CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NATURE/NURTURE DEBATE WITHIN PSYCHOLOGY The debate between the influences of our biology and genetics (nature) versus our environment (nurture) on human behaviour is long standing within psychology. The phrase nature-nurture was first used in 1874 by Francis Galton in his publication ‘Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture’, and the subject has been debated ever since. The term “nature” typically refers to what is considered to be inherited, therefore meaning people’s genes and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The term “nurture” means anything that may be a potential source of influence which is external to the individual’s body. This includes the individual’s environment, society as a whole, peers and family. At each end of this debate are the Nativists and Empiricists. Nativists believe that it is nature which determines our abilities and capabilities. That knowledge of the world is innate and inborn. The differences that are not observable and apparent at birth, that emerge later on in life are regarded to be a product of maturation. Whereas, Empiricists believe that we gain knowledge and can determine our own abilities and capabilities as the human mind is a tabula rasa (a blank slate) which can be filled with knowledge of the world by learning, and through our experiences. Empiricism was based on the ideas of eighteenth century British philosophers, Locke, Hulme and Berkeley. Early theories from Gesell reflect the extreme arguments from nativists. Gesell coined the term maturation which refers to a genetically programmed pattern of changes which all individuals will go through in the same order. Gesell believed that abilities unfold naturally, practice and training is not required. (Gesell, 1925). Another advocate for extreme nativist include Bolwby’s Theory of Attachment, which views the mother and child bond as an innate and inborn process that will ensure the survival of the child. Whereas Watson believed from an empiricist extreme view that environmental influence is all-important and that human beings are completely mouldable, adaptable and pliable. Watson claimed that there was no such thing as an inheritance of talent or capability. (Watson 1928). Another advocate for extreme empiricist theory include Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory which states from his Bobo doll experiment, that behaviours can be learned from the environment through observation, imitation and reward. Behaviour genetics has attempted to confirm how much a certain trait can be attributed to heritability, shared environments and non-shared environments, however it has resulted in confirming the effects that nurture has: “…behaviour genetics has helped confirm the importance of environmental factors…even when genetic factors do have an essentially powerful effect, environmental interventions can often fully or partly overcome the genetic dominants”. (Ceci and Williams, 1999).
More recent arguments include from Bee (2010), who states that all development, is a combination of both nature and nurture and does not believe it is an either/or consideration. Bee’s argument states that every element of a child’s development is the product of their interaction between both nature and nurture. (Gross, 2010).
THE WAYS IN WHICH INTELLIGENCE CAN BE APPLIED TO THE NATURE/ NURTURE DEBATE WITHIN PSYHOLOGY Within psychology the notion and perception of intelligence is widely argued when applied to the heredity – environment debate. Most favour the psychometric approach, which measures the individual differences in intelligence through the use of intelligence tests (IQ). Different theories of intelligence include: the psychometric (factor-analysis) theories, fluid and crystallised intelligence and the information-processing approach. All of these theories argue the “best” way to interpret and correlate scores by using one form or another of factor analysis. Vernon (1950, 1971) argued that general intelligence plays a part in all...
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