The Blank Slate

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

The Blank Slate

Acrylic on canvas

The 'blank slate', or 'tabula rasa' in latin, is a term referring to the wax tablets used by the Romans for writing. Notes were erased by heating and smoothing the wax. Within the nature-nurture debate in the social sciences, the blank slate model proposes that individuals are born devoid of built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience, hence favouring 'nurture' over 'nature'.

Some horrific experiments took place, often on children, as the behaviourists set out to prove that a child could be trained to become a professional in any discipline. All predispositions within the infant were overlooked, and all inherited, genetic information disregarded. They did show that conditioning and the biological bases of behaviour influence behaviour, as do emotions, attachment and memory. However, humans are not robots, and the brain is not a computer.

Blank slate models provided important information about the links between biology and behaviour, however it also emphasized the need for sound ethics and a balanced perspective in research. Fortunately, a more rounded understanding of human nature followed, with the acknowledgment that an interaction takes place between what is inherent within the individual at birth and what is experienced in contact with the environment. The implications for society have translated in the surge of policies of equality, although the challenge remains to fully celebrate each cultural heritage whilst simultaneously eradicating discrimination.

This painting portrays the dance of life in all its complexity, as nature and nurture interact endlessly. Like bricks in a wall, a myriad blank slates emerge from the lower part of the painting, like building blocks of society, two towering representations of the multitudes populating our planet at the present time. Yet one single slate dominates above, a symbol of the unique self, asserting the undeniable power of individuality. Rather than disappearing in the crowd, it emerges forcefully with a strong sense of perspective suggestive of its distant origins.

In sharp contrast with both columns of monochrome and angular slates, rises a seductive and fluid shape reminiscent of the DNA double-helix rises. Ethereal and crystalline, the two intertwined strands are symbolic of human nature -as opposed to nurture. The two snakes intertwined in the symbol of health and medicine can also be fathomed in its swirling appearance. In its deceptively fragile appearance, the DNA detracts from its earnest function for our species to adapt and survive beyond death and for eternity. Within the instructions for life, encoded from our most immediate relatives to our most distant ancestors, is encapsulated a genetic and cultural inheritance that interacts with the environment through personal experience. In this dichotomic process, individual patterns of life are added to an existing DNA in a dynamic, endless process. This painting is a celebration of the unique self, powerful, undiluted amidst the multitude. #WixBlog #SoniaBenAchoura #PsychologyArt #Fineart #painting #Psychology

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