Essay on Influence of Environment on Personality – Environment of both the types—geographic and social or natural and man-made has a tremendous bearing on human personality. The natural environment sets limits to the personality and also provides opportunities for its development.
The social environment provides enough conditions for its proper expression. The family, school, neighbourhood, friends, various persons in contact, social customs, practices, values, institutions, etc., all affect an individual’s personality. The status of the child, young man, and adult, and old man in the family and in society is not the same.
As a result of this difference a man’s temperament, attitudes, tendencies, ways of thinking, acting inclinations, and character, in brief, and his personality is affected. In the same way, the status of the person in places like school, office, occupation, etc., affects his behaviour to a great extent.
The famous psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud has expressed the opinion that the personality of a person is fashioned in the first few years, the rest of the life being an expression of the tendencies already developed.
The present psychologists also agree that the influence of environment of family upon the character, nature, mental tendencies, habits, behaviour of the individual is very great. This view has been verified by comparison of children brought up in families and those bred in government institutions.
In childhood, parental love affects the stability of the emotions of the child. It has been observed that excessive love and care spoil the children and lack of affection leaves their feeling undeveloped which are then unnaturally expressed. Alfred Adler, a famous psychologist, maintained that even the birth order of the child in the family affects its personality.
This may be understood by remembering that in the family mother, father, husband, wife, elder and younger brother, elder and younger sister, loved child, and unwanted off springs all have their respective statuses which affect their personality.
Culture or the social environment provides lot of scope for variation in personality. It has been observed that the Zuni people are said to be emotionally more secure, and most Alorese insecure. Further, the Zuni people are known for their co-operative spirit.
They are calmed, gracious, non-competitive and maintain control even in the most exciting ceremonial dances. On the other hand, the Kwakiutl Indians (of the Pacific North West) are highly competitive in nature. They give more importance to prestige, rank and property and hence widespread competition is there to possess them.
Similarly, the Ba Thonga people are crazy after women and beer. Eskimos are known for their skill and muscular strength. The Dakota people are known for their generosity, hospitality, bravery and fortitude (courage in pain or adversity).
As Ogburn and Nimkoff have stated, Russians appear to have a strong need for intensive interaction with others in immediate, direct, personal relationships. They have greater capacity for warm personal contact and enjoy such relationships more.
They are not too anxiously concerned about others’ opinion of them. Americans, on the contrary, emphasise achievement more and the need for approval and autonomy. They fear too close or intimate association because it limits freedom. They desire recognition more and are more eager to be liked.
The Russians are said to be more expressive, more highly aware of their impulses and more readily yield to the impulses and depend more on external controls applied by authority to keep in line. On the other hand, Americans rely more on self-control.
These differences in outlook, temperament, attitudes, tendencies, etc., found in various peoples as mentioned above, cannot be attributed to the hereditary factors. Rather they are more affected by environment, that too by the social or cultural environment. People tend to develop in them qualities in accordance with the values, goals, objectives set forth by their culture.
Individual differences arise not only between different societies, even within the society variations in personality may be found. How to account for these differences? The answer lies in differences in (i) constitutional characteristics, (ii) emotional relationships with members of the family and other groups, and (iii) socialisation in distinctive safe cultures.
Culture varies within a society and not just between societies. It is a point of the first importance to recognise that culture is not a single massive die that cuts all the members of the group of precisely the same specifications.
There is in every culture what may be called a division of learning according to social classification. Both sexes and all age groups learn certain things in common but in addition each sex and age group learns different things. Age-grading and sex-typing are perhaps the most important classifications for determining social roles.
Occupation, education, income and family background are additional selective factors which are highly important in determining what aspects of the culture an individual will be exposed to. All cultures accordingly produce variety as well as uniformity of personality.
It is well to note that the same personality trait can often be produced by varying the environmental factors. A child who is not dominant naturally may be made more aggressive by increasing the domination at home or ridicule by the gang; that is, by varying interpersonal, or group, factors.
Again a child who is normally not assertive may perhaps be rendered more energetic by environmental pressures, (such as the frequent prospects of famine or constant danger from attack by wild animals, as may be the case in primitive society). Finally, training or cultural experience may convert a submissive child into an assertive one.
To ascertain the influence of environment on personality, psychologists, sociologists and biologists studied identical and fraternal twins who were brought up in dissimilar environments. One particular case may be mentioned here.
‘Mildred’ and ‘Ruth’ are so called ‘identical twins’ whose mother died when they were three months old and who were immediately adopted by two different families of relatives. Mildred be- came the foster daughter of a banker who was also the mayor of a small city.
He was a well educated man and made all facilities for Mildred to develop her-‘self. She read widely, studied music and: played the violin in the high school orchestra. Further, she participated in various other social activities outside of the home.
Ruth, on the other hand, became the foster daughter of a foreman of labourers, a man of little; education who lived in a fairly large city. Ruth’s foster mother was not much educated and kept her? Closely confined to her home, where there were no books, no good music, and no intellectual activities.
Up to the age of 15 when these two girls were given extensive examinations their physical appearance and health records had been about the same. Their personalities, however, were vastly different. Mildred was a confident girl, expressive, talkative, without a lisp and happy in facial expression.
Ruth, on the other hand, showed an inhibited personality- the different, silent, with lisping speech and an unhappy expression. Mentally there was also striking-difference. Despite the fact that their formal educational opportunities had been about the same, Mildred had an I.Q. score on two different tests that was 15 points higher than Ruth’s.
In the case of identical twins, Mildred and Ruth, the hereditary potential is assumed to have been the same. The hereditary factor is presumably held constant. The differences in I.Q. scores and other aspects of personalities of the two girls are clearly attributable to the cultural and unique factors in their respective social environments.
Most of the studies have revealed that environment and heredity both play an important role in determining human personality. If mental factors are much influenced by environment physical and physiological characteristics are more affected by heredity.
Environment alone cannot determine an individual’s personality. But it gives opportunities to the individuals to express themselves and to develop their personality. Environment brings out the hidden potentialities into a definite form.
All the inherited qualities become actualities only within and under the conditions of environment. Different aspects of an individual’s personality like interests, intelligence, skill, dexterity, attitudes, beliefs, faith, inspirations, etc., are very much influenced by the environment.