The nature versus nurture debate has a long history in Western philosophy and modern psychology. The debate is relevant to many different areas of study in psychology, including intelligence, giftedness, sexual orientation, personality, and mental illness. Today, most psychologists take an interactionist approach that views both nature and nurture as being important in development. However, some researchers still emphasize either nature or nurture as being the key component that determines a psychological trait. Many psychological researchers will continue to use tried-and-true research methods such as twin and adoption studies to examine the nature/nurture issue; however, future genetic research will identify more genes that influence behavioral and psychological phenomena. Future research on environmental factors will focus on the importance of nonshared environments and how different children in the same family might experience the same environmental stimulus in different ways, thus having a very different influence on their development. Research findings regarding nature and nurture will continue to be among the most applicable aspects of psychological studies, but they will likely also remain among the most politically volatile issues in the field.
Research investigating the nature and nurture issue in a variety of areas (e.g., intelligence, personality, mental illness, etc.) has potential applications. Knowledge about the causes for mental illnesses, for instance, directly affects the treatment that professionals will use for people suffering from those illnesses. For example, the discovery of substantial heritability rates for some mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, supports the continuing medical search for biological treatments, such as drugs. Furthermore, knowledge concerning exactly what parts of the environment influence mental illness can help psychologists to develop more targeted psychological treatments. In addition, the extent to which researchers believe that intelligence and personality are influenced by the environment can help to determine educational approaches from preschool through college.
So it can be said that both nature and nurture contribute to our type, but that nurture is more related to our level of development or health. Moreover, the infant’s experience in the intrauterine environment greatly influences development. For example, the neurotransmitter (chemical) effects of the mother and her life likely have enormous effect on the development of the fetus. At the very least there is always an interactive effect going on between nature and nurture.
Although psychology in the 21st century is a scientific field that has developed many methods to investigate psychological phenomena, and our understanding of development has become more sophisticated, the nature versus nurture debate remains very active. An example of part of this continuing debate that will exist for the foreseeable future is the heritability of intelligence. Since Galton and Goddard argued that intelligence is essentially inherited, there have been researchers who have supported this conclusion. Over the years aspects of this debate have become part of the more unseemly beliefs of racism. Not that those who conclude that intelligence is inherited are racist, but that conclusion has in the past been partly motivated by racist beliefs against immigrants. This should demonstrate how volatile the nature versus nurture debate can be and how potentially important and influential research findings in this area are. In 1994 Herrnstein and Murray argued that intelligence was indeed a general cognitive ability on which humans differ, that IQ scores do not fluctuate much over the life span, and most importantly, that intelligence is largely heritable. Although behavioral genetic research tends to support the conclusion that intelligence is indeed substantially influenced by nature, most researchers today emphasize an interactionist perspective that recognizes the importance of both nature and nurture even when perhaps a majority of a trait, like intelligence, might be attributable to nature.
Although the field of behavioral genetics has demonstrated the importance of heritability to a plethora of psychological traits, the same findings also lead to the conclusion that environment too plays an important part in these psychological phenomena. Even though research findings concerning how much of a trait like intelligence is due to our genes is often widely disseminated in the media, the other side of the coin is nurture. Any variance that is not due to genes is by definition due to environment (Steen, 1996). Nature never accounts for 100 percent of the variance for any psychological trait. Instead, psychological traits are most likely the result of a number of interacting genes that account for a large part of the variance for a particular trait. However, the remaining variance that is due to environment remains important. So, if 47 percent of the variance for the trait of extroversion is attributable to genes, then that means that 53 percent of the variance for extroversion is due to the environment. Perhaps environmental factors are not discussed as often in the media because there are many possible environmental factors that can be involved, ranging from parenting style to culture to a viral infection.
Another example of Freud’s use of nature and nurture together was stated by Freud on page 15 of his book and it says, “ Originally the ego includes everything, later it separates off an external world from itself.
nurture debate or controversyThe nature vs nurture debate is one of the most enduringin the field of psychology.
How far are human behaviors, ideas, and feelings, INNATE andhow far are they all LEARNED?
These issues are at the center of the ongoing nature versus nurture debate or controversy.
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One of the most persistent issues in the field of psychology is the nature versus nurture debate. This debate concerns how much of an individual, and who s/he is, can be attributed either to nature (i.e., inborn tendencies or genetic factors) or to nurture (i.e., learning or environmental factors). This debate can be one of the most contentious issues in psychology because of the potential serious political ramifications of nature/nurture findings (de Waal, 1999). Although the science of psychology has entered the 21st century, it seems that the nature versus nurture debate will continue to be an active part of psychological research for many areas, including research on intelligence, personality, and mental illness. This research paper will begin with a general overview of the history of the nature/nurture question, focusing on the history of psychology and how psychologists have emphasized the different sides of this debate over time. Next, we discuss current approaches in psychology relevant to the nature/nurture debate and possibly the most controversial aspect of this debate today (i.e., the heritability of intelligence). In addition, the research methods that psychologists have at their disposal to help them determine whether a trait has genetic or environmental influences will be described. Lastly, we discuss the complexities of trying to apply research from the nature versus nurture debate.
The nature versus nurture debate stretches all the way back to the earliest days of Western philosophy, when Plato essentially believed that knowledge was inborn in humans and we merely needed to recollect this knowledge (although Plato did not believe that this was necessarily an easy process). We can firmly place Plato’s position on the nature side of the debate. On the other hand, we can firmly place another major figure in Western philosophy, Aristotle, on the nurture side of the debate. According to Aristotle, true knowledge was not inborn but came from one’s experiences with and observations of the physical world. This debate has been reincarnated repeatedly throughout the history of Western civilization. For instance, many centuries after Plato and Aristotle, the German rationalist Emanuel Kant and the British empiricist John Locke were laying out positions on opposite sides of this same debate. Of course, it was Locke who popularized the notion of the human mind as a tabula rasa (blank slate) at birth, meaning that individuals are not born with innate knowledge; rather, any knowledge or ability that a person eventually attains will have come about through that individual’s experiences. This places Locke firmly on the nurture side of the debate. On the nature side of the debate was Kant. Kant believed that before the mind could make any sense of its experiences there had to be an innate structure to the mind that enabled it to perceive the world and give meaning to one’s experiences. It was this innate ability of the mind that was most important to the attainment of knowledge. Whereas Plato, Aristotle, Locke, and Kant were primarily concerned with how humans can gain knowledge, modern psychologists are more interested in factors such as intelligence, personality, and mental illness. Thus, the nature versus nurture debate has a long history in Western culture (Hergenhahn, 2005). This research paper, however, will focus on the nature versus nurture question in psychology.
Newcomers to the Enneagram are often curious about the “nature or nurture” origin of a personality style. Are we born with our style or do we develop it in childhood? Is your Enneagram style “caused” by one or the other? Or both? We know from our experience that nurture is powerful, but genetics are too. In this short paper I bolster the case for the interaction of nature and nurture, especially nurture’s role in development. I present the quite amazing discovery of nine temperaments in infants reported by Drs. Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess in their 1977 book Temperament and Development.