Mirror neurons have been said to be one of the most important discoveries in the past decade of neuroscience. Neuroscientists believe that mirror neurons could explain a number of sophisticated human behaviour and thought processes, such as empathy, trust and decision-making, as well as play a role in imitation, learning and possibly even language acquisition. A prominent neuroscientist, Vilayanur Ramachandran, predicted in 2000 that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology. In contrast to this, some critics warn to approach the idea that mirror neurons are the answer to what makes us human with caution.
What Are Mirror Neurons?
Mirror Neurons are primarily observed in primates. They serve a specific function, whereby clusters of these neurons activate in patterns which "mirror" the actual observed behaviour of another person (and sometimes even the behaviour of an animal) - as though the individual observer were enacting the behaviour being observed.
Mirror neurons are the reason why you smile involuntarily when you see another person smiling or why you yawn in response to another’s yawn. The various areas of brain activity which have been found to be consistent with that of mirror neuron activity include the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.
Another definition for mirror neurons is that they are a distinctive type of brain cell that fires when you perform an action, and also when you simply watch someone else doing the same action.
For instance, when you are grabbing a cup of coffee, Motor neuron A (which also happens to be a Mirror neuron) fires to tell your hand to reach out and grip the handle of the cup. When you watch your friend pick up his own cup of coffee, Motor neuron A also fires as if you were picking up her cup of coffee, even if your hand is not moving at all.
Why Are Mirror Neurons Controversial?
It is important to note that the functioning of mirror neurons in the human brain is still fairly controversial and speculative. The reasons for this, is that the studies that have investigated mirror neurons have largely been conducted in monkeys and other non-human primates. In addition, there has been a swathe of media around mirror neurons often proffering claims that have, as of yet, not been established fully in scientific literature. There is still a large amount of further research needed to fully unpack and understand both the function and role of mirror neurons in human beings.
Mirror Neurons and Consumer Neuroscience
Now that you have a basic understanding of mirror neurons, we can focus on mirror neurons in Consumer Neuroscience. Consumer Neuroscience is a maturing scientific discipline, where the focus of most studies are within commercial spheres. This sometimes lends theoreticians and applied scientists to adopt some 'folk' neuroscientific theories to assist in explaining their results to clients. This may be the case with mirror neurons. Mirror neurons may help to explain away many behavioural, psychological and neurological processes related to empathy, trust and sometimes decision making. These simplifications need to be cautioned against. We still don’t fully understand how mirror neuron processes affect any of these aforementioned psychological processes (empathy, trust and decision making).
It is also important to know that the current methodologies used in Consumer Neuroscience don’t measure mirror neuron activity and there is very scant evidence at the moment to suggest that any Consumer Neuroscience measures ‘track’ or ‘correlate’ in any way with mirror neuron activations.
Mirror neurons are a really exciting field of Neuroscience, where we encourage those interested to stay tuned, as we are still on the doorstep of understanding these neurobiological processes. In terms of this we would caution the reader about references to mirror neurons in Consumer Neuroscience or Neuromarketing.
Although there is no evidence that suggests McDonalds, Burger King or Pizza Hut chose their logo colours based on scientific research, they may have been onto something when they chose to incorporate the colour red!
Red is a vibrant and bold colour that grabs the attention of consumers as it increases the visual saliency of the logo. From a historical observation of logo development over the past century of different fast food brands, red has been a consistently popular choice of colour.
According to Neuro Design by Darren Bridger, “colours such as red evoke higher levels of emotional excitement.” It also suggests that red has an evolutionary explanation and has been used to denote a sign of warning. Warning signals cause the body to produce adrenaline and thus increase the heart rate. Cortisol levels spike which could possibly result in an increased craving of sugary, salty, fatty foods which many fast food outlets offer.
Other sources suggest that red evokes a sense of urgency and a call to action response. The concept of urgency ties in well with the objective of fast food brands to deliver food quickly and conveniently. As a result fast food outlets have extended on this objective by providing drive-thru services and speedy home delivery.
General research in colour psychology however, has created interest amongst marketers as they understand the importance colour plays in building brand identity. It can even increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent according to a study conducted by Loyola University Maryland.
Colour also plays an important part in influencing our moods and feelings, and thus the feelings evoked by a brand’s identity. A 2006 study from the journal of Management Decision found that between 62-90% of a person’s subconscious assessment was based on colour alone.
Understanding how the brain processes and interprets colour is a complex phenomenon and each individual’s emotional response is ultimately determined by their own experience and interaction with colours from childhood.
As explained in an Introduction to Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience by Dr. T. Ramsoy (which, by the way, offers a great introduction into the field), humans see objects as a whole due to the process of visual cognition which occurs in the ventral temporal cortex of the brain. This includes processing of all features of an object, from colour and contrast to movement, so we view an object as a coherent whole.
Thus, marketers need to find the perfect balance of the overall design of a logo to provide consumers with a holistic presentation. They need to understand that colour itself cannot be the only deciding element when determining the effectiveness of a logo; as font and overall design must also be taken into consideration. But if you're a fast food brand, a little bit of red could go a long way in attracting, enticing and exciting your consumers.
Given that we see the world through two small, flat retinae at the back of our eyes, it truly is remarkable that what we perceive is a seamless, three dimensional world. Our retinae respond to wavelengths of light from the world around us, but that’s only Part One of a multi-step process. Our brains have a lot to do with the raw data that it receives, like stitching it together, choosing what to perceive into consciousness, and what to omit.
In the field of neuroscience, it’s that conscious perception and omission process that has been of great interest. Recently, a study was carried out that could help us to understand why similar visual stimuli are sometimes detected, and why they sometimes remain subliminal.
Much of what enters through our eyes, we never actually see. Many images stay subliminal, leading to a response in brain activity in the visual areas, but not entering our consciousness. What’s interesting is that very similar weak signals sometimes get through, but don’t make their way through conscious perception.
Research Into Conscious Perception & Omission
For a team of neuroscientists in the Netherlands, this phenomenon has prompted research into the influence of internal brain dynamics on conscious perception. Pieter Roelfsema from the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience states, “With very weak stimuli close to the threshold of perception, we can learn a lot from comparing brain activity when everything about the stimulus environment is the same, except one time it is consciously experienced and the other time it isn’t.”
Roelfsema and his team investigated the route between the primary visual areas and dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (a higher processing area). During the study, conscious reactions would only occur when there was strong and sustained activity in the frontal cortex. Signals that went unnoticed had weaker activity and quickly decayed.
Theorists Create a Model To Replicate These Dynamics
To understand this further, the theorists on the study created a model to replicate these dynamics. The model combines elements from two tried and tested theories, namely the “Signal Detection Theory” and “Global Neuronal Workspace Theory”.
The “Signal Detection Theory” states that the ability or likelihood to detect some stimulus is affected by the intensity of the stimulus (e.g., how loud a noise is) and your physical and psychological state (e.g., how alert you are).
The “Global Neuronal Workspace Theory” states that “global ignition” has to occur in the brain for information to become consciously accessible. It suggests a fleeting memory capacity in which only one consistent content can be dominant at any given moment.
Connections Between The Parietal & Frontal Cortex
The model suggests that ignition is caused by strong connections between the parietal and frontal cortex. The analysis was very thorough, but the resulting model is actually quite simple. What the team found is truly remarkable because of how closely the model’s output resembles the real life measurements of their subjects.
To close, Roelfsema had the following to say, “While this study is certainly not yet the full picture about visual thresholds and conscious perception, the results are very exciting for our future work.”
Are we in control of our own decisions? Are humans rational beings? Are we as rational as we think we are?
Behavioural economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we're not as rational as we think when we make decisions.
Are we in control of our decisions? | Dan Ariely - YouTube
As Dr House, M.D. famously said, ‘’Everybody lies”. This is true even in something as seemingly harmless as a consumer survey. People lie for all kinds of reasons - to make themselves look better, to be polite or simply because we don’t realize what cognitive biases we are subjected to. Who among us hasn’t over-exaggerated the amount of exercise we get in a week, or downplayed how much we disliked a product?
Tell us how you really feel
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is used to assess our cognitive biases by measuring the strength of the association between objects and/or attributes
Made famous by Harvard’s “Project Implicit”, IAT presents you with two words (target categories) on either side of your screen: good or bad, old or young, white or black. It then flashes a third word (exemplar) up in the center of the screen and you have a lighting fast amount of time to decide whether this third word (stimulus) is better associated with the left- or right-sided target category on your screen.
The short amount of time you have in which to respond forces you to make impulsive, instinctive decisions. This cuts away the clutter of you debating what’ll make you look better, or which you consciously prefer to say, straight down to which association your brain genuinely believes is correct. The faster you respond, the stronger that association is believed to be. This means that IAT measures not only implicit associations, but the strength of those associations.
This technique has been effective and most popular in highlighting the implicit bias people have against certain genders, races or ages. But remember, this doesn’t make someone a bad person: implicit bias is partly a product of our environments and how we were raised. Implicit biases are also hardwired and part of being a human. We are all naturally inclined to make decisions based on shortcuts of information at our disposal, which means we are all inclined to develop forms of prejudice. For example, we can have an implicit bias but not consciously believe that one gender is better suited to math. How we act on this prejudice is what matters.
IAT and Understanding Your Customers
As it is a lot more in-depth, it might take a bit more work to prepare than a standard survey. Although IAT has been used and cited in more than 800 different studies, there is also some debate as to how the IAT accesses the subconscious.
The main benefits of a survey are still available with IAT: it is economical, relatively easy to set up, quick to distribute and there is a wealth of software available to help you process the data.
IAT can elicit more honest implicit answers from your customers than a simple survey could. If your research requires customers to give honest, insightful answers about their feelings (something difficult to do in any setting), IAT is a useful tool in extracting that information. Combined with technologies such as eye tracking, this technique allows for a better understanding of the participant’s attention during the testing.
Palm readings - what can neuromarketers learn from galvanic skin response?
Everyone knows the classic sign of nervousness in sweaty palms during a first date or a big client presentation (and for the unlucky few, sweaty everything else), but did you know we can learn so much more about you with that? Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) is a way of measuring your level of emotional arousal (be it unbridled joy or abject horror) based on electrodermal activity, that being the continuous variation in electrical potential difference between the surfaces of your fingertips.
How does it work?
Your autonomic nervous system is best known for the “fight or flight” response. Given how critical it is to flee or fight as soon as possible in a survival situation, the autonomic nervous system must work incredibly fast the moment you see anything that could be a threat (heighten your emotions). Among other responses, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system causes you to sweat, which increases conductance of the skin (or increased electrical potential difference).
This skin conductance is an indication of psychological or physiological arousal or, for example, the degree of intensity of your excitement or fear. These days, however, humans aren’t exactly running from tiger attacks, so most of the signals the sympathetic nervous system gives are much smaller - maybe you’re excited about a new iPhone release or irritated with an app’s poor navigation. As a result, the amount you sweat due to emotional arousal is often imperceptible to you, but perfect for GSR measurements.
In measuring GSR, we place two electrodes either on your fingers or on your wrist and measure the conductivity of the skin between them (you don’t feel a thing). When you sweat, even slightly, the conductivity of your skin changes and we know that you’ve just seen or experienced something that changes your state of emotional arousal.
Pros and Cons
GSR provides useful insight into the moment-to-moment emotional state of someone in response to whatever you place in front of them, be it tasks, products, copy, webpages, etc. The equipment is easy to set up and transport, making it ideal for work in the field, such as assessing levels of emotional arousal during in-store shopping experiences.
Because emotional arousal is such a broad term and can denote anything from joy to rage, it’s important to pair this technology with other measures so you can also assess the nature of the emotional arousal, be it a positive or negative response. Here’s where the measures of emotional affect (as in the type of emotion being experienced; for example, happiness or disgust, anger or contempt) are useful in providing much needed context of the consumer experience.
When setting up a GSR experiment, it’s important to bear in mind a couple of issues. First, the slight time delay between the stimulus being measured and the response – there is always variability in responses in terms of time, which can be as much as a few seconds. Some people are slow responders, while others are faster. This can make it difficult to aggregate the results. However, there are nice workarounds to these problems, developed by physiologists and neuroscientists.
Research participants moving their hands a lot may produce artefacts or false readings in the GSR, since physical activity results in sweat. It’s therefore important to be able to differentiate between change in conductance caused by actual arousal and that caused by activity. Lastly, large changes in environmental temperatures are also known to produce false readings or artefacts in GSR recordings. All these challenges can be managed by implementing good baseline control tests as part of the study design.
Why do we enjoy music when, functionally, it is a series of tones that serves no purpose towards our survival? A research group in 2009 used GSR to attempt to answer that question. They found that, when people listened to their favourite music as opposed to music they didn’t enjoy, they had heightened physiological arousal to match their increased emotional arousal. This suggests that enjoying music has physically pleasurable effects on the body, and begins to answer the question of why we enjoy it so much.
Joy and surprise or fear and disgust: imagine knowing exactly how a consumer feels about an advertisement, website or mobile app moment to moment as they experience it. It's not science fiction, it's Facial Coding.
Facial Coding is a technique that makes it possible to detect and qualify emotions and their intensity based on the observation of the facial expressions of an individual.
How does it work?
Facial Expression Analysis, as the Facial Action Coding System, was originally developed by Carl-Herman Hjortsjö in the late 60’s and early 70’s and pioneered by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen in the 70’s, where facial expressions are analyzed, mainly through changes in specific categories of facial muscles, to determine an individual’s emotional response.
In this system, facial muscle contractions or relaxations are broken down into "action units" (AU) identified by a number. Each unit represents the activation of one or more facial muscles. For example, AU 0 represents a neutral face and AU 1 corresponds to the "raising of the inner part of the eyebrows". An expression can therefore correspond to several action units. The intensity of the expression is noted on a scale from A to E, E being the maximum intensity. Thus, for example, 1C shows a marked or pronounced rise in the inner part of the eyebrows, but not very intense.
The facial-feedback theory of emotions, is the backbone emotion theory of how facial expressions are connected to experiencing emotions. Two important proponents, Charles Darwin and William James both noted that physiological responses often had a direct impact on emotion elicitation, rather than simply being a consequence of the emotion. Supporters of this theory have suggested that emotions are directly tied to changes in facial muscles; for example, people who are forced to smile pleasantly during a social function are likely to have a better time at the event than they would if they had frowned or carried a more neutral facial expression. There has been a large body of research undertaken in Facial Expression Analysis over the last four decades, contributing towards diverse fields such as psychology, anthropology, business, marketing and crime.
How does this look?
Today, facial expressions are easily captured using a good-quality camera. A participant will be performing a set task on a website, for example, while a webcam records their facial expressions. The video will then be analysed frame by frame using sophisticated software, usually in conjunction with a recording of whatever the participant was experiencing on-screen.
It can then be determined what emotions the participant was feeling at any point during the task. For example, if your participant was frowning during key moments of a user journey while navigating your website, you might want to rethink those specific elements of your user experience as users may be having difficulty or find those aspects very confusing.
Some Pros and Cons
For facial coding to be accurate, a clear, front-on recording of the participant’s face is needed, with good and even lighting (a change in lighting can influence the readings drastically). This can make it tricky to implement in real world environments where the participant is moving freely, such is during a shopper journey assessment. Some participants also just don’t emote as much as others. They naturally have a dead pan facial expression that gives nothing away, much like a professional poker player concealing his winning hand, thereby not giving researchers any useful data. The software used at this point is also subject to error and may miss the context or more subtle emotional cues in the data it puts out. It is for these reasons (and more) that, of all the neuromarketing techniques available, facial coding has been shown to be the least effective in predicting future consumer behaviour.
However, there are a lot of positive aspects to it. For example, facial coding experiments are non-invasive and, as all that is needed is a good camera, it is possible to gather data from more than one participant at a time. Although an expert is ideal for Complex Facial Expression Analysis studies, less robust data collection can be performed by just about anyone with minimal training. As the data collection is also mostly automated, turnaround time is relatively quick while the cost is fairly low compared to other Neuromarketing methods. Facial expressions are also universal – a smile means the same thing in humans almost everywhere - so cultural differences need not be factored in. Overall, Facial Coding has modest reliability and is a robust measure of emotional expression; especially providing quality and type of emotion expressed.
A Fun Example
Disney recently usedAI and facial tracking to gather data from audience sizes of 400 people. They tracked the audience’s facial expressions - and, therefore, their emotional responses – to nine of their movies. The study involved 150 showings and yielded a stunning 16 million facial landmarks from 3179 audience members overall.
With this information fed into an AI, Disney is now able to predict what an audience member’s reaction will be to key points throughout a movie based on their facial expressions in the first ten minutes. Moving forward, this will be a valuable tool for assessing the effectiveness of their new movies in hitting the right emotional beats. This improves their storytelling ability and ultimately the success of their feature films.
43% of consumers prefer companies that personalise their experience,48% of customers spend more when their experience is personalised and74% of people hate being shown irrelevant content. *
Personalising the customer experience is something that crops up again and again, but now in 2019 it can either be a life line if you get it right, or a noose if you get it wrong.
If you ever had a sliver of doubt on the matter, then consider this, you’re at a party surrounded by dozens of people and the hum drum of their conversations. It’s easy enough to drown out and ignore the background chatter, but as soon as someone says something that is of particular interest to you, you instantly tune into that specific conversation. The relevance of that information allows it to rise above the noise.
This is known as the Cocktail Party Effect, and it works.
When you get it right, personalisation earns your customer’s interest because whatever it is – be it the email newsletters in their inbox, the new products suggested to them or the information on your website – it feels appropriate to their lives and gets them to sit up and take notice.
It’s not simply about putting your customer’s name on something, it’s about simplifying the customer experience by only providing information that is relevant and personalised to their lives, and more importantly their innermost wants, needs and desires.
Alex Allwood, author of Customer Experience Is the Brand, argues that customer experience is an even more crucial competitive differentiator than pricing or technology. Allwood questions what our point of difference is in today’s marketplace where very little differentiation exists between one brand and the next. If we are already competing on price, technology or innovation, he asks, what is going to differentiate you from your competitors?
Personalisation with Big Data
So everybody’s talking about personalisation and how important it is, but how can we achieve this?
Big Data seems to be the buzzword that pops to mind.
In 2015, TopShop partnered with Twitter to analyse real time data on the social network during London Fashion week. The aim was to identify trends as they happened and then group them together on billboards using Twitter hashtags. Customers walking past were encouraged to tweet a hashtag to their TopShop account indicating their favourite products. TopShop then responded with a curated collection of the top picks. This ingenious use of big data allowed TopShop to know exactly what its customers were looking to buy after London Fashion Week.
While Big Data is incredibly useful, there is one caveat to note, you will constantly be toeing the line between creating engaging experiences and completely freaking your customer out.
Make sure it’s the former and not the latter.
One of the most famous examples of this was in 2012 when big-box retailer Target used behavioural data to identify pregnant women as early as possible during their pregnancy. In this way Target could be the first to send targeted messaging to expecting moms in the hope that they would then shop at Target for all of their baby needs. This strategy backfired into a PR nightmare when one disgruntled father saw coupons for pregnancy products that were being mailed to his teenage daughter, before he himself knew that she was pregnant.
Not only do you need to be careful about how you use the data, you also need to think about how much you want your customers to know about what you know about them.
People want to be in control, or at the very least have the impression that they are always in the drivers seat. Their sense of agency, also known as sense of control, is their subjective awareness of initiating, executing, and controlling their owns actions in the world - those actions that are of their own volition. Should your customers begin feeling like their personal information is being used to forcefully direct them to behave in a certain way, as opposed to being politely nudged in what you believe is the right direction, there could be serious consequences.
There is a very fine line between resonance and overfamiliarity.
Neuromarketing and Big Data – A recipe for success
Now that you’ve utilised all the big data at your fingertips to create the most customer centric experience on the planet, it’s time to utilise the best in consumer neuroscience to ensure that this experience is emotionally engaging, memorable and most importantly enjoyable (as opposed to being completely creepy).
Neuromarketing can provide more nuanced data about how your customers actually experience your brand, product or service – as well as the personalised way these are advertised and marketed.
Although Big Data is incredibly useful it's not the whole story. You often don’t have access to the full context or sentiment during the various consumer behaviours from which this data arises. With Neuromarketing, Big Data becomes far more relevant as you can access more granular insight into the emotional and cognitive dimensions of the real world experience.
Where Big Data uses information about what your customers did so that you can try predict what they will do in the future, Neuromarketing provides insight into why they did it in the first place, in the moment, in real time.
Neuromarketing combined with big data can work together to create amazing personalised experiences, but marketers also need to be intimately aware of privacy agreement specifics before diving into personalisation, as a large number of customers also have privacy and data protection concerns.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of using Facial Expression Analysis in Neuromarketing
Facial Expression Analysis, as the Facial Action Coding System, was originally developed by Carl-Herman Hjortsjö in the late 60’s and early 70’s and pioneered by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen in the 70’s, where facial expressions are analyzed, mainly through changes in specific categories of facial muscles, to determine an individual’s emotional response. The facial-feedback theory of emotions, is the backbone emotion theory of how facial expressions are connected to experiencing emotions. Two important proponents, Charles Darwin and William James both noted that physiological responses often had a direct impact on emotion elicitation, rather than simply being a consequence of the emotion. Supporters of this theory have suggested that emotions are directly tied to changes in facial muscles; for example, people who are forced to smile pleasantly during a social function are likely tol have a better time at the event than they would if they had frowned or carried a more neutral facial expression. There has been a large body of research undertaken in Facial Expression Analysis over the last 4 decades, contributing towards diverse fields such as psychology, anthropology, business, marketing and crime.
Facial Expression Analysis is most often used, through automated visual coding software, by many neuromarketing and traditional market research companies to study the emotional responses of customers to marketing stimuli. There are some advantages and disadvantages in using Facial Expression Analysis in Neuromarketing research.
The advantages include:
Mostly automated data collection and processing, so turnaround times are very fastCan be delivered remotely to test most marketing stimuli. This includes using smart devices, laptops and desktopsCan be administered by anyone and basic interpretation can be done by most. Complex Facial Expression Analysis studies however should be done by experts, especially multimethod studiesFairly low cost to other technology-based market research and Neuromarketing methodsHas fairly high reliability and is a robust measure of emotional expression; especially providing quality and type of emotion expressed
The disadvantages include:
Context can be missed, and Facial Expression Analysis performed by automated systems and then interpreted may present with some validity issuesFacial Expression Analysis has not performed as well as other Neuromarketing methodologies in predicting nuanced emotion elicitation (such as Electroencephalography) to market stimuli, such as video advertisingNot always useful in assessing the passive consumption of marketing stimuli, where an individual is browsing, observing or watching (for example a television commercial) Even though there are incredible advances in Facial Expression Analysis software algorithms, the current mobile methodologies sometimes lack temporal and visual sensitivity in detecting brief and subtle emotional changes. Mostly due to technology constraints of current webcam or visual recording hardware
The Nature versus Nurture debate is fairly ‘old hat’ yet retains a strong place in our cultural linguistic milieu. Nature encompasses your genetic heritage, the genes that you inherit from your parents that influence who you are, from your physical appearance to your temperament. Nurture refers to the social and environmental influences that act to shape your traits. For example, your ability to express empathy (a psychological trait), is likely to have been influenced by your parents demonstrating or modelled empathy during your, or your capacity for endurance (a physical trait) can be influenced by early environmental influences such as if you played sport during your school years.
We regularly talk about psychological and physical traits as either being inherited or socially produced. This dichotomy is no longer fully supported by current biological and psychological science. The role of environment and genetics are far less dichotomic than believed - genes and environment are very much integrated phenomena in the development of the psychological and physical characteristics of an individual. It is therefore no longer correct to assume that a particular set of characteristics of an individual are either a result of environment or genetics, but rather an expression of the interplay between the two.
There is no Nature versus Nurture, they are complimentary and very integrated processes. One may rather think of how Nurture (social and environmental processes) interact with Nature (our genetic heritage) to form trait expression. Therefore, Nature through Nurture. This interaction is not liner, nor is it cast in stone so as to present a completely deterministic set of outcomes for an individual. It is rather a dynamic process of trait expression, where there are many possible outcomes for an individual. In accepting an innate inherited structure to our bodies and minds, we can no longer accept that to be human is historical or cultural only and that we are when born a blank slate. As Steven Pinker so eloquently expresses (in ‘Why nature & nurture won’t go away’, 2004, pg. 7):
“No one today believes that the mind is a blank slate; to refute such a belief is to tip over a straw man. All behaviour is the product of an inextricable interaction between heredity and environment during development, so the answer to all nature-nurture questions is “some of each.” If people only recognised this truism, the political recriminations could be avoided. Moreover, modern biology has made the very distinction between nature and nurture obsolete. Since a given set of genes can have different effects in different environments, there may always be an environment in which a supposed effect of the genes can be reversed or cancelled; there- fore the genes impose no significant constraints on behaviour. Indeed, genes are expressed in response to environmental signals, so it is meaningless to try to distinguish genes and environments; doing so only gets in the way of productive research”.
People are slowly starting to realise that the argument for Nature versus Nurture is no longer a one-sided debate, with one party arguing that Nature plays the most significant role and the other arguing the latter. There are a number of intertwining processes that exist and interact with each other that act to craft an individual’s traits or characteristics, such as: genetics, epigenetics, history, culture, political landscapes, family circumstances, socio-economic circumstances and school histories to name a few.