Assess the Influence of ‘Nature’ and ‘Nurture’ on Intelligence.

Topics: Intelligence quotient, Nature versus nurture, Eugenics Pages: 5 (1477 words) Published: June 23, 2013
Question : a. Assess the influence of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ on intelligence.

b. Cite (2) major proponents on this issue and examine their views

According to the Websters’ online dictionary, intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge and to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria. The sources of this ‘ability’ have been the centre of controversial debate among scientists, psychologists, and educators. With nature (genetics) and or nurture (environment) being identified as the source or sources contributing to the level of intelligence possessed by an individual.

Genes are passed from one generation to the next, and carry genetic information which determine eye colour, hair colour, height and other biological traits. Numerous studies on adoptive families have provided some amount of evidence of genetic influence on our intelligence. Carrying out studies that involved twins separated at birth, and those separated and adopted, psychologists were able to eliminate many of the issues that negatively affected previous studies. Results from these improved studies indicated that adopted children tended to have more similarities in intelligence quotient (IQ) with their biological mother as opposed to their adoptive parents. The concept of IQ was developed in 1912 by William Stern and was actually an expansion of the Binet intelligence test. Santrock (2004) “…. which refers to a person’s mental age divided by chronological age (CA), multiplied by 100. That is IQ = MA/CA x 100 (p. 107).”

Notably, with all the advances in scientific research, the gene or genes responsible for intelligence are yet to be identified. This may cause one to wonder if these genes do exist. At the same time, there is no doubt that intelligence exists. Though it cannot be precisely defined, seen with the eyes or quantified, intelligence is real. It could be that singling out these genes requires very intricate and sophisticated processes that are not yet created. The human brain (part of our biological make-up) is not to be forgotten, as it commands a major role in the concept of intelligence, with specific areas being responsible for different types of intelligence.

We often hear that children are a product of their own environment, confirming that ‘nurture’ is essential in every aspect of development, be it intellectual or otherwise. The influence of nurture on intelligence begins from birth, involving the experiences/interactions with our surroundings and the people in it. The Little Oxford Dictionary Thesaurus lists the word ‘knowledgeable’ as one of the synonyms for the word intelligent. The construction of knowledge (intelligence development) is through social interactions according to the Cognitive Development Theory by the infamous Jean Piaget. Without guidance from parents and or guardians, how would children successfully accomplish the essential process of language acquisition? Would children be able to reach their peak levels of intelligence without the assistance of teachers and parents? Does intelligence emerge only from within?

Consider the plight of feral children, these are children who have had little or no contact with humans, or who have been raised by animals. One seven year old boy in particular, (later named) Victor was discovered in a forest in France living amongst animals. He became a case study for physician Jean Marc Gaspord, who tried unsuccessfully to teach him. Victor never spoke and expressed himself by growling. ‘Wolf girls’, Kamala and Amala exhibited similar behaviour. They were found as infants living with wolves in Northern India. They ran on all fours, ate only raw meat, slept curled up in a ball, never smiled or showed interest in human company, smelt raw meat from a distance and possessed sharpened hearing. Certain questions come to mind. Did these human children develop ‘animalistic intelligence’?...
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