In this essay on whether human activities are determined, the focus will be on the perspective of psychologist Amy Smith who asserted that while people do have automatic behaviors, they can be controlled through an individual’s internal mental processes which are similar to the concept of free will. This perspective is in direct opposition to the views of Bargh and Chartrand who present the notion that a person’s everyday actions are not based on their conscious intentions or purposeful choices but by external environmental influence (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999). This assumption by Bargh and Chartrand can be considered similar to the notion of irrational exuberance which states that people base their actions on the behaviors of other people. As such, it can be assumed that an individual’s interaction with the world around them is based on what they have perceived other people were doing resulting in a form of emulation. An example of this notion was shown in the case example involving a man becoming predisposed to violence due to watching a movie that depicts violence. However, the problem with utilizing this example is that violent movies and television shows are a typical Hollywood staple with millions watching some type of violent program each year yet this has not created a society that is specifically oriented towards violence. This reveals that there must be some underlying factor in place that influences people to restrain their actions which enable them to enjoy the violent scenes they are watching but not desire to actively take part in a similar escapade.
It is this internal mental process that Smith assets are behind an individual ultimately being the one who directs their own goals and actions thereby refuting the assumption presented by Bargh and Chartrand involving external environmental influences. This is not to say that people are not the products of their environment, they are to some degree; rather, it is more accurate to state that while an individual is influenced by their general environment, the ultimate choice behind whether to commit to certain actions or goals lies within the concept of self-direction and internal interpretations of the external environment that a person finds themselves in.
The opposing position on this issue through the arguments of Bargh and Chartrand present the notion that the correlation between internal thought processes and external environmental influences creates a form of learned behavior (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999). As a result, people tend to manifest the behaviors, perspectives, and overall mannerisms that are present in their external environment which influences their choices and way of thinking (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999). For example, people, in general, are not born racist, and this has been shown through numerous studies on the issue (Bush, 2010). In fact, logically speaking, racism does not make sense since everyone is technically the same. However, due to the influences of the external environment that a child has been raised in and the various views they are taught to internalize, this manifests as them having a high chance of becoming racist in the future. Thoughts regarding the “inferiority” of other races become “automatic” so to speak due to the significance of internalization that occurred regarding this form of learned behavior From this; it can be seen that the external environment can have a significant impact on behavioral development.
Refutation of Opposing Position
Refuting the arguments presented by Bargh and Chartrand can be done through Social Bond Theory by Travis Hirsche which explains that it is the bonds that people have with their family and friends as well as to various aspects of society that prevent them from committing socially deviant behavior (Scheff, 2000). It is the potential fear over the loss of these bonds that cause a person to conform to various social rules and expectations. This helps to explain the predilection of certain individuals toward criminal behavior since, in many cases, these people lack the necessary social bonds to cause them to fear to lose them (Scheff, 2000). Through this theory, it can be seen that human behavior and its resulting interaction with the general environment is often a manifestation of internal choice rather than the result of external environmental influences.
Based on what has been presented so far, it can be stated that while a person is affected by their general environment, the ultimate choice behind whether to commit to certain actions or goals lies within the concept of self-direction and internal interpretations of the external environment that a person finds themselves in. The external environment of a person can have a massive impact on how they view the world and the resulting influence this could have on their behavior. However, a person’s choices are still based on conscious will being brought about by their own personal experiences. This means that the influences of an individual’s external environment can only go so far with the ultimate choice relying on their sense of reasoning rather than simply on what they experienced.
Response to Feedback
Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999). The Unbearable Automaticity of Being. American Psychologist, 54(7), 462.
Bush, V. (2010). Are We Born Racist?: New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology. Booklist, 106(22), 10.
Scheff, T. J. (2000). Shame and the Social Bond: A Sociological Theory. Sociological Theory, 18(1), 84.
Tait, G. E. (1995, September 16). Schomburg exhibit: Time capsule of transcendence,
triumph. New York Amsterdam News. p. 34.