The debate about nature versus nurture in shaping specific traits of human personality, is an old and gripping one – which behavioural aspects are influenced by genes, which ones by upbringing? What one never hears in this debate is the possibility that there might be a third alternative: the role humans play in controlling their destiny.
Recent studies by psychologists in Britain and USA indicate that the L-word, or ‘Lady Luck’ is not all about stars, as many of us would have the world believe. It may depend a lot on an individual’s self perception and way of thinking and, most importantly, on what she/he expects will happen to her/him.
And now researchers at the Institute of Child Health at Bristol University, England, have commenced an ambitious study of 14000 children in an attempt to test out this concept of humans shaping their own luck, says a ‘Sunday Times’ report in The Times of India, dated June 18, 2001.
In the course of their two-year study, the researchers will ask the children questions about self esteem and how much their lives depended on the proverbial stroke of luck.
This study may help explain why some children sail through problems and unhappy situations while others are destroyed emotionally and physically by the same challenges.
Steve Nowicki, clinical psychologist and a visiting professor at the Emroy University, Atlanta, US, has been working on this concept for the last 30 years. And he firmly believes that luck is a triumph of nurture over nature, says the report.
How, is the question. Nowicki suggests that when confronted with a problem, individuals fall into two groups: internalists and externalists. “Internalists analyse, act and learn from whatever the outcome is. They believe there is a connection between them and what happens to them. Externalizes believe they have no control over their fate and just let life wash over them.”
So the next time our favorite sportsperson blames his/her lack of performance on the unavailability of the lucky, unwashed, smelly sock, we know what to think of it.
Another research on 400 people by Dr Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, reinforces Nowicki’s theory. Wiseman’s found that the participants had categorised themselves as lucky or unlucky even before completing the questionnaires and round of interviews.
Through all this the role of the immediate and extended family, teachers and peers, remains important in the larger scheme of things. How much? For this we must wait for another round of research.