Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Nature vs. Nurture (and Expectations)

2012-09-12 18.23.55

Are leaders born or developed? Entrepreneurs? Geniuses? Athletes?

As the nature vs. nurture debate continues for any number of categories, it seems like we have fallen into the “versus problem*”, where we have to pick one against the other, when in reality, most things don’t have a single cause or a solution but a combination of them. The danger of the “versus problem” is that we also stop to think the larger issue to challenge that narrative that there ought to be only 2 options.

Are we a product of nature vs. nurture?

Does it matter? What is the consequence of the answer?

For me, expectations have a lot to do with who we are or become, in addition to nature and nurture.

Research shows that caucasian men in the US do not jump as high in a physical endurance test if the supervisor is African American (presumably because of the “white men can’t jump” stereotype), compared to when the supervisor is not African American.

When there are few minority role models, it matters.

When a subject is asked to handle a “smart” lab mouse, the mouse learns how to go through a maze faster than when a subject is asked to handle a “dumb” mouse, when they are the same lab mouse.

The way we treat each other matters (even if it’s just touch or attitude, as in the case of the lab mouse).

When we use stereotypes, it does set an expectation for us, whether we wanted to or not.

The study spoke to me as an immigrant. I expected myself to have to work harder to overcome our lack of privilege others enjoy. I expected myself to excel because if I wanted to be mediocre I could have done that where I was born: I expected myself to be called Spock.

What expectations do we want to have for our community, our selves?


*I just coined that term: there may be a more scientific term for it that I haven’t come across.


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This entry was posted on March 21, 2015 by in Management, Psychology and tagged , , , .
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