Hhuman Nature is a set of common traits or characteristics observed among all humans. These traits include emotions, social behaviors, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and cognitive capacities. While these traits may vary in degree or expression among individuals, they are generally present in all human beings and contribute to our shared human experience.
It is hard to clearly define "Human Nature" in short and clear way. As I always do in this case, let's peek into a few dictionaries and see how day define the term.
Followings are the topics that I personally have had for long time that will be discussed in this note :
NOTE : Since this is about neuroscience, I am going to try to focus on the association of Human nature and Neuroscience, but there will be many cases where the description would go a little bit off from the area of neuroscience since this is a huge and fundamental topics that has very long historical background.
What forms Human nature as we have ?
What made ourselves have the nature as we have as of now ? Actually, this has been my personal questions for long time and I think I will keep asking myself forever. What I am going to talk in this section is not the only and definite answers. I take this as a kind of brain storming. I just want to make list of whatever may influence on formation of my own nature.
Human nature is special because of our unique qualities. Even though we are born weak, we can learn and change a lot. We are shaped by our genes and our surroundings. We have many emotions, strong friendships, and are good at talking and asking questions. We are also good at solving problems, knowing right from wrong, understanding ourselves, and enjoying beautiful things. We can bounce back from hard times and adapt to new situations. All of this helps create different cultures and ways of living, showing how amazing humans can be.
Followings are list of factors that are considered to influence on formation of human nature and this list may get longer and longer.
NOTE : Are all these factors unique to human being only ? I don't think so. Based on wide range of research on animal behavior (especially researches on primates), it is considered most of the factors listed above is observed in other animal species. I think the differences between human nature and the nature of other species, especially primates, can often be a matter of degree
Are we born Good, Band or White Paper ?
I think this would be a question we would get whenever we start talking about human nature and probably be among the questions that has been there for human history. Of course, there hasn't been any single and clear cut answers which everyone would agree. But I think most of people would agree that there are roughly three different views on this. In this section, I want to collect some background information about the three different views and summarize them in my own way.
What does this mean ? Traditional view.
Any scientific background for each of the theories ?
Any neurological background for each of the theories ?
What is the nature of Human Aggression ?
First of all. What is agression ? I think you all know what it is... but just in a little bit of formal description, but just a little bit in formal way it can be defined as follows :
Aggression is a type of human behavior that can hurt or harm another person. It can be physical, like hitting or pushing, or it can be verbal, like yelling or saying mean things. Aggression can also be emotional or social, like making someone feel bad on purpose or not letting them be part of a group. People may show aggression when they are angry, frustrated, or trying to control a situation.
Does this behavior / emotion changes throughout the life ?
Aggression in human growth can be understood as a mix of body, mind, and social elements that change at different ages. Putting it in very simple way, you can say that the aggression is shown much often and explicit in eary ages (e.g, earlier than 3 years old) and it would get mitigated or shown in more indirect and sophisticated way as we ages. It can be summarized as follows :
Newborns and Babies (0-1 year): At this stage, aggression is rare, as babies have limited physical and thinking abilities. However, they may show frustration or discomfort by crying or being restless.
Toddlers (1-3 years): As toddlers begin to explore, they may start showing early aggression, like hitting, biting, or pushing. This can come from frustration, wanting attention, or copying others. It is important for caregivers to set limits and teach good behavior at this stage.
Preschoolers (3-5 years): Aggression in preschoolers may continue as they learn more social and thinking skills. They may use aggression to show control or express bad feelings. At this age, children can understand and follow rules, so consistent discipline and showing good behavior can help reduce aggression.
School-age Children (6-12 years): When children start school, they learn more social skills and can better control their emotions. Aggression may change to verbal or relational aggression, like teasing, excluding, or spreading rumors. Teaching empathy, how to solve conflicts, and good social behavior is important during this stage.
Teenagers (13-18 years): Aggression in teenagers can be influenced by hormone changes, pressure from friends, and the desire for independence. Teenagers may show physical or verbal aggression, as well as hidden aggression, like cyberbullying. Encouraging open conversation, setting clear rules, and helping them feel good about themselves can help reduce aggressive behavior.
Adults (18+ years): In adulthood, aggression can show in different ways, like verbal, physical, or passive-aggressive behavior. Things that can cause adult aggression include stress, mental health problems, using drugs or alcohol, or problems from childhood. Therapy, anger management, or other help may be useful in dealing with aggression at this stage.
Is there any Neurobiological mechanism for Aggression ?
Now let's explore the neurobiological mechanisms behind aggression. We'll discuss how different brain areas and processes contribute to aggressive behavior, and examine the factors that influence these neural pathways. Understanding these mechanisms can offer insights into the prevention and management of aggression.
I found a very nicely sumarized illustration shown below : I strongly recommend you to take a look into Neurobiology of Aggression and Violence if you are interested in details.
Image Source : Neurobiology of Aggression and Violence
I think you can read the process directly from the illustration itself, but just verbalizing the illustration. this is overall description.
First, something makes a person feel upset or angry. Then, the brain gets information about the situation from the senses (like seeing or hearing). Next, the brain thinks about the situation and decides if it is dangerous or needs a response. Some parts of the brain help control or stop aggressive behavior, while others make it happen.
Many things can affect how the brain deals with aggression. For example, drugs, alcohol, or changes in the body can make it hard for the brain to understand what is happening. Problems with hearing or seeing can also affect this understanding. How a person sees someone who is aggressive can be influenced by their culture or friends. Bad experiences in the past can make a person more likely to act aggressively. Problems with thinking, like being paranoid or believing in false ideas, can change how a person sees a situation.
Knowing how these parts of the brain and factors work together can help us understand why aggression happens and how to stop it or control it.
Further details of neural pathway behind aggressive behavior can be best summarized in the following single illustration from Scientific America(The Roots of Human Aggression). I don't think I need to put any written explanation here.. you can just read through the illustration or refer to the original article.
Image Source : The Roots of Human Aggression
Why we evolved two conflicting traits : Aggression and Control of Aggression ?
As I study things as explained above, I got a question poping up in my mind
It seems aggression is a trait (characteristics) that have been evolved throughout the human evolution (probably same as other animals)
It seems true that controlling the aggression is also important and those controlling mechanism has been evolved at the same time.
Why ? Why we have evolved these conflicting traits ?
Human evolution is a complex process shaped by many factors, such as environment, social relationships, and survival needs. The development of both aggression and ways to control aggression can be understood as part of this process. Humans have developed both aggressive behavior and ways to control it because of the complex relationship between survival, reproduction, and living together in groups. The balance between these two behaviors has been influenced by many factors, such as environment, social relationships, and individual needs.
Aggression for survival: Aggression has several uses that help humans survive and reproduce. For example, it helps people compete for resources, show power, protect their home, and defend their children. In a tough environment, aggression can be helpful to make sure one's genes survive.
Controlling aggression for group living: As human societies became more complicated, it was important to develop ways to control aggression. Too much aggression could break down society, making it hard for people to work together and succeed. Humans developed different ways to control aggression, such as understanding others' feelings, thinking about right and wrong, and following social rules.
Finding balance between aggression and control: Evolution does not create perfect solutions but chooses traits that balance different needs. For aggression and its control, humans have different behaviors and thoughts that allow them to be aggressive when needed and control it when not needed. This balance is important for keeping society stable and people healthy.
Culture and environment effects: It is important to remember that how much people show aggression and how they control it can be very different in different cultures and environments. This is because these traits are influenced by a mix of genes, environment, and culture.
Is there any animal research showing that lack of controlling aggression cause obvious disadvantage ?
there are several animal studies that show a lack of controlling aggression can lead to disadvantages for the individuals involved. When animals are overly aggressive and unable to control their aggression, it can negatively impact their survival and reproductive success. These examples demonstrate that a lack of controlling aggression can lead to disadvantages in animal populations. The ability to control aggression and engage in cooperative behaviors can be essential for survival and reproductive success in many species.
Social animals and group dynamics: In many animals that live in groups, like wolves, meerkats, and monkeys, working together is important for survival. Being too aggressive can cause fights and make the aggressive animal leave the group. This can make it harder for them to find food, mates, and protection, which can hurt their chances to survive and have babies.
Energy costs and injuries: Being aggressive can use a lot of energy and lead to injuries. Animals that are too aggressive may get hurt more often, which can make it harder for them to find food, have babies, or escape from danger. Also, using too much energy for aggression can make them less healthy and less able to have babies.
Mate selection: In some animals, females may not want to mate with very aggressive males because they might not be good partners or could be dangerous to the babies. For example, female birds may avoid aggressive male birds because they might break eggs or hurt baby birds.
Parental care: Some animals take very good care of their babies. If a parent is too aggressive, they may not give their babies the care they need, which can hurt the babies' chances to survive and grow.
Is aggression always instant and explosive ? - Reactive aggression vs Proactive aggression
When we talk about aggression, most of us would have some image of aggression being instantenous response to a certain provokation and the response coming out explosively. But this is not the only type of aggression. There is other type of aggression that does not come out instantly and would not look like an aggression at the first glance. This kind of aggression goes unnoticed behind scene, but eventually comes out in various different form, sometimes result in more dangerous form. These two types of aggression are often called as Reactive aggression and Proactive aggression.
Reactive and proactive aggression are two types of aggressive behavior with different reasons and purposes.Both reactive and proactive aggression have developed to help individuals deal with social and environmental challenges. However, these types of aggression can cause problems when they happen too often, too strongly, or when they disturb getting along with others and personal well-being. Knowing the differences between reactive and proactive aggression can help find ways to manage and reduce aggressive behavior in individuals and groups.
Reactive aggression: Reactive aggression, also called impulsive or emotional aggression, happens when someone reacts to a threat or problem. It is caused by an outside event, like an attack or a difficult situation, and is driven by emotions like fear, anger, or frustration. Reactive aggression can be seen as a way to protect oneself or others. In animals, reactive aggression can happen when they feel threatened, trapped, or in pain.
Proactive aggression: Proactive aggression, also called instrumental or goal-oriented aggression, is planned behavior to reach a specific goal. This type of aggression is not caused by emotions or frustration but by wanting to get something, like power, control, or resources. Proactive aggression is used to get what someone wants, and they may think about the possible benefits and risks before acting.
Nature vs. Nurture ? The Battle for Dominance in Shaping Human Behavior
The debate between nature and nurture is a long-standing one. People wonder whether our genes or our environment have more control over how we act. Genes give us the basic plan for our bodies, but the world we grow up in affects our thoughts and actions. Here, we'll look at how both our genes and the environment around us work together to make us who we are.
Altruism or Selfishness ? The Driving Forces Behind Human Actions
People can do very kind things for others, but they can also be very selfish. What makes us act one way or the other? In this article, we'll explore the reasons behind both altruistic (helpful) and selfish behaviors. We'll look at things like our biology, how we think and feel, and the world around us to understand why we choose to be kind or selfish.
Unmasking Human Nature: What Can the Prisoner's Experiment Teach Us ?
Prison Experiment is an experiment conducted by psychologist Philip Zimbardo in 1971. This experiment provides several insights into human nature, particularly in terms of power dynamics, conformity, and situational factors. This Experiment has been criticized for methodological issues and various other reasons. Despite this, the insights gained from the study continue to be relevant to discussions of human nature, particularly in relation to power dynamics, conformity, and the influence of situational factors.
Philip Zimbardo wanted to see how people behave in a prison setting. He chose 24 college students and randomly assigned them to be either "guards" or "prisoners." The experiment took place in a fake prison set up in the basement of a Stanford University building.
The guards were given uniforms and sunglasses to hide their eyes, while the prisoners wore simple clothes and stocking caps. The guards were told to keep order but not to use physical violence. The prisoners were supposed to follow the rules set by the guards.
The experiment was planned to last two weeks, but it had to be stopped after only six days because things got out of control. The guards became abusive, and the prisoners started showing signs of stress and emotional breakdown. The study showed that people can quickly change their behavior based on the roles they are given and the environment they are in. However, it is important to note that the experiment has been criticized for some issues in the way it was conducted.
What does it tell about Human Nature ?
Power dynamics: The experiment showed that people can quickly take on and misuse power. The "guards" started acting mean and bossy, while the "prisoners" became weak and depended on the guards. This means that power can change people's behavior for the worse.
Conformity and role-playing: Even though the participants knew it was just an experiment, they quickly acted like their assigned roles. This shows that social roles have a strong effect on how people behave and that they follow what is expected of them in those roles.
Situational factors: The experiment proved that the situation people are in can strongly affect their behavior. The environment and conditions were more important than their individual personalities. This tells us that what happens around us can change how we act.
Deindividuation: The guards losing their personal identity and feeling anonymous might have led to their mean behavior. This idea, called deindividuation, makes people act differently because they feel less responsible for their actions.