Compare And Contrast The Effect Of Heredity And Hormones On Human Behavior Free Essay

Of all the things that affect human behavior, two stand out above the rest: heredity and hormones. These factors have significantly different effects on different people, but both play a profound role in shaping behavior. The study of genetics is relatively new, but great research has already taken place. Similarly, the study of hormones is also a relatively new idea. Although different cases have brought about varying results, heredity seems to profoundly impact intelligence while hormones have a staggering effect on both intelligence and physical behaviors.

One of the first men to actively research the impact of heredity on human behavior was Sir Francis Galton, who did the majority of his best work in the late 1800s. According to Joseph McInerny (2007), Behaviors are complex traits involving multiple genes that are affected by a variety of other factors” (p. 1). Scientists do not yet know as much about heredity as they would like, despite plenty of evidence that genetics play a huge role in shaping human behavior. It is unclear exactly how heredity interacts with other factors to produce people’s actions. However, research supports the interaction between heredity and certain environmental factors, meaning that having a certain gene can cause a person to be more likely to develop any type of behavior.

McInerny (2007) also notes that genetic factors can influence the role of certain environmental factors in developing particular traits: “For example, a person may have a genetic variant that increases their risk for developing emphysema from smoking—an environmental factor. If that person never smokes, then emphysema will not develop” (p. 1). This distinction is crucial because with hereditary factors, the chance that a particular behavior will develop is primary consideration—this differs significantly from hormonal factors where hormones themselves can serve as stimuli for problems.

Hormones have been in the news a lot lately due to the recent baseball scandal. While they are often used illegally for performance enhancement, hormones can also have a profound impact on human behavior. Research has shown that heredity only makes a person more likely to behave in a certain way in a particular environment, but hormones can act as their own stimuli for behavior.

Medical Research News reported in 2006 that clinical trials found growth hormone pills increased muscle strength and fitness in the elderly. Additionally, preliminary studies suggest oxytocin can reduce stress levels in couples who argue and research has pinpointed causes of aggression in men (p.1).

Studies have also shown that hormones are more likely to significantly impact human behavior during early years, particularly adolescence when individuals are susceptible to being swayed by their own hormones. According to Judy L. Cameron of the University of Pittsburgh (2004), Adolescence is marked by change encompassing physiological changes associated with pubertal development, changes in social status and stresses faced by individuals, and changes in behavioral affect regulation” (p.1). The relationship between hormones and human behavior is quite different from that between heredity and human behavior, although they share similarities.

The primary differences between the two have to do with the stimulus for action. If someone has a predisposition to act in a certain way due to their genetic makeup, then something in the environment must prompt that behavior. For instance, a person who has an inherited tendency towards compulsive gambling is much more likely to indulge that trait in Las Vegas than if they were sitting on a couch in Iowa. However, a person with a hormonal imbalance causing that type of urge might plan a trip to Las Vegas because of the hormone. This is one way scientists have found successful in their somewhat limited research on human behavior.

Overall, both heredity and hormones play a substantial role in dictating human behavioral patterns. However, the specifics of human behavior are still determined by various other factors. It is the combination of all these factors that eventually causes a certain behavior to occur. At the ground level, it appears that heredity and hormones are two of the foremost factors in pushing a person towards one behavior over another.

References

Cameron, J. L. (2004). Interrelationships between Hormones, Behavior, and Affect during Adolescence: Complex relationships exist between reproductive hormones, stress-related hormones, and the activity of neural systems that regulate behavioral affect. Comments on Part III. Retrieved February 22, 2008 from http://www.annalsnyas.org/cgi/content/abstract/1021/1/134.

Medical Research News (2006) reported on new research regarding the brain, hormones, and behavior. The article can be found at http://www.news-medical.net/?id=18291 and was retrieved on February 22, 2008.

McInerney, J. (2007) defines behavioral genetics as the study of genetic and environmental influences on behavior. According to McInerney, this field of study aims to understand how genes and environment interact to shape behavior. The article can be accessed at http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/behavior.shtml.

Religious Views Of Eskimos, Aborigines And Mbuti Pygmies A Compare And Contrast Analysis

            Religious beliefs are a set of customs and rituals that revolve around faith in a god. As a part of religious beliefs different groups of people worship and practice their faith in different ways. Depending upon specific religious beliefs groups of people incorporate ideas of faith into their everyday lives. Faith in a Supreme Being or deity has an impact on all aspects of life. Some religious beliefs dictate universal laws while others mandate that faith be separate from certain areas. The reasons behind the religious beliefs that a group of people chooses to embody are chosen for a variety of reasons. Many people incorporate faith into their lives because of the feelings of happiness that result from having a sacred power to turn to. Others believe certain things because of their belief in the afterlife. Still others worship in certain ways because of the values and ideals taught to them as part of their culture. Despite the fact that there are different religious beliefs practiced by different groups it is also a fact that the majority of groups do hold some sort of religious beliefs important to their lives. The religious beliefs of Eskimos, Aborigines and Mbuti Pygmies will be compared and contrasted to show the different beliefs of different groups around the world.

            Eskimos are a group of people who live in the Arctic areas of Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Siberia. The religious beliefs of the Eskimos are based on the existence of both harmless and evil spirits (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). These spirits occupy all objects that Eskimos come into contact with in the form of the Masters of the Sky and the Mistress of the Sea (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). The Eskimos fear the evil spirits as they believe they are the reason why their people get sick or have hard times. In order to protect themselves from the evil spirits, Eskimos wear amulets designed to keep them away. Additionally, a special kind of face coloring is also used to ward off evil spirits (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). Before meal times, Eskimos “feed the spirits” the first bite of what ever is on the table in order to stay in their good graces. Historically, this offering was meat but that practice has evolved to include offering whatever is available (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). With regards to the food, there are certain animals that are considered sacred to the Eskimo people and cannot be hunted. These include wolves, ravens and swallows (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008).

            Every Eskimo settlement includes a shaman who is responsible for conducting ritual and cult acts, healing the sick and warding off evil spirits. In order to become a shaman, an Eskimo has to subject himself to a special experience that takes place when the Eskimo wanders out onto the tundra alone. This magical experience enables a shaman to gain knowledge of songs and spells that can summon animals or objects as helpers (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). The use of shamans in Eskimo religion has largely fallen by the wayside but there are certain “secret and underground” aspects that Eskimos still incorporate into their religious beliefs (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008).

            Successful hunting is a key aspect of survival for the Eskimo people. Therefore, ritual holidays revolve around asking the spirits for a successful hunt (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). These rituals also express thanks to the spirits when a hunt was successful. These ritual acts take place in different dwellings and focus on feasting and gift giving. The shaman comes to the dwelling where the celebration is taking place to perform the sacred and cult aspects (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). There are only four ritual holidays that occur outdoors – each in a different season. In autumn, the Eskimos engage in a ritual of throwing walrus hide at one another; in summer they compete in wrestling and running; in spring and autumn they engage in the ritual of lowering the baydar into the water (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008).

            The Eskimos regard art and medicine of high importance in their religious beliefs. They use song and folklore to pass stories down from generation to generation. They also place great importance on bone carvings, embroidery done with reindeer hair, beads, utensils, hunting equipment and magical objects (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). When an Eskimo gets sick as the result of an evil spirit the shaman has to establish the cause of the illness and to make it go away (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). Shamans also placed importance on practical medicine that is used to treat wounds, reduce fever and soothe other ailments. However, the primary use of medicine was still based on magic (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008).

            When an Eskimo dies, the body is placed on a raised area in a dwelling, a feast is prepared and people are called to come. After the feast, the body is carried to the cemetery and left. If this process is done properly, the deceased becomes a helper for the family but if done improperly, it will return to the world of the living and cause the family much unpleasantness (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008). The deceased are buried in shallow graves as a testament to a past ritual where the body was simply covered with stones. Finally, newborn Eskimos are given the names of deceased ancestors (World Culture Encyclopedia, 2008).

            Aboriginal people of Australia are spiritual despite the fact that they don’t practice a structured religion (McGuinness, 2008). Similar to the Eskimos, Aborigines believe in the existence of spirits. However, Aborigines believe that humans have a specific type of spirit and that the word spirit can be used to describe humans and animals and that sacred spirits and deities also exist. They also believe in good spirits and evil spirits just as the Eskimos do (McGuinness, 2008). Aborigines believe that all sprits came into being based on Dreamtime myths. They believe that all animals were created during the Dreamtime (creation) and when creators rested they left animals behind. As a result, Aborigines believe it is their responsibility to take good care of all animal life as they are intrinsically linked to them by creation (McGuinness, 2008). Similar to the Eskimos, Aborigines use song and performance ceremonies to ensure the continuation of animal species. In contrast to the Eskimos, they want animal life to continue because of their connection to it rather than for food (McGuinness, 2008). Finally, Aborigines believe, just as Eskimos do, that killing certain animals is unacceptable. For example, they believe that killing a willy-wagtail bird results in violent storms that could bring harm to people (McGuinness, 2008).

            Evil spirits also have a place in Aboriginal religious beliefs just as they do in Eskimo beliefs. Aborigines also believe that evil spirits are responsible for sickness and bad things happening. Punishment by evil spirits also exists if Aborigine people don’t do what is expected of them. For example, they use a story of two boys told to stay on the beach and play but when they got bored and ventured down to the water, an evil spirit turned them into rocks (McGuinness, 2008). In contrast to Eskimo beliefs, Aborigines don’t make sacrifices to the spirits but rather just attempt to stay out of their way in order to stay away from their wrath (McGuinness, 2008).

            In Eskimo religion, a shaman has incredible power. In the Aboriginal culture, the Elders hold the power. Elders are primarily males (but sometimes females) who are older and are wise in tribal knowledge and worldly matters. Simply being elderly doesn’t qualify one to become an Elder (McGuinness, 2008). The Elders make all major decisions for the tribe – when and where to move, who marries whom and they also settle disputes among tribe members. Currently, some Aboriginal people call themselves Elders (including many females) but are not recognized by Aboriginal tribes (McGuinness, 2008).

            Similar to Eskimo tradition, Aborigines also rely on folklore and sacred objects. Folklore is presented in the form of facts and stories that are passed down from generation to generation. These stories are where Aboriginal people learn about the laws of their tribes. Many of the laws in Aboriginal society cause them to be considered savages by the white men. Aborigines have no problem stealing tools, food and weapons because they don’t consider these acts against the law. They also believe that it is all right to murder someone who has first murdered one of their tribe members (McGuinness, 2008). Finally, folklore is used to teach people how to survive by enabling them to track people, create oral road maps and learn the cycles of birds, animals and insects (McGuinness, 2008).

            Message sticks and caves are considered sacred parts of the Aboriginal religion. Aborigines believe that one must be invited into a neighboring tribe’s land. When one wants to visit the land of another tribe they are required to carry a piece of bark or timber decorated with symbols. These symbols tell the tribe being visited the intention of the visitor. When an Aborigine crossed boundary lines without a message stick it was considered an act of hostility (McGuinness, 2008). Caves are valuable because they provide protection from the elements as well as a place to create art. Aboriginal people use art as a form of religious expression just as Eskimos do in their bone carvings and bead work. They draw elaborate designs on the interior walls of caves as ways to tell stories and express oneself (McGuinness, 2008).

            Just as in Eskimo tradition, death is a time for mourning in the Aboriginal culture as well. However, instead of preparing a feast and allowing the deceased to transition into the afterlife, Aborigines paint themselves and then beat their bodies or cut themselves in order to draw blood. When their wounds heal they are said to be out of mourning. This contrasts to Eskimo religion when mourning is over when the body is left in the cemetery. Therefore, Aboriginal custom dictates much longer periods of mourning than Eskimo custom does (McGuinness, 2008). A final similarity is the idea that Aboriginal deceased can come back and visit their families. However, this is to warn them of danger instead of to make their lives unpleasant (McGuinness, 2008).

            The Mbuti Pygmies live in the forested regions of the River Congo and believe in a great being of the sky, a lord of storms and rainbows. This great being is envisioned as an old man with a long beard (Sawada, 2001). His name is Tore and he is said to have made everything so therefore everything belongs to him. This is in contrast to the Aboriginal belief that many creators were responsible for making the earth during Dreamtime. However, similar to both Eskimo and Aboriginal beliefs, Mbuti Pygmies worship Tore before they hunt for food (Sawada, 2001). All three groups of people realize the importance of food and seek the guidance and support of their higher power in order to return a successful hunt.

            The Mbuti Pygmies place great importance on the forest and what they get from the plants and trees (Terashima & Ichikawa, 2003). Therefore, the Mbuti Pygmies have something that they consider to be sacred just as the Eskimo and Aboriginal people do. The forest was extremely sacred to them and they had extensive knowledge of what grew in the forest and what it could be used for (Terashima & Ichikawa, 2003). Additionally, the Mbuti Pygmies placed great emphasis on medicine and the plants of the forest provided them medicinal properties (Terashima & Ichikawa, 2003). To this end, Mbuti Pygmies believe in a “Master of the Forest” who controls all life within the forest. Similar to both Eskimo and Aboriginal beliefs, Mbuti Pygmies believe the “Master of the Forest” is responsible for the success of hunting. Also in comparison to both previously discussed religions, Mbuti Pygmies do not wish to upset the one in control of a successful hunt. Therefore, they are extremely careful to not harm the akobisi plant. If this plant is harmed, a Mbuti Pygmy must sing and dance on the spot and beat a buttress root instead of a drum in order to appease the anger of the “Master of the Forest” (Terashima & Ichikawa, 2003).

            Just as Eskimos and Aboriginal people do, the Mbuti Pygmies realize the importance of the hunt. Hunting makes up a primary aspect of their religious beliefs just as it does for Eskimos and Aboriginal people (Sawada, 2001). Also similar to the previously discussed religious beliefs, Mbuti Pygmies have several rituals associated with hunting. The first is that they light a fire before leaving for the hunt. If hunting is unsuccessful after several attempts, the Mbuti Pygmies make an offering to their god just as the Eskimo and Aboriginal people do (Sawada, 2001). The Mbuti Pygmies also rely on the spirits of animals. However, they also believe that the “Master of the Forest makes the ultimate decision dictating which animals will be killed on any given hunt (Sawada, 2001). With regards to spirits, the Mbuti Pygmies believe that spirits are representative of dead ancestors. These spirits are said to have a great influence over a hunt in addition to the influence of the “Master of the Forest” (Sawada, 2001).

            Eskimo, Aboriginal and Mbuti Pygmy people all rely on the hunt as a major component of their religious beliefs. The way they go attempt to have a successful hunt varies but the fact remains that food is an important part of the beliefs of all three groups. With regards to the dead and the afterlife, all three groups believe in the existence of spirits of dead ancestors. However, while the Eskimo and Mbuti Pygmies don’t prolong mourning of the dead, the Aboriginal people spend a great deal of time mourning. Additionally, all three groups place great importance on the existence of spirits and their ability to help or harm. Many of the primary principles that make up the beliefs of each group focus on not angering the evil spirits. Finally, all three groups hold different objects sacred but the use of sacred objects is a commonality. Relying on special artifacts enables all three groups to have tangible proof of their religious beliefs.

McGuinness, Tim. (2008). Australian Aboriginals. A Yank’s View of Australia. Retrieved on

December 8, 2008 from http://www.mcguinnessonline.com/australia/aussie_people_aboriginals4.htm.

Sawada, Masato. (2001). Rethinking methods and concepts of anthropological studies on

            African pygmies world view: the creator-god and the dead. African Study Monographs,

            27: 29 – 42.

Terashima, Hideaki & Ichikawa, Mitsuo. (2003). A comparative ethnobotany of the Mbuti and

            Efe hunter-gatherers in the Ituri forest, Democratic Republic of Congo. African Study

            Monographs, 24 (1, 2): 1 – 168.

World Culture Encyclopedia. (2008). Asiatic Eskimos: Religion and Expressive Culture. World

            Culture Encyclopedia. Retrieved on December 8, 2008 from

http://www.everyculture.com/Russia-Eurasia-China/Asiatic-Eskimos-Religion-and-Expressive-Culture.html.

The Fantastical Role Of Realism In Tuck Everlasting And Charlotte’s Web.

            Going to the local bookstore, one will find that books geared to young adults are generally put on the shelves based on the general genre of the book. Large sections are devoted to science fiction and fantasy. Yet the browsing reader will not find either Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting or E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web in these sections. Despite the fact that Babbit’s book includes a spring that creates eternal life and that Webb’s book features speaking and reading animals, both are placed in the young adults “general fiction” category. Other books with speaking animals (such as Redwall) take their logical place in the fantasy section. What makes these two classics different?  Perhaps it is that both books make it easier to overlook their fantastic elements, inviting the reader to suspend any disbelief occasioned by the fountain of life or a speaking pig. In their own ways both authors try to create realism where they can, and by introduce the fantastical elements as part of the same universe as those realistic elements, they may convince the reader to accept both.

            Both books begin with a high degree of social realism, by showing the human protagonists in situations with which the young reader can easily identify. In Tuck Everlasting, Winnie’s situation is clearly meant to be recognizable for young readers as similar to their own experiences. Her sense of boredom, her frustration with her protective family and the limitations of childhood – these are all designed to be familiar to children (specifically to the sorts of children who are avid readers). Winnie says, “I’m tired of being looked at all the time” (Babbitt 14), and certainly most children, living under the constant gaze of parents and teachers, are likely to empathize.

            Similarly, Charlotte’s Web starts out with harsh social realism, as young Fern has to face the cruel reality of how adults treat animals, and to face the loss of a pet as Wilbur is given to her to care for and then she is forced to sell him. This sort of callous treatment towards animals and children will no doubt be a subject that young readers will have witnessed personally (it is extremely common, for example, for parents to give away the family dog when they move, even if the children are deeply attached to it – for that matter, simply removing children from their friends and schools by relocating may be equally jarring). The reader is able to identify with Fern, and to understand her situation as something that is essentially real – which might have happened to them, or to someone they know. It does not seem fantastical, and so it defines the fictional world as being a part of the real world. By encouraging young readers to identify the world as real in this way, both books create a willingness to accept future fantastical elements as equally real.

            Both Babbitt and White have a very realistic, and sometimes dark, view of the world that underpins their writing. Even if there are elements of the unreal, their ideas about the problems and realities of the world remain. For example, White’s main premise deals with the fearfulness of animal slaughter and the fact that sensitive creatures, which may at one moment be our pets and friends, may at the next be butchered. By drawing the connection early on between Fern and Wilbur, when the girl says “If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?” (White 3) White also draws attention to the way that children are likewise likely to be threatened or abused as they grow older. Meanwhile, for all her talk about the value of living a full life and remaining part of the cycle, there is a suicidal element to Babbit’s writing, which seems to acknowledge that while life may be worth living for a time, death is actually a welcomed relief.  The elder Tuck, for example, views a corpse with envy: “He was gazing at the body…as if he were entranced and—yes, envious—like a starving man looking through a window at a banquet” (Babbitt 102-103). Babbitt also takes a realistic and serious view towards human nature, and the actual environmental threats of overpopulation, as when she writes, “we’d all be squeezed in right up next to each other before long” (85).

            In keeping with this overall realism, White and Babbitt both work to introduce their fantastic elements carefully. White takes the tact of having the first few chapters be entirely realistic, slowly introducing Wilbur as a thinking and feeling creature. When Wilbur finally shifts to talking, on page 16, there is a very skillful transition made. At the beginning of the page, he is shown emoting in an entirely realistic way: “It made Wilbur happy to know she was sitting there…” (White 16). Any book about an animal can contribute such emotions. But in the next paragraph, the text reads, “‘there’s never anything to do around here,’ he thought” (White 16). Here, Wilbur is shown forming full sentences, but it is still a matter of thinking rather than speaking, and still within the realm of reason. At the end of that paragraph he begins to actually speak – however, at that point he is only speaking to himself, which seems a very natural extension of thinking to himself.  That he is overhead by a goose, who replies to him, does not seem such a jarring shift, despite the fact that the book has in the course of this one page moved from general fiction into fantasy.

            Babbitt takes a slightly different tact, in that she breaks into fantastical elements as quickly as possible, but surrounds them with alternative myths and mystery, so that when the actual unreality is entirely explained, it seems more normal and reasonable than the alternative. When Winnie first hears Mae Tuck’s music box, her grandmother insists that it is the sound of elves. After this, she heads into the woods, and at first sight believes Jesse to be an elf. “If it’s really elves…I can have a look at them” (Babbitt 25). When he turns out to be human instead, his family kidnaps her in a most unbelievable way – Winnie herself has trouble believing it. “None of her visions had been like this, with her kidnappers just as alarmed as she was herself” (Babbitt 31). The alternative, that they are neither elves nor pirate-like kidnappers, but instead merely immortal by chance, actually seems like the most reasonable alternative. Precisely by playing up the possibility of something even stranger, Babbitt makes that actual oddity of their situation seem natural.

            As one can see, it appears that the key to suspension of disbelief is the correct balance of realism and fantasy. In both books, the author uses the right amount of realistic detail and social accuracy to balance out the far-fetched nature of the story. White generally does this with extremely accurate observations about farm-life and animals. Despite the fact that his animals speak and spell, they remain immensely animal-like. Charlotte drinks blood. Wilbur dreams of rooting after mushrooms, and he is as food-obsessed and itchy as a real hog. The behaviors of White’s animals, apart from the obvious plot elements, are all extremely realistic. It is this continuous dedication to realism, even at the heat of the fantastical, that makes White so successful. Babbitt has an easier task, since her fantasy is more realistic overall (it is easier to imagine living indefinitely than to imagine all animals talking). She also, however, uses a wealth of detail to make the story seem real.

            It is easy to believe in the worlds created by White and Babbit, because at every step they seem so close to our own. Both books start off firmly rooted in real-life situations, emotions, and problems. While the two authors use different techniques to prepare the reader to accept a sudden switch into fantasy, both make sure that this switch is carefully attended to and that it is not jarring. Once the reader has been seduced into believing in the possibility of this alternative reality, both authors carefully maintain the illusion of reality by including a wealth of realistic details, from the accurate portrayal of spider anatomy to the way a frog feels when you first pick it up. It is this sort of careful intermingling of reality and fantasy that has made both books such classics.

Works Cited

Babbitt, Natalie. Tuck Everlasting. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975.

White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web. New York: Harper Collins, 1980.

 

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