Reasons why footballer-biting-other-footballer resulted from nature (i.e., the passing of traits from parent to offspring at a biological, or genetic, level):
“I would suggest he is hard-wired in this way. It’s not something that’s going to come out of his character with a few sessions with a psychologist…It’s in the man.”
That was “leading sports psychologist” Tom Fawcett, quoted by the BBC.
The implication is that interventions aimed at curbing such biting will prove to be futile because this guy is biologically pre-programmed (i.e., hard-wired) to do these things, and his behaviour is not accounted for by his experiences or environment. Thus, giving him new experiences ought not affect his behaviour.
Reasons why footballer-biting-other-footballer resulted from nurture (i.e., the emergence of traits in a person’s lifetime as the result of life experiences and environmental conditions):
“The formative years of people’s development do contribute to their personality. If you look at his history, Suarez had a fairly hard upbringing, which would have been fighting for survival – he was streetwise.”
The implication now is that interventions aimed at curbing such biting do offer plausible prospects of success, given that his behaviour is, after all, subject to experiential and environmental modification.
In other words, give him some sessions with a psychologist. That should do the trick.
Now, of course it is reasonable to suggest that behaviour patterns can be partly nature and partly nurture. But is it ever reasonable to suggest that biting behaviour is “hard-wired” and “in the man“? What would it take to prove this? Some biting? If so, then it looks like I am hard-wired to drive a red car, seeing as I do it just about every day.
And what would it take to prove that a “hard upbringing” would lead to antisocial behaviour in adulthood? More biting? How about people who have hard upbringings but who don’t go around biting people? (Mother Teresa had a hard upbringing. Keep your distance! (Edit: I know. She’s dead.))
How about when posh boys do it? Where’s your upbringing theory then? Oh yes, the behaviour is actually hard-wired.
And get a load of this reasoning: His biting is hard-wired in the man because of his upbringing. We know this because, erm, he bit someone.
Hmmm. Circular reasoning is circular, because it is shaped like a circle. That’s how we know.
Both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ theories have disturbing implications. The ‘nature’ theory suggests that people who are bad are born bad, and so are lost causes; interventions of any kind — clinical or educational — are pointless. This is pretty much the basis for eugenics. Meanwhile, the ‘nurture’ theory suggests that people born into difficult socioeconomic conditions are contaminated by their upbringing and forever tainted with tendencies toward aggression and criminality. This is pretty much the basis for social exclusion. So take your pick. (Or pick both.)
But theories are theories. They are there to be tested. Gather evidence and sift through it to find knowledge. All we have from the BBC story is theory-floating in the absence of evidence. In reality, there is no basis to suggest any particular causal factors whatsoever for Suarez’s behaviour. There is nothing to hint at nature and nothing to hint at nurture. I’m guessing that this is the reason the BBC psychologist simply chucks in both.
If you don’t know, just speculate.
It’s good enough for the BBC.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.