Explain what is meant by the nature-nurture debate with reference to psychological theories and/or studies.
Nature versus nurture debate is based on people’s beliefs of whether heredity and genes or environment and upbringing are responsible for physical and behavioural characteristics of a person. This argument started as early as Shakespearean times and had many philosophers and behaviourists arguing and standing by their own opinion. This is still the case today. Going back to the seventeenth century, there was a prevailing notion that babies were ‘miniature adults who only had to grow in order for inherited characteristics to appear’. British philosopher John Locke was one of the first to reject this idea. He believed a mind of a newborn to be a ‘blank state’, onto which a child’s early experiences and feelings are written (Atkinson, R.L. et al. 1999). Behaviourists such as John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner hold a similar position with Skinner, even going as far as saying that ‘early training can turn a child into any kind of adult, regardless of his or her heredity’ (Skinner 1930, in Atkinson et al. 1999). A significant part of the nurture responsibility for development comes from the tendency of a child to observe the world and react to the environment. From the moment of birth, newborns spend a lot of time ‘actively looking around’ and ‘pausing with their eyes when they encounter an object or some change in the visual field’. The same applies to hearing and smelling (Hillier 1992, Ashmead et al. 1991 in Atkinson et al. 1999). This tells us that a child is programmed to learn from the environment from the moment they enter into the world. This serves as a very important base for a child’s growth, as it kickstarts the learning of certain crucial life-saving skills such as self-preservation: ‘the ability to distinguish among smells has a clear adoptive value: it helps infants avoid noxious substances, thereby increasing their likelihood of survival’...
Bibliography: Atkinson, R.L. et al.(1999) Hilgard’s Intro to Psychology, (13th ed). Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Coolege Publishers.
Guo, G. et al. (2008) The integration of genetic propensities into social-control models of delinquency and violence among male youths, American Sociological Review, 73 (4), pp. 543-568.
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