ISSUE-073

People's behavior is largely determined by forces not of their own making.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.


Human behaviors are interesting in that they can either be spontaneous or driven by external forces. Opinions vary greatly regarding the importance of these factors. The statement suggests that our behaviors are largely determined by external forces rather than our own qualities. While it may be true that external forces can greatly shape our behavior, from my perspective, our own making also plays a role that cannot be overlooked. What is more, since external and internal forces have distinct natures and mechanisms to affect human behaviors, any attempt to claim one is more influential than the other is overly simplistic.


External forces can play a critical role in regulating human behavior, because human beings are social animals and respond to external stimuli. Therefore, social norms determine to a large extent what can be or cannot be done. The reason why humans are a social species can be traced back to ancient times, when individuals were vulnerable to nature’s elements. When they acted collectively, however, humans became much stronger which substantially increased their chance of survival. Over time, being a part of a group or tribe became a survival advantage, with banishment often equaling demise. In this sense, one would face the risk of perishing alone if he or she defied social norms. Even though modern tools have drastically increased the odds of survival, we are still emotionally attached to society, the modern tribe we belong to, and yearn for social recognition. Some of our basic motivations, such as aspiring to become wealthy, beautiful, intelligent, or powerful, can be explained by this desire. This yearning also prevents us from behaving outside of socially acceptable norms.


That being said, I must point out that humans are mentally capable of making choices of their own will and are physically capable of executing these choices. This is particularly true when our choices involve little, if any, interaction with the external environment. In this case, our choices do not conflict with societal guidelines. If one wants to pick up a restaurant for dinner in the Midtown of New York City, for example, there are many choices at his or her disposal: French, Asian, American, and Mexican and so on. This choice is not determined by external factors, but rather depends on a person’s own will. Examples like these suggest that when our behavior has little to do with our social environment, we can and will make choices that reflect our own volition.


From the discussion above, it is clear that both external and internal forces are capable of determining human behavior, and most of the time we cannot disregard either’s influence. But neither can we compare their importance. In some cases, external forces determine what needs to be done but we ultimately decide how to behave while adhering to social norms. For instance, a scientist will be forced to secure funding if his or her laboratory faces financial hardship. Though this necessity is solely determined by external forces, how best to secure those funds is at the scientist’s discretion: he or she can seek federal support or form a collaborative relationship with industry. Either way, his or her action is not influenced by external factors. How external and internal forces can jointly shape human behavior has been demonstrated from different perspectives in this response. External forces offer us challenges and stipulate rules which must be followed but solutions are based on internal factors. This makes it difficult to argue that external forces play a more significant role in determining people’s behavior.


To sum up, I have demonstrated that both external and internal forces are capable of determining people’s behavior. Given the different mechanisms through which external and internal forces shape how we behave, conclusion drawn from a hasty comparison would certainly be oversimplified.

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