“The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior,” by John Alford and John Hibbing, Perspectives on Politics, Vol 2. No. 4, December 2004, 707-723 [notes].
â€œAre Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?â€ by John Alford, Carolyn Funk, and John R. Hibbing, American Political Science Association, May 2005, http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/GeneticsAPSR0505.pdf [notes].
The syllabus for Child Psychology calls for a short, interpretive paper over some aspect of the text. I will choose to comment on a paragraph in Chapter 1, under the heading “Relative Influence of Nature and Nurture?”
A theory’s potential on the roles of nature and nurture affects how it explains individual differences. Some theorists emphasize stability — that children who are high or low in a characteristic (such as verbal ability, anxiety, or sociability) will remain so at later ages. These theorists typically stress the importance of heredity. If they regard environment as important they usually point to early experiences as establishing a lifelong pattern of behavior. Powerful negative events in the first few years, they argue, cannot be fully overcome by later, more positive ones. Other theorists are more optimistic. They believe that change is possible and likely if new experiences support it.
While I generally admire the author’s balanced view of the nature-nurture controversy, I believe this paragraph is confused. Prominent nature-oriented perspectives have emphasized early learning and stability. Sigmud Freud, for example, believed that psyhosexual development in early childhood can have lasting impact (Berk 17), while even Jean Piaget emphasized that an early childhood passage through the sensorimotor stage was necessary for success concrete and formal operations (21). Under either Freud or Piaget, a child’s maladaptiosn early in life will cascade into problems later on. At the same time, proponents of genetic influences attack the idea that traits must be stable throughout life. “Just as teeth or breasts are absent at birth, and yet appear through maturation,” the founders of Evolutionary Psychology write, “evolved psychological mechanisms… could develop at any point in the life cycle.” (Tooby and Cosmides 10). Likewise, a researcher working at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln discovered that the influence from socialization on many aspects of personality plummets during life (Alford and Hibbing 2004; Alford, Funk and Hibbing 2005). Under any of this “nature”-oriented research, “stability” is called into question if not attacked.
The precise role of nature and nurture is unknown, but the issue is larger than just â€œstability.â€