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Rated: E · Thesis · Psychology · #2053113
Introduction for University of Miami Psychology Major Meta-Analysis Paper

The Fountain of Enrichment


The Fountain of Enrichment:
A Meta-Analytic Review of the Role of Enriched Environments in the Making of a Leader

Mane Harutyunyan

For Dr. Barry Hurwitz, Professor of Psychobiology

University of Miami


In the TV show "House," one of the characters explains life as a series of rooms "and who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives are" (Shore). Thinking of life as a series of rooms is a simplified way of understanding the longstanding nature vs. nurture debate. Every living organism carries genotypes that act as its structural blueprint and determine the organism's genetic dispositions. Picture life as a maze of rooms with one START and one FINISH. The things you are given at the START of the maze are your genotypic attributes. As soon as you advance from START, your course is influenced and changed by the variables in each of the rooms. In this same manner, an organism's interactions with its environments develop the organism's unique, individual phenotypes.

Researchers theorize and conduct studies to try to prove exactly where the mark falls on the nature vs. nurture spectrum, arguing over the relative importance of each of the two variables. The vestige of these debates spills over into other industries where we find ourselves questioning whether a genius, an Olympic athlete, a musician, a leader is born or made. The nature-oriented viewpoint argues that these people are blessed with inborn talents and that is the predominant cause of their success. These arguments are often accompanied by case studies that argue that our genotypes guide our phenotypic gene expression, meaning everyone ends up the way they are "supposed" to. Studies in support of this point out how naturally shy children are more likely to choose quiet activities like reading whereas naturally active children are more likely to choose to play sports on a team (Cook, 2009, p.136).

The aim of this meta-analysis is to disprove this hypothesis by examining the weight of the role that environment plays in phenotypic gene expression. Specifically, the analysis examines the differences between sterile vs. enriched environments and the subsequent effects on psychobiological development at a young age. For these assessments, psychobiological development is operationalized by studying synaptogenesis and dendritic spine density. The results produced from these studies allow this meta-analysis to confidently conclude that environmental factors play the predominant role in phenotypic gene expression. Generalizing this to the real world, we understand that environmental factors (namely an enriched environment) are mainly responsible for the advanced development of cognitive capabilities that are often misconstrued as being "innate" in great leaders. This then makes enriched environments a key factor in becoming one such leader. The good news is that it is a controllable variable so if you can create it, you can keep it.

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