‘Nature Versus Nurture’ as Predictors of Happiness

28 Mar 2018

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  • Pauline Tovee

Write a critical discussion essay in response to the following task, based on your close reading of any five of the ten source texts, Texts 1 – 10

Draw on any five of the ten sources texts, discuss the relative importance of ‘nature versus nurture’ as predictors of happiness

This assignment will discuss the relative importance of ‘nature versus nurture’ as predictors of happiness. The assignment will also compare and contrast all sides of the equation and discuss which is the most important as a predictor of happiness ‘nature' or ‘nurture’ or whether both have a bearing on happiness. The stance taken in this assignment is that neither ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ can fulfil the role of a single predictor, and that the combining of both the genetic and environmental factors, contribute to happiness. Defining happiness is not an easy task to accomplish. However, it can be argued that a simple definition of happiness is a sensation of positivity which covers a whole range of feelings or emotions, from pleasure to gratification. (Spoors et al, as cited in Text 2, L185, 2014).

On one hand, with regard to ‘nature’, it has been argued a healthy lifestyle equates to a happy brain. Sugar has also been explored as having an important role within our brains and bodies, to keep a stable quantity available continuously. The blood sugar within one’s body fluctuates throughout the day; thus when the sugar level is at its peak one feels elated or happy within one’s mood span. However, when one’s blood sugar level has decimated to a low level, moods can change to one of irritability and tiredness, thus the cells do not get enough of the chemicals they require to function correctly.

Then again, it has also been debated, brain activity is also a way of gauging happiness by simply inquiring of people on how happy that were at a particular time, though this is not specifically accurate. If two people say they are comparatively happy, one can still not be certain that both individuals are, in reality, encountering exactly the same intensity of happiness. A procedure used by Davidson, with the use of an electroencephalograph (EEG), measures action within the brain, including parts of the brain which are not active. The active part of the brain produces electrical pulses. These are selected by the electrodes located on the head. However, what Davidson did discover was that in people who stated they were feeling happy and cheerful, the action in the frontal area of the brain, on the left-hand side was more active. When pessimistic thoughts were portrayed, there was more action in the frontal area of the brain on the right-hand side. (Spoors et al, as cited in Text 3, L185, 2014)

However, ‘nurture can also play its role in the pursuit of happiness with respect to social influences. People who are loved and valued by their families are more likely to have happy dispositions than those who are undervalued and exploited by their conflicting roles within the family circle. People who are involved within formal occupations or those who work in the home, for example those who study, care for others (including children) and those who work taking care of the home, can each form a foundation of happiness. Work does not only provide people with financial support, but can also give people a sense of achievement and add meaning to their lives. Peter Warr (2007) equates employment to having one’s daily dose of vitamins, a certain amount of which is need for wellbeing and health. Richard Layard (2008) claims ‘Unemployment (in the broadest sense) can reduce happiness by destroying self-respect and the positive social relationships created by work’

In addition, researchers in psychology claim people who live in western society are, by and large, more happy than those in other societies in a survey taken of approximately 80,000 people in over 178 separate countries. Adrian White created a ‘happiness’ level of these countries. At the highest position was Denmark which was trailed closely by Switzerland, Austria and Iceland. However, countries such as Zimbabwe and Burundi were the least happiest countries. Researchers have suggested people who are living in countries whose economy is developing, may well have more amounts of happiness, which clearly define the feeling of ‘contentment’ than, for example, those who live in western societies. Further research done by the New Economics Foundation in 2006, discovered that the Pacific Island of Vanuatu, was purported to be the happiest nation on Earth, even though it is one of the poorest countries. (Spoors et al, as cited in Text 6, L185, 2014).

In comparison, the question can be asked time and time again; are we the product of either our genes or simply of our environment, the physical, social and also the cultural? As Phoenix argues, ‘Whilst psychological debates are often presented as dichotomies (fixidty versus change: nature versus nurture), these debates should not be seen as requiring either/or choices’ (Phoenix, A. 2007, as cited in Text 1, L185, 2014)

From evidence available, being naturally happy (by nature) and a in a nurturing (environment and experience) happiness, can influence peoples’ happiness. Research has shown that twins who are identical (have identical genes) are more comparable in their levels of happiness, than a set of twins who do not have the same identical genes. Layard argues ‘Scientists have shown that our family relationships are more important than any other single factor affecting our happiness’. (Layard, 2005). Maybe the fundamental message is that the majority of people, irrespective of their genes or their environment, are able to take the key steps to expand their levels of contentment, for example happiness and their emotional wellbeing. Happiness does not only come from outside influences and our environment, but also from within one’s self. Neither of the two is in conflict with each other. ‘The true pilgrim fights the evils of the world out there and cultivates the spirit within’ (Layard, 2005 as cited in L185, Text 7).

In conclusion the evidence indicates that although ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ do play an important role within one’s dreams of happiness, they are not separate in that role. The influence of each position contributes to happiness as a whole. It is not easy to define happiness completely; what may be complete contentment for one person is not the same for another, for we are all different in our genetic makeup and our environment and general upbringing.

Word Count: 1025

References:

The Open University (2012), L185, English for Academic Purposes, EMA, Text 1: Avoiding Dichotomies in Psychological Thinking [online]

https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=302192&section=3.2 (accessed 17 May 2014)

The Open University (2012), L185, English for Academic Purposes, EMA, Text 2: What Makes Us Happy? [online] https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=302192&section=3.2 (accessed 17 May 2014)

The Open University (2012), L185, English for Academic Purposes, EMA, Text 3: What Makes Us Happy – Happy Brains [online]

https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=302192&section=3.3 (accessed 17 May 2014)

The Open University (2012), L185, English for Academic Purposes, EMA, Text 6: What Makes Us Happy – Social Influences [online]

https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=302192&section=3.6 (accessed 17 May 2014)

The Open University (2012), L185, English for Academic Purposes, EMA, Text 7: Naturally Happy and Nurturing Happiness [online]

https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=302192&section=3.7 (accessed 17 May 2014)



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