Professor K. Nelson
October 17th, 2014
Nature vs. Nurture
“We have moved from introspection, speculation, and observation to experiment, neurophysiology, and imaging. From the classical Greek era onward, the dualism between mind and body has existed as the constant dilemma.” (Merikangas, 2004). A predicament of whether nature or nurture plays a larger role in child development has been an ongoing debate within psychology referred to as Nature vs. Nurture. Nature is what is inherited with conception, your genetics, and nurture is referred as your environmental influences. Since studies of Nature vs. Nurture have taken place over time, generally all have come to agree that nature and nurture do have coexisting roles in child development. However, the dispute of which plays the larger role is the question we ask ourselves to this day. Nature vs. Nurture is truly one of the oldest and most extensive debates in psychology. It dates all the way back to the philosophy of Descartes and Plato in the Greek era. John Locke, a famous British Philosopher, was famous for his belief of Tabula Rasa which in Latin means “blank slate”. “Tabula Rasa is the epistemological theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience and perception.” (2.) Tabula rasa supporters did not believe that any understanding was inherited and generally favored the nurture end of the debate. An individual that believes strongly in heredity (Nature) is a nativist. Nativists believe that the world has been evolving as a whole as well as our characteristics and that if we are dissimilar in any way then it is because of our personal genetic makeup. Individuals who favor the environmental prospect of the debate (Nurture) are called empiricists. Empiricists look at it from the Tabula Rasa point of view and see the mind as a blank slate. They believe that only with experience then is the “blank slate” progressively filled, which ties into behaviorism. Behaviorism is observable behavior, and all behavior is learnt from your environment. The dispute between both nativists and empiricists was established early on and has continued to be a non-budging clash into our present day and age. At conception you are given genes from both your mother and father. It is widely known that part of those genes you inherit from your parents are your physical characteristics such as color of eyes and hair, what color your skin is, whether you have Shirley Temple curls or bone-straight hair, sometimes even your weight. All these genes directly are expressed in your phenotype but inherited genes can affect you without being expressed such as your high risk for diabetes, susceptibility to diseases, etc. You cannot control your parents and the genes you are given, this is the nature aspect. With technology becoming so advanced, genes that were unable to be seen are now being discovered for many behaviors. “Researchers at Brown University and the University of Arizona have determined that variations of three different genes in the brain (called single-nucleotide polymorphisms) may help predict a person’s tendency to make certain choices.” (Nauert, 2009). Now that we can scientifically prove that certain behaviors are genetically inherited, we must question if all behaviors are genetic and if nurture really does have an impact on child development at all. In the nurture theory, it is known that genetic traits exist but it is believed that our environmental dynamics are the sources of our behavior. The behaviorism idea expresses that we have no free will, and all our knowledge is learned through cognitive development and maturation. Religion is an example of being environmentally influenced, it is not in their genes to know of God or trust in their religion but over time as they experience and grow they come to terms with who they are. “How a person behaves can be tied to influence such as parenting...
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