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The plasticity of human nature

Vox_Veritas
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7/9/2016 8:16:26 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
(Note: there is no psychology forum, so I just put this here)

In 1957, a girl named Genie Wilie was born. She was subjected to extreme abuse and neglect by her father. She was locked in her room and constantly strapped to a chair until the age of 13. In 1970, the abuse came to an end whenever the Californian authorities were alerted to her situation and took her out of that home.
After this point, it became necessary for the state government to rehabilitate her. Numerous tests were done on her, and these tests concluded that she did not have any learning disability and that her IQ at birth was normal. However, because she was isolated from all human contact, she was unable to learn basic human skills such as language skills and rudimentary social etiquette. As a result she was rendered functionally retarded, if you don't mind me using that word. They tried to teach her English, but she was at the age where learning a whole language from scratch simply proved too difficult.
In the end, the team assigned to her was unable to properly rehabilitate her. She was out in the care of several inadequate foster parents, and ultimately she regressed back to the point she was at when she was first rescued at age 13. She is nearly 60 years old today and she is STILL unable to function at a basic human level.

This proves one thing: that human beings are animals which have the potential to become more than animals with the right environment. Societies provide that environment. A vital role of societies is to mold each new generation from animals into intelligent human beings and to pass on the accumulated knowledge and values of thousands of years of human societal development.
People can be molded into almost anything if placed in the right environment from birth until adult age.
Call me Vox, the Resident Contrarian of debate.org.

The DDO Blog:
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someloser
Posts: 1,377
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7/9/2016 10:28:58 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/9/2016 8:16:26 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
People can be molded into almost anything if placed in the right environment from birth until adult age.
No, not really.

Humans are the social animal bar none, and this makes their social environment something like their "natural" environment, in a sense. Ergo, human psychological traits cannot be divorced from the context of their social environment.

Of course, if you remove the human from his environment, you can and should expect a totally abnormal and un-healthy human. Like a lion raised in captivity...but maybe worse. There is a reason Switzerland banned owning only one guinea pig.

Talking about the psychological development of feral children, and inferring how "malleable" (read: "trainable to act the way I want them to") humans are in general is like talking about the height of giraffes raised on Cheerios. It's absurd.

And there are many, many human traits which remain largely un-inhibited, despite the best efforts of educators and assorted totalitarian wannabes. Preference for the in-group over the out-group is one of them.

It would also be wise to consider what the side effects of intentionally molding people's minds into meeting the fundamentally un-natural demands of a given system (or ideology). It's no great mystery why mental illnesses are largely a post-industrial phenomenon.
Ego sum qui sum. Deus lo vult.

"America is ungovernable; those who served the revolution have plowed the sea." - Simon Bolivar

"A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones. But if you break a nation's nationality it will think of nothing else but getting it set again." - George Bernard Shaw
Vox_Veritas
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7/9/2016 10:37:22 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/9/2016 10:28:58 PM, someloser wrote:
At 7/9/2016 8:16:26 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
People can be molded into almost anything if placed in the right environment from birth until adult age.
No, not really.

Humans are the social animal bar none, and this makes their social environment something like their "natural" environment, in a sense. Ergo, human psychological traits cannot be divorced from the context of their social environment.

Of course. Socialisation plays a massive role in molding people. If you grow up among Klingon speakers (a fictional Star Trek language), you'll most likely end up speaking Klingon.

Of course, if you remove the human from his environment, you can and should expect a totally abnormal and un-healthy human. Like a lion raised in captivity...but maybe worse. There is a reason Switzerland banned owning only one guinea pig.

Talking about the psychological development of feral children, and inferring how "malleable" (read: "trainable to act the way I want them to") humans are in general is like talking about the height of giraffes raised on Cheerios. It's absurd.

People can be trained to act any way that said dictator wants, if the training starts from birth and is consistent over the course of 20 or so years. Why do you think it is that people in North Korea think their system is the best in the world?

And there are many, many human traits which remain largely un-inhibited, despite the best efforts of educators and assorted totalitarian wannabes. Preference for the in-group over the out-group is one of them.

It would also be wise to consider what the side effects of intentionally molding people's minds into meeting the fundamentally un-natural demands of a given system (or ideology). It's no great mystery why mental illnesses are largely a post-industrial phenomenon.
Call me Vox, the Resident Contrarian of debate.org.

The DDO Blog:
https://debatedotorg.wordpress.com...

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someloser
Posts: 1,377
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7/9/2016 10:56:51 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/9/2016 10:37:22 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
People can be trained to act any way that said dictator wants, if the training starts from birth and is consistent over the course of 20 or so years.
You can train dogs to do almost anything too. Doesn't mean the fundamental nature of dogs is like play-doh.

Why do you think it is that people in North Korea think their system is the best in the world?
They don't. North Korean polls say so...which are clearly reliable, and, being run by the government, obviously wouldn't give them any reason to lie. Not.

Testimonies defectors say otherwise. And it's silly to argue that, personal beliefs aside, living under said regime is psychologically healthy for them at all.
Ego sum qui sum. Deus lo vult.

"America is ungovernable; those who served the revolution have plowed the sea." - Simon Bolivar

"A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones. But if you break a nation's nationality it will think of nothing else but getting it set again." - George Bernard Shaw
Vox_Veritas
Posts: 7,086
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7/9/2016 11:05:41 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/9/2016 10:56:51 PM, someloser wrote:
At 7/9/2016 10:37:22 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
People can be trained to act any way that said dictator wants, if the training starts from birth and is consistent over the course of 20 or so years.
You can train dogs to do almost anything too. Doesn't mean the fundamental nature of dogs is like play-doh.

Why do you think it is that people in North Korea think their system is the best in the world?
They don't. North Korean polls say so...which are clearly reliable, and, being run by the government, obviously wouldn't give them any reason to lie. Not.

Testimonies defectors say otherwise. And it's silly to argue that, personal beliefs aside, living under said regime is psychologically healthy for them at all.

Those who defect would obviously despise the system. Many ordinary North Koreans, on the other hand, wouldn't defect if given the chance.
Call me Vox, the Resident Contrarian of debate.org.

The DDO Blog:
https://debatedotorg.wordpress.com...

#drinkthecoffeenotthekoolaid
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,255
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7/10/2016 12:31:19 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/9/2016 8:16:26 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
People can be molded into almost anything if placed in the right environment from birth until adult age.

Please tell me you have something besides the Genie example to support this claim.
Vox_Veritas
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7/10/2016 1:26:11 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/10/2016 12:31:19 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 7/9/2016 8:16:26 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
People can be molded into almost anything if placed in the right environment from birth until adult age.

Please tell me you have something besides the Genie example to support this claim.

Would any example of a feral child suffice?
Call me Vox, the Resident Contrarian of debate.org.

The DDO Blog:
https://debatedotorg.wordpress.com...

#drinkthecoffeenotthekoolaid
Skepsikyma
Posts: 8,289
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7/10/2016 2:28:28 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/9/2016 8:16:26 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
(Note: there is no psychology forum, so I just put this here)

In 1957, a girl named Genie Wilie was born. She was subjected to extreme abuse and neglect by her father. She was locked in her room and constantly strapped to a chair until the age of 13. In 1970, the abuse came to an end whenever the Californian authorities were alerted to her situation and took her out of that home.
After this point, it became necessary for the state government to rehabilitate her. Numerous tests were done on her, and these tests concluded that she did not have any learning disability and that her IQ at birth was normal. However, because she was isolated from all human contact, she was unable to learn basic human skills such as language skills and rudimentary social etiquette. As a result she was rendered functionally retarded, if you don't mind me using that word. They tried to teach her English, but she was at the age where learning a whole language from scratch simply proved too difficult.
In the end, the team assigned to her was unable to properly rehabilitate her. She was out in the care of several inadequate foster parents, and ultimately she regressed back to the point she was at when she was first rescued at age 13. She is nearly 60 years old today and she is STILL unable to function at a basic human level.

This proves one thing: that human beings are animals which have the potential to become more than animals with the right environment. Societies provide that environment. A vital role of societies is to mold each new generation from animals into intelligent human beings and to pass on the accumulated knowledge and values of thousands of years of human societal development.
People can be molded into almost anything if placed in the right environment from birth until adult age.

Think of the human brain as a skeletal steel framework to a building. You can put just about anything on that skeleton, any style of architecture, buildings of many functions. But it still has a basic shape and basic principles which will guide its functioning. Can you mold the human brain into some interesting shapes? Absolutely. But all plasticity is limited. The brain is a combination of structure and 'programming' (neural associations). You can change the latter, to great effect. You cannot change the former past a certain point without actually damaging the brain tissue.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
someloser
Posts: 1,377
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7/11/2016 11:04:17 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/9/2016 11:05:41 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
Those who defect would obviously despise the system.
I was citing defectors who said most North Koreans
1. Resent their way of life
2. Don't buy into the propaganda

Many ordinary North Koreans, on the other hand, wouldn't defect if given the chance.
And how do we know this?
Ego sum qui sum. Deus lo vult.

"America is ungovernable; those who served the revolution have plowed the sea." - Simon Bolivar

"A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones. But if you break a nation's nationality it will think of nothing else but getting it set again." - George Bernard Shaw
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,255
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7/12/2016 2:51:52 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/10/2016 1:26:11 AM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
At 7/10/2016 12:31:19 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 7/9/2016 8:16:26 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
People can be molded into almost anything if placed in the right environment from birth until adult age.

Please tell me you have something besides the Genie example to support this claim.

Would any example of a feral child suffice?

No...
The fact that humans develop abnormally under abnormal conditions was never seriously in doubt. Of course humans are "malleable" in that sense. If you don't give someone enough food their brains won't mature properly, but if you feed them more than they need they just grow fat, and don't get any smarter.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,255
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7/12/2016 3:15:53 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
In other words, the Genie example is a story of environmental conditions preventing human nature from expressing itself rather than a story of environmental conditions changing human nature.
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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7/12/2016 3:26:45 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
I think I'm pretty familiar with the Genie case (as a linguistics student, you hear about it twice a semester on average) - I'll comment on this later, when I get the time :)
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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7/16/2016 5:27:17 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/9/2016 8:16:26 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
Basically, I agree with Dylan's post here: 'the Genie example is a story of environmental conditions preventing human nature from expressing itself rather than a story of environmental conditions changing human nature.'

What you're observing here is not Genie's nature being changed to something else. She's not an animal or anything. What you see is the critical period effect, most often applied to language. Linguistic structures, particularly syntax, need to be acquired at an early age when the brain has greater plasticity and is more able to develop linguistic structure. Many researchers believe that the child follows a maturational schedule, similar to the development of, say, sensory and motor systems, when they acquire language. As Genie was denied an opportunity to acquire language her critical period, learning language became a Herculean task.

Learning to speak and interact with others is human nature. It's just that not all human nature is encoded in our genetics because that would be inefficient: our genes have only so much 'storage space'. That's why we aren't born talking. We have 'language genes' that allow us the ability to process syntax (https://en.wikipedia.org...), but part of the ability to talk has to be passed down by parents to later generations (what Hockett called 'cultural transmission'). Genie also has FOXP2 (it's unlikely he has SLI or similar), but she didn't receive cultural transmission and thus this part of her nature wasn't activated.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...