not implicating you in any way, shape, or form, just explaining the reasons underlying my post.

Yes, it can. Now why should only the extreme case of suicide be taken as the paradigm of where biology dominates? All I’m getting at is that while socialization is indeed powerful, you give too-short shrift to biology. In the non-dramatic case of a slight chemical imbalance, it seems to me that you’d attribute all behavior to social influence, when there’s an obvious biological influence proven by the fact that the drugs work when socialization doesn’t.

Dude, I have no clue what the above paragraph was all about. My math skills are about the equivillent of a third-grader’s, and I never took algebra.

Altruism is another thread in of itself, but weren’t we social creatures even before we were Homo Sapiens? Meaning that whatever changes in biology took place in order to make us adapt to a social enviornment would have taken place millions of years ago, because our ape-like ancestors were social.

Our natural impulses are to take what we want, to fuck whomever strikes our fancy, and to try to obtain more tangible signs of status and wealth than our neighbor. Our society has created property laws, religious/ethical restraints on sexuality and legal codes to force ethical business to curtail these behaviors. I believe that the concept of god(s) was created to enforce these social constructs: even if human eyes don’t detect your misdeeds, there’s an invisible being who will punish you for it in this life or the next.

Honestly, I can’t think of one. Economics doesn’t really account for it. There are lots of people who only can afford to build one bathroom into their house, and no one puts in a second toilet. People who could afford to build an outhouse could certainly have afforded a cloth curtain for modesty if they had felt the need for it, or, like modern one-loo households, they could have put up with dancing impatiently by the door until the other person was done using it.

The Roman latrine I described which still exists was made of white marble and was located in a opulant bath house. They certainly could have afforded dividers if their patrons had wanted to have privacy. (IIRC, it accomodated about twelve persons at a time.)

The kings of Europe went nowhere alone, including their close-stools. The Sun King even had his own personal wiper, if memory serves. Lucky courtiers could come and watch the king upon his second throne, and then watch him be bathed, shaved and dressed. Surely, the kings could have ordered privacy if they wanted it, but apparently, it never occured to them to be embarassed to poop in front of a room full of nobles.

Apparently, that connection took a really, really long time to make, as simple as we think it is. People in western society used to believe that illness was sent by God, witchcraft, or because of an imbalance in the humors. Basic hygeine wasn’t even observed uring the primitive surgical procedures. Thousands, possibly millions of women over the course of human existance might have lived if the midwives had connected their dirty hands with perepural fever, or doctors would have thought to clean their instruments between patients.

They didn’t think dumping their chamberpots in the street was harmful, not tossing their garbage out the window for the roaming pigs to forage. Castle garderobes often emptied right below into the moat, the same moat which sometimes provided the inhabitants’ fish.

And, yes, they drank from the same rivers in which they tossed their offal and continued to do so for hundreds of generations. (If memory serves, under Fleet Street in London, there used to be a river, a tributary of the Thames which was eventuall clogged up by all of the refuse thrown into it.) Nor were they squeamish, as I mentioned, about using a well that was in a cemetary.

It wasn’t until about 1900 that people began connecting impure water with sickness and campaigning to change sanitary procedures.

As I said, the mixture is different in everyone, but I’m guessing around 10% for behaviors which stem from biology alone.

You do understand the difference between “gender” and “sex,” don’t you?

Basically, it was an experiment done in the early 20th century involving dogs and an electrified floor. They bound the dogs to the floor and rang a bell, then shocked them painfully again and again. The dogs quickly learned that the bell meant that pain was coming in the next few moments, but they could not escape it. They then put the dogs into a box with low sides and shocked them. To their astonishment, the dogs did not try to flee. They just laid there and took the pain. They had learned that there was no use in trying to escape, so they didn’t even try any more even thought their restraints were gone. (B.F. Skinner’s theories on opperant response didn’t hold up in this case.)

I don’t know the numbers myself, but the majority do not graduate. Know, though, that there are many reasons for a dog to fail that are not obediance-related.

I’d take it further: you could take most people and socialize them to be murderers. There is no inborn restraint against murder.

In my husband’s work in the correctional system, he has met many an inmate who has utterly no idea why they should obey the rules of society. The have no empathy, no ethics other than taking what they want. Studies of their case files reveal that they suffered parental neglect/abuse and basically grew up on the streets in an atmosphere of survival of the fittest. No innate sense of social boundries stops them. They may know the rules, but they make no sense. Why should they care about other people? Its a concept almost impossible to grasp if it wasn’t learned in early childhood. They skipped this phase. They’re not mentally ill, just completely unfamiliar with the concepts of empathy and impulse control.

Not at all. Every researcher on any side of an arugment has their own preconcieved notions and can let them color what they see, which is why I want to see the actual data, not a soundbite of findings.

If you put the wrong kind of gas into a car, it won’t function as well. The human brain is somewhat similar-- if the wrong balance of chemicals are released, behavior can be vastly changed, even if the imbalance is not severe. As another example, spyware is not as catastrophic as a virus, but it can slow down your computer and cause some programs to crash. Chemical imbalances are the same way.

Yes, exactly.

I’ve gone back and thought about why I started this thread; am I pursuing the stated goal? Yes, I think I am. In order to get (what I would consider) adequate answers to “current research that contradicts Pinker’s assertions”, there first has to be a recognition that Pinker isn’t dealing with the outlier cases. Rather, he’s talking about subtle interactions that are damn hard (if not impossible in principle) to tease apart. Before discussing such subtleties, one has to at least recognize they exist; pointing to mental illness extreme enough to result in suicide isn’t one of those subtleties, nor is the fact that mentally distrubed people soil themselves, etc. I grant all that; is that the best there is?

It depends. Is the rule-set fixed? If so, then it’s simply an input/output machine like a Chinese Room in its initial state. Mostly (all?) nature. Which is, for the most part, where AI is at now. Does the AI’s internal structure (rule set) allow modification as it develops? If so, it’s more difficult to say, but less nature than before. Does the AI have meta-rules that allow it to learn about the rules it has developed during operation? Even less nature, and working into actual intelligence. Does the very hardware on which the AI runs change during development (say, like FPGAs) according to some combination of rules, meta-rules, and other factors? Well, then I have no idea where to draw the line. But plasticity doesn’t automatically remove the design component; it may (or may not) be inherent in the design itself.

OK…would you take my word for it that that there’s a contradiction?

Of course we were. Which is why I specified non-human species. The point being that somewhere along the evolutionary chain, altruism developed. For illustration, clumsy and incorrect though it may be, let’s say species X was it. Prior to X, no altruism. Post-X, altruism. Is altruism due to nature or nurture as concerns species X?

And I agree with much of that to a great extent. I’m not sure what else to say about it.

OK then. I’d suggest you’re not trying very hard, but OK.

As did the notion of genetics itself (thank you, Mendel). But again, you miss my point – it didn’t take “today’s understanding” to recognize how to successfully breed animals. But all this potty talk is naught but a digression, so OK.

Based on what specific research? Twin studies are flawed. Just about everything else seems to be rejected on suspicion of faulty conclusions or choosing a parody example as the norm. Alternately, the “behaviors that stem from biology alone” is perhaps such a small, yet individually wide-ranging set that socialization is just an easy answer?

No, I don’t think I do. I’ve seen too many conflicting definitions to know how you’re using the terms. For simplicity, I’m using the term “male” both to denote a sex and as a commonly accepted description of certain behaviors (e.g., rough-housing). If you feel the burning desire and necessity to tease apart “gender” and “sex” as it relates to my use of “male”, go for it. I feel it’s unnecessary, but do. I’d note that removing the notion of “male” from the biological fact of differing testosterone levels is rigging the argument.

Perhaps. But you do have to admit that it’s a self-selecting sample. Analogically, it’s like saying that a larger percentage of people that hang out in dive-y bars are alcoholics relative to the general population. Hmm, imagine that.

And as I said, I agree to some extent. My response was two-fold: (1) data really is useless without some interpretation and (2) to point out the implicit bias I saw.

Yes, and that addresses the point how? One more time: a chemical imbalance is a biological issue that cannot be absolutely eradicated by socialization. That’s all I’m sayin’. Perhaps the imbalance is due to environment (say, lead paint), perhaps it’s due to childhood socialization (say, child neglect). However, perhaps it’s genetics. Perhaps it’s overwhelmingly genetics. In which case, every aspect of that person’s behavior is greatly affected by “nature”. Why is that so difficult to accept?

Moreso, sometimes that change resulting from a heritable chemical difference, is positive in certain circumstances, circumstances that exist in societies of the time. People with it surive more. Reproduce more. Nuture selects for nature. People with that difference are recognized by society as having particular strangths and weakness and placed oin certain educational or social circumstances which affects their development albeit in a nonheritable fashion. Nurture effects nature.

Many mental illnesses are just a bit much of which has been selected for as positive in smaller bits in other evolutionarily relevant circumstances.

Indeed. Since I know that you’re familiar with autism research, has there been any (credible) research done on the changing nature of cultural child-rearing trends (e.g., plopping the kids down in front of television) as it affects traits (say, language or mathematical ability)? I’m quite sure it’s not only contentious, but also too soon to tell. Thought I’d ask anyway…

I feel that I must expand upon the subject of mental illness and its fuzziness visavis this issue of “nature vs. nuture” We have this unfortunate tendency to want to put things into nice either/or boxes. No where does this tendency show up the most as in the subject of mental health and it makes a nice model for discussing the subject of nature/nurture.

Let us take one as an example. As a pediatrician with a particular intrest in autism, I’ll choose that one. Autism. No one would debate that it is a disease state even if its etiology(ies) are not entirely well understood at this time. Clearly genetics plays the major role and models (based off of those monozygotic vs, dizygotic twin and other family studies) show that it is polygenic in origin with some experts saying that as many as 15 different genes being involved. Seems straightforward enough, eh? This is nature with some abnormal genes producing something that overwhelms the system making it misfunction. Done. Not so fast.

First off, the edges of autism to normal are a fuzzy gradation, with a spectrum of behaviors ranging from severely frankly autistic to a spectrum of disorders to Aspergers disorder in which individual aremerely socially odd with poor communication skills and very narrow range of interests but who are entirely functional and who may do quite well as they may have superior skills in certain subsets, like math and music and rules-based tasks and things that require memorization of many particular facts, to a whole “Broad Autistic Phenotype” of individuals who are even milder versions with particular features of the whole. Somewhere there it stops being a “disorder” when it is not significantly impairing adaptive function in this particular society. In fact some individuals with Aspergers and the Broad Autistic Phenotype find particular niches in society in which their traits are particularly useful and help them achieve. In today’s world they are more likely to even form reasonable social relationships with others who share their particular narrow bands of interests.

The way in which they are built, for whatever reason, is not a disorder at that point, but clearly influences their behaviors and their development. It may be helpful in the milder forms for those functioning within particular niches of society. In fact those milder forms may have been selected for. Even moreso, one hypothesis for the apparent increase in autism is that more individuals with those mild autistic features are having children together now as we live in a world where they find each other more often and are more likely highly achieving. (Not a hypothesis accepted by all, but out there.)

So then autism is nature and the spectrum of behavior is not always a disorder. And what gets called a disorder is dependent upon the environment in which one is attempting to function. But wait there’s more. If we identify those with autism early on we can, by way of intensive early socialization, alter their developmental course so that the condition is less likely to be as severe. No we cannot make it go away, but with a lot of work by the parents, by Early Intervention systems, and later by the school system, they can achieve a significantly higher level of function. And many think that if we could identify those with the predisposition before it became clearly apparent by behavior, then we could make a much bigger difference yet. And some who have only a slight predisposition to the disorder can be pushed into it with severe deprivations (hence there is a higher incidence of autistic features in institutionalized children and, less so, the congenitally deaf).

So there is some nurture too.

So even with a “clear disease state” we see how normal variations in brain function that have biological bases exist which can sometimes be advantageous and sometime a disrder depending on the load of related genes an individual has and the environemnt in which one is attempting to function. And how nurture affects the end-result.

Autism is just a model; the same spectrum of related phenotypes has been found for schizophrenia and the traits that result in mild depressions in some may have advatages as well in other gene loads and other environments. And don’t getting me going on ADD! All are examples in which it is clear that “nature” (biologic predispositions) play a major role, and in which milder forms are not clear disorders and which in evolutionary history milder forms may even have had some particular advantages. Disorder is defined by how it handicapps function in our particular current social environment and as such the edge is a dynamic beast as the definition of “normal” is just, as you point out Lisa, a sociologic construct.

I guess, but then again, it might be a flaw in my explanation. Honestly, my husband ought to be writing this, not me. I’m no teacher.

I believe that altruism can be explained by emotion in many cases. Emotions seem to be part of “nature” because animals have them (albeit in simpler forms than humans.) So, I guess we agree on this point.

No, I do think potty training is pertinent. It’s an example of socialization and the power thereof.

As I said: I’m guessing. I’m basing my guess off of a wide range of things I’ve learned, not just one particular author or study.

To put it very, very simply, sex is biological, set by your chomosomes. Gender is the social role built around that sex. Some societies recognize three genders, such as the hijras of India and Pakistan, and the Native Americans who called transgendered people “Two Spirits.”

What I’m saying is that while testosterone/estrogen may effect your sex, it has nothing to do with your gender. After all, we still consider women who have had hysterectomies and no longer produce their own estrogen “women”, and a castrated male is still a “man.”

I wasn’t using them as a “sample” per se. I was just saying that there are people who are completely anti-social, and biology has not nudged them back into that role.

Nor are all people lacking in empathy in prison. There are plenty of them out there, rubbing elbows with the rest of us. They obey society’s laws because they don’t want to have to deal with the consequences, not because they feel stealing or hurting others is wrong.

I don’t believe that neglect or socialization can lead to a chemical imbalance. THAT is biology.

It’s difficult to accept because of the many, many cases in which socialization trumps biology. As I said before, my natural tendency is to be short-tempered, but my socialization overcame that. Should I ever suffer from a mental illness, my socialization may go right out the window. And, yes, as an adult, I could freely make the choice to let my impulses rule, but that would not mean a triumph of biology.

Dig, sorry hadn’t seen your post. No, at least for autism. The onset of autistic features occurs before those child-rearing practices would be playing a major role. The only speculation is as I posted that today’s world allows those with the Broad Autistic Phenotype and Aspergers to find each other more often, giving their kids a bigger chance at having a critically dysfunctional load of the genes, whereas in the past they may never had had kids or only had kids if a very social person saw their strengths and drew them out guiding them through the courting process.

Now credible research about the effects of television and the internet on communication and math skills in general? I am not sure. Lots of speculation but hard to disentangle from so many other cultural variables. So I don’t know.

[quote[I don’t believe that neglect or socialization can lead to a chemical imbalance. THAT is biology. [/quote]
I can’t let this slide. Just wrong. When neglect and socialization and well any of nurture effects behavior, just how do you think it happens? It does so by changing brain chemistry, brain receptors, and brain structure itself. Some people are destined to have those structures no matter what the nurture. Some people are very sensitive to environmental triggers to those changes and some people less so and some people fairly impervious because of other aspects of their “nature”. But “nurture” does indeed change the “nature” of the beast itself as well.