INTELLIGENCE: INHERITED OR LEARNED
Nature versus Nurture
Every day, life provides many thought provoking questions and debates such as “Is God real?” or “How was the earth made?” From William Shakespeare in the early 1700’s there was “To be or not to be that is the question-”an internal dilemma “whether tis nobler in the mind (brain) to suffer...or to take arms against the Sea of troubles (environment)” (Shakespeare 4/23/2014). Some three hundred years later in the mid-19th Century, researcher Sir. Francis Galton gave a similar question that was debated “whether intelligence is predominantly the result of heredity (nature) or the environment (nurture)” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2008, pg. 255). Although these particular examples by Shakespeare and Sir. Galton are not related, they share a ring of similarity while stemming from a totally different background. In this study it is important to first understand what is meant by the terms nature and nurture and the definitions within the science of Psychology. In the field psychology, nature is described as that which has been inherited. Each person is a complex product of a particular gene pool derived from a combination of twenty-three chromosomes from each individual parent for a total of forty-six chromosomes. This grouping of genes determine such traits as hair and eye color, height and even the shape of our nose. This particular gene makeup is also known to play a large role in the ability of each individual to learn. As a result, children from the same family of genes tend to have very similar looks and traits although each has person has their own individual look. In the case of identical twins there is a sharing of one set of forty-six chromosomes to give two individual persons who share almost identical looks and very similar behaviors. Nurture is described by Psychology as the environment in which a person is exposed to or is allowed to grow and develop. It is the different experiences of life provided by our environment that seems to play a large role in shaping our lives. For a person, such as myself, growing up on a Caribbean island where the general upbringing is very laid back and relaxed provides for a difficult time adjusting to the strict time conscience atmosphere of the city life in the United States. As a result there is an ongoing frequency of my not being on time to semi important functions. No matter the description of the terms it can be said that there is equal involvement of both genetic makeup and the environment in the development of intelligence. “Today most psychologist agree that both nature and nurture contribute to intelligence, but they continue to debate the relative contributions of these two factors.”(Wood et al., pg256) What is that aspect of the nature versus nurture “contribution” to intelligence that leads to this debate? The debate is the controversy that was initially established by Galton in his conclusion for his study involving many “prominent English families…intelligence is inherited-that nature, not nurture, is responsible for intelligence.”(Wood et al. 2008, pg.255) In other words Galton felt that the importance of a persons inherited qualities had more impact than the personal experiences and environment in determining that person’s level of intelligence. Other studies has shown that the environment’s role has as much of an impact on traits as the genetic makeup of a person. Accordingly, “heritability of a trait is a measure of the degree to which a characteristic is estimated to be influenced by heredity” (Wood et al. 2008 pg. 256) Today the topic of nurture versus nature continues to initiate many debates and discussions because as of yet research has failed to give concrete answers as to which factor is directly responsible for intelligence. And so is it our genetic makeup or is it the environment in which we grow? These are the questions that provide a framework for the many research studies on the debate...
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Ramey, C.T., Ramey, S.L. (2004) [PDF] Early Learning and School Readiness: Can Early Intervention Make a Difference? Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 50, pages 471-491
Shakespeare, William, To be, or not to be, n.d. retrieved 4/23/2014, Wikipedia
Wood, S.E., Wood, E.G., & Boyd, D. (2008) The World of Psychology (6th edition) Boston, MA, Pearson Education Inc., pages 255-258
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