Nature vs. Nurture

Topics: Nature versus nurture, Human nature, Eugenics Pages: 7 (1188 words) Published: April 23, 2014

The Problem of Nature and Nurture in Psychology

How we see the influences of genetics and environment on behavior


This paper defines the nature versus nurture problem in psychology, and explains why this problem is important in the science of psychology. It then gives the authors opinion of environment and nature as being the more influential, and why the author believes this. The paper gives examples of this opinion from outside sources. The paper concludes with the authors remarks about the importance of using skepticism when studying the nature/nurture problem and when approach psychological science in general. The paper cites sources from the two textbooks and two articles.

The Problem of Nature and Nurture in Psychology
How we see the influences of genetics and environment on behavior

No doubt we have all watched Olympic athletes and wondered if they were born with their talent, or if it was the result of their many hours of training. Or why others seem so natural and “gifted” at something, while we struggle endlessly, with disappointing results. When we do this, we have engaged in a debate that has perplexed many of the top thinkers for thousands of years, and continues to even now. The “nature versus nurture” problem in psychology hinges on two seemingly polar opposites. Is human development more influenced by genetic inheritance, or by the environment? In very simple language, does what we are born with determine who we are, or is it the influence of environment that surrounds us? Though this question has been around for centuries, the phrase “nature and nurture” is credited to Francis Galton, who, in 1874 wrote: “The phrase ‘nature and nurture’ is a convenient jingle of words, for it separates under two distinct heads the innumerable elements of which personality is composed. Nature is all that a man brings with him into the world; nurture is every influence that affects him after his birth”. (Hunt, 1993, page 215).

If psychology is “the scientific study of behavior and mental processes” (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005, page 3), then the problem of nature/nurture is very significant. If we are to believe that genetics and heredity are the primary factors which determine how we develop, then psychology would be primarily focused on human physiology and determining how we “connect” with our inherent truth of the world. In this regard, psychologists would study only how the individual’s physiological make up determined his behavior in the world. For example, it is because of just such study that today there are amazing breakthroughs in medication for depression, and other mental disorders, which were discovered to be linked to the amount of serotonin produced by the brain.

On the other hand, if our environment is what influences our development, psychology would gravitate only towards the analysis of how a person behaves in the environment he/she lives in, and how change in environment would then change the individual. Through the multiple studies of separated twins, for example, there has been crucial progress in child rearing and parental influences.

Fortunately, the nature/nurture problem, and the many discussions around it, allows us to see the benefits of both arguments. Today, most psychologists would agree that neither argument is the whole truth, but each topic deserves much scrutiny.

While I understand the value of genetics and heredity in shaping the individual, I lean toward the environmental influences as being the greater factor. I see outside forces - the culture, the family, and society - strongly influencing how we see ourselves, and how we act towards others. The biggest shapers of this preference have been through the study of history, and in the learning of languages.

History has shown, time and again,...

References: Hockenbury, D.H., & Hockenbruy, S.E. (2005) Discovering psychology fifth edition. New York, NY: Worth Press.
Hunt, Morton (1993). The story of Psychology. New York, NY: Doubleday.
Wing Sue, Derald (2011). How does oppression (microaggressions) affect perpetrators? The cognitive, affective, behavioral, and spiritual costs of oppression. Psychology Today, February, 2011.
Mercer, J. (2010). That old nature-nurture question. Nature and nurture can shape each other. Psychology Today, May, 2010.
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