In the film "The Wild Child" the story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron is brought to life. The opening of the film reveals an uncivilized young boy running around the forest on all fours, climbing trees, and eating raw acorns. In the world of psychology, there has been a fascination in the argument of nature versus nurture. Furthermore, this leads to the discussion of what aspects of human nature have been biologically inherited, and which have been acquired through cultural influences. Many great philosophers and scientists have put much effort into uncovering the truth behind human nature. Although, due to the insufficient amount of research on isolated infants, it has been difficult to prove many existing theories on human nature. However, in the 1800s science was given the virtue of a grand discovery- a feral child was found living in the woods of the French province Aveyron. After his discovery, he was studied by scientists and given the name of Victor. Although he was given a proper name due to his uncivilized nature, many people considered this young boy to be a savage and regarded him as the Wild Boy of Aveyron. Despite the criticisms, Victor was an asset to the scientific community, and throughout the investigation, he was able to answer many questions regarding human nature.
A vital aspect of nature versus nurture discussion has focused much attention on language acquisition. It has been said: a child who does not see or hear the language, will not acquire language. Research has found that language acquisition is linked to age, which leads us to believe that individuals acquire language through experiences (Cayea, 2006). Victor, the Wild Child, was under the misfortune of late exposure to a language and revealed that after much education, the attempt to acquire language after the critical period is nearly impossible. Victor was discovered at approximately the age of twelve, during the beginning of puberty considering that he spent multiple years in the forest unexposed to language.
Furthermore, it has been found that, that the critical period of language acquisition to gain native fluency is sometimes said to end at puberty. After the critical period developing language will come with great difficulty and mastering a language may be nearly impossible (Friedmann & Rusou, 2015). The film portrays the disadvantages of learning a language after the critical period. It appears that in regards to language acquisition the ability to learn a language is innate; however, one must be exposed to language before puberty, to become a skilled native. It may have been a biological aspect (e.g., nature) as to why educating the Wild Boy came with much difficulty.
Observational learning focuses on the idea that behavior is learned from the environment through the process of imitating others. Imitation is the primary source of learning a language and plays a critical role in children vocabulary development. Creating the appropriate environment for a child is vital for every parent because it affects their personality, learning, and behavior. An example of this theory of learning is used in the film when, Itard and his housemaid Madame Guerin demonstrate to Victor, the correct way to ask for milk. The two hoped that by the mere observation that Victor will imitate their behaviors (The Wild Child, 1970, 0:46:36). Therefore, environment and child development and directly linked.
Cayea, W., 2006. Feral Child: The legacy of the wild boy of Aveyron in the domains of Language Acquisition and Deaf Education. Master Thesis submitted to National technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester Institute of Technology. Rochester, New York.
Friedmann, N., & Rusou, D. (2015). Critical period for first language: the crucial role of language input during the first year of life. Current Opinion In Neurobiology, 3527-34. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2015.06.003
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