What Is Meant By “Human Nature”?

As a preface to my new field of inquiry:

Human nature: “the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans”1

I am most interested in how human nature is framed and partially determined by the mechanisms in our brains. In addition human culture clearly plays a role in shaping how we act. Where are the boundaries between these factors? How do they interact? How do the hard-wired attributes change over time and how quickly? How is human culture formed and changed? How quickly does culture change?

The focus on how quickly the brain and culture change is partly driven by the urgent need to deal with global warming, challenges to democratic governance, and others.

It is clear that the blank slate model of the mind (brain) is wrong. We are born with innate learning and decision making tools. Language acquisition is the most obvious example.


  1. New Oxford American Dictionary