Psychology: nature vs. nurture. How to define and discuss nature vs. nurture in psychology?

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jeffclark eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The nature vs. nurture debate is a very real source of disagreement and interest as you can tell from the number of answers you have received already.

Psychology is "The study of the mind," and one of our greatest challenges is in trying to determine how our minds develop. Is it the result of our genetic makeup ("nature") or our environment ("nurture")?

The French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau championed the "Nature" view. He said that a child is born a "noble savage." "Noble" in the sense that all of the propensities and abilities are born in us. "Savages" in the sense that they have not been developed yet. All you have to do is care for the child as he or she grows and allow them to develop "on their own." All that is there will naturally develop as long as no one interferes. Therefore, parenting and education is more of a "hands off" approach allowing nature to take its course.

The British philosopher John Locke took the "Nurture" side of the debate. He said that a child is born a "blank slate." His belief was that there is no good or bad, intelligence or lack thereof that is inherently present. It is all about what the child is exposed to as he or she grows up. Therefore the "right" experiences and schools and friends are essential for proper development to occur. There is a very real "hands on" approach required to parenting and education.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The nature vs. nurture debate has often been couched in terms of "heredity vs. environment." There are numerous arguments on which determines a person's character traits, propensity to violence, susceptibility to disease, even sexual orientation. Those who argue for "nature" or heredity firmly believe that many matters are out of an individuals control, he/she is "born with" that tendency or proclivity, just as one is born with certain hair/eye color and physical features. Those who argue for "nurture" claim that the influences of one's life are the main determinant of personality, health issues, etc. Obviously, the truth lies in a balance between the two; but it is difficult to determine where to draw the line. Most recent research tends to lead toward nature/heredity as having a greater influence on one's lifestyle and even the length of one's life than nurture.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In psychology, nature is defined as the foundation of the individual in terms of physical and genetic pre-dispositions. This involves inherited traits, behavioral tendencies, and innate abilities and disabilities.

Nurture is identified as the process by which an individual is raised, or brought up, in spite of his or her nature. The debate of nature versus nurture is based on the question of whether nature influences nurture, or vice versa. Which is the strongest of the two? Which could outdo the other?

The problem is that it is proven that both are equally influential. When an individual comes with a genetic pre-disposition for specific behaviors, these behaviors can still be modified with proper interventions. Therefore, we may never have a clear answer as to whether nature is stronger than nurture, or whether it is the other way around.

Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In recent years, psychologists have shifted their understanding of nature vs. nurture. Most psychologists do not see these two aspects of development as diametrically opposed. Instead, they seek to understand the relationship between the two. Many genetically ingrained behaviors are triggered by certain environmental stimuli. For example, birds have the melody of their species' mating songs and territorial songs "hardwired" into their brains. However, this information is only released into the bird's awareness after it hears an older family member sing the song. Thus, a bird raised in isolation will never sing its song, despite having a natural (genetic) ability to do so.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is more or less accepted that humans are "hardwired" with certain attributes, abilities and personality traits.  In this way, identical twins separated at birth still might develop the same taste in ice cream or music, even though they have lived in different environments.

Environment is often credited with doing more to influence an individual, however.  A person who grows up in an unstable home and a crime-ridden neighborhood is much more at risk than an identical twin that has not been in that environment, as the socialization process in the first 20 years of life is very critical in forming who we are, what we believe, how we act, etc., as individuals.

bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I used to think that it was 100% nuture...that parents could take any baby and by raising him/her in the same way...they could produce the same sort of adults.

However, I raised my three children as similarly as possible (They had the same socio-economic upbringing, the same emphasis on education, etc. ) and each turned out quite differently. The first was conservative, accomplished, driven, and shy. The second was the class clown, and a bit of a trouble maker. The third was confident, stubborn, and independant. Now, I think birth order had a lot to do with this...but ultimately I think they just came out hardwired differently.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing that you might discuss here is the complete difficulty of even trying to resolve this debate.

When you start to try to study any kind of human difference, you find that it is very hard to differentiate between the impacts of nature and nurture.  For example, look at the issue of "intelligence" or how kids do in school.  It's common for kids from the same family to do about the same in school.  But is that genetic or environmental?  Hard to tell, right?  Since we can't experiment on human beings, it is very hard to even approach an answer to this issue.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Nature versus Nurture debate is a classic discussion, and scholars have not concluded which one has the greatest impact on a person's development. Both theories provide very reasonable explanations as to why people have various characteristics. A lot of research and experiments have been conducted, and both sides of the argument are strongly supported. I think it's best that nature and nurture are not viewed in isolation.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most of the best human research available on the nature vs. nurture discussion is done on twins who have separated at birth. Since they share the same genetic makeup, they are excellent subjects for this kind of study. If I were writing something about this subject, I would start with research done on separated twins.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nature versus nurture is the debate over whether we are shaped by our genetics or our environment.  Nature means our genes, or what we were born with.  This includes biological traits.  Nurture means the environment, or how we were raised.  This includes environmental influences.

panda2014 | Student

Nature refers to the human traits one gets biologically from one's parents and cannot be altered or changed. Nurture refers to the human traits one gets from the environment that they grew up in. The nature versus nurture debate is actually disproven because both nature and nurture both play a key part in a human's development and learning. 

parama9000 | Student

It is to see if beneficial traits can be later developed or that you are born with it.

Yojana_Thapa | Student

Nature vs. Nurture is a debate. Nature (heredity, genes) vs. Nurture (environment) It is debate whether we are influenced by genes or the our surroundings.