The environment plays a huge role in human behavior from larger things like whether the country that a person lives in is at war to smaller things like the type of weather that is typical for that specific area.
You may have heard of the term nature vs. nurture before. This is a term that psychologists use to describe different reasons for why people behave in the ways that they do. Nature refers to people’s DNA. This is their inherent genetic makeup that plays a role in not only their behavior but also in their outward apperance. Nurture describes the environment that people live in including each person’s own experiences within their family but also their experiences in the larger world and within their community.
Researchers and various experts have debated for many years about the role that nature and nurture both play in humans’ behavior. At this point it’s safe to say that most experts agree that both nature and nurture play a significant role in determining one’s behavior and there are key contributing factors from each ‘camp’ that affect behavior in different ways, both as a whole and for individual humans.
When I read this question, nature vs. nurture wasn’t the first thing that sprang to my mind, but that might be exactly what the person who posted the question was thinking of. I thought of how the natural environment (or unnatural environment if you grew up in the middle of New York City) shapes human behavior. If you’re looking for an anthropological take on this question, Dr. Robert Wyman of Yale University gives an excellent course called “Global Problems of Population Growth.” He frequent makes connection between how the abundance or shortage of natural resources forms different cultures. You can listen to his lectures for free via http://www.openculture.com (go to the tab that says “online classes”) or on Itunes U. I’d provide you a link, but it’s raining here today in Chile which means it takes my computer a half hour to load a webpage.
Environment impacts human behavior in every way possible. A creature doesn’t exist except in relation to organisms and objects which surround it. Environment influences the way you dress, the things that you hear, see feel. A bird chirping outside your window can lift your mood, in contrast, cars honking outside your window at rush hour can hamper your happiness.
There is a specific field of study called human ecology that examines human-environmental interrelationships. It examines anthropogenic causes of environmental degradation, such as species extinction, non-point source pollution, and carbon emmisions and their contribution to global warning. On the other side of the spectrum, things like the environmental justice movement examines how the surrounding environment effects individuals and communities in matters of policy, public health, and social organization. From either side of the spectrum, the relationship that the environment and human behavior has is strong and multifaceted. Human ecology examines the relationship with human behavior economically, anthropologically, historically, geographically, and sociologically to name a few. One classic example of the environmental effects on human behavior is Garret Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”. Further reading can be found in Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom’s works on complex social ecological systems.
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