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Evaluate the Relative Contribution of Nature and Nurture to Human Psychological Functioning

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  • August 18, 2010
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Evaluate the relative contribution of nature and nurture to human psychological functioning. Illustrate you answer with reference to material from at least two chapters from book 2.

The debate concerning the contribution of nature and nurture to human psychological functioning is one of the longest running and most controversial within psychology. The question is what elements of human behaviour can be explained in terms of physical being and what can be explained in terms of social environment. Although this debate is relevant to many topics within psychology this essay will focus on two: language and sex and gender.

Firstly it must be made clear what is meant by nature and nurture. Nature refers to the characteristics and abilities that are determined by a person’s genetic material which is transmitted from generation to generation. Evolutionary psychologists such as Darwin argued that certain behaviours evolve and adapt because of the benefits to survival and increased likelihood of passing on ones own genetic codes. Nurture refers to the environmental influences, such as historical and cultural context, that shape human behaviour. The behaviourist approach is an example of this. John Watson argued that ‘human behaviour was largely at the mercy of the environment’ and to him ‘saints and sinners were largely formed by early environmental influences’ (Littleton, Toates and Braisby, 2002, p.169). The relative importance of these two influences will now be discussed with regard to language and sex and gender

‘Language is the main medium for communication between human being and where we express, explore and pursue those goals that mean most to us’ Cooper and Kaye, 2002 p67) How much this ability to produce and understand language is programmed into our genes and how much acquired through experience is an important area of research as verbal communication is a key part of society. As all humans use language in one form or another it can be assumed that it...