Nature, Nurture, and Spontaneity

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I ran into this problem in my last post on differing levels of analysis--the problem of polarizing perspectives and the importance of reciprocity between perspectives to maintain whole understanding.

It's easy to see why this comes to mind immediately when contemplating the nature-nurture debate. I found myself wrestling with extremes, again. It seems that exclusive subscription to either nature or nurture compromises identity. It is certainly to better to find the overlap and the dialogue between the two so that expression is given some depth.

But even then, are nature and nurture not just two variables in an equation that plays out deterministically? I notice others have posed similar questions.

I think of the Bogle family. Such widespread, grave actions may seem to indicate some extent of hard wiring, "on whose nature Nurture can never stick." (Shakespeare) Caliban.jpg

Anomalies become fascinating. Consider the member of the Bogle family who graduated from high school with a GPA of 4.0 and received a full scholarship to Oregon State University. One has to wonder about this Bogle's genetic make up and upbringing.

Is the question of free will a sophomoric one? Spontaneity is a phenomenon I'd love to study.

I've run across the idea of psychodrama, a method of psychotherapy in which clients are encouraged to continue and complete their actions through dramatization, role playing and dramatic self-presentation.

At the core of psychodrama is a powerful premise: that spontaneity and anxiety are inversely related. Typically people think of this as knowing they will be more free to act once their anxiety is lowered, but, like a perfectly balanced see-saw, when one end is up the other is down, and vis-versa. Yes your spontaneity will rise when your anxiety is lowered, but the reverse is true. The more spontaneous you are the lower your anxiety. This is where using psychodrama and role-playing in therapy can have a tremendous asset in helping people overcoming anxiety. (Daniel J. Tomasulo)

It seems relevant to my initial concern of compromised identity and spontaneity. Could it be that the fluid playfulness of shifting, fictive identities is what gives psychodrama the power to restore an individual's well-being? What does this say about the power of all manner of expression?


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Wow, fantastic find with the Bogle family follow-up! It interests me that even here the emphasis is on environmental factors ("modelling")-the fact that there is "an unusually high incidence of mental illness" is just skipped over. As you'll learn later in the semester, some mental disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar) have very high heritabilities.

From my perspective, you seem to be pondering the consequences of humans' tendency to think categorically. Is that fair? One of my few criticisms of the text is that it doesn't do a good job with this hard-wired cognitive pattern. Humans tend to see things as either THIS or THAT when reality is much, much more complicated. Keeping that more complicated, more whole, understanding is a never-ending challenge, I think. We'll touch on this when we get to Social Psychology and emotion.

You also mention the therapeutic technique of role-playing. That's a really interesting technique. That can help people broaden their thinking about their own lives by taking the perspective of another person. It is a powerful technique to get past Either/Or thinking.

The way I think about spontaneity and anxiety they are not inversely related because that term suggests that they are opposite ends of the same dimension. I'd say, maybe, negatively correlated. When one dimension, anxiety, is high, a second dimension, spontaneity, is low. The opposite of anxiety is...lack of anxiety (I think of anxiety as negative emotionality.) The opposite of Spontaneity is inhibition--both on dimension of impulse control/inhibition. Wait 'til we get to Personality!

That's just it: I am pondering the consequences of humans' tendency to think categorically. I expect it will be something of a common thread in most of my entries.

I think I'm so caught up with it because of a previous class of mine, Modern Ideologies, in which we studied a tendency to reduce reality to a single aspect, and reshape the world accordingly. Marx, for example, was arguably a genius, and altruistic, but he reduced humanity to the merely socioeconomical. Marxist communism took hold of some parts of the world, and total control was implemented in order to reimage reality to fit a prototype that emerged from categorical thinking. Whatever and whoever threatened the peace of the categorical system was eliminated.

As you commented on my post on levels of analysis, I too have to be careful of a certain false dualism, or of thinking overly either-or, myself. I don't think that categorical thinking 100% bad. I think it's one of the our most wonderful cognitive abilities, and I'm passionate about it. It's when a cognitive function starts to dictate human worth that I become worried. This would be intellectual dishonesty for a scientist.

I keep discovering just how holistic and fantastic PSY 1001 is. Dr. Brothen had my complete attention when he spoke of measurement, saying "we are not reducing human action to numbers; we are converting our observations to numbers."

It's interesting that psychotherapists work to establish an environment that guards against either-or thinking and encourages moderation, growth, and change.

Thank you for the clarification of the anxiety-spontaneity relationship. It makes a lot more sense now.
I cannot wait until we get to personality! I'm a fan of temperament models, the MBTI in particular.

Wow, way to get the discussion going Eva! If I didn't have 100 more blogs to grade I would surely expand on these ideas with you. Hope you will share more of your insights in class

Thank you! I would love to discuss some more ideas and maybe even get some reading recommendations to help me deepen my own understanding on a given topic. I look forward to it.

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This page contains a single entry by E. Carriere published on October 1, 2011 3:41 PM.

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