Nature versus nurture

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 13 November 2016

Nature versus nurture

“While each child is born with his or her own distinct genetic potential for physical, social, emotional and cognitive development, the possibilities for reaching that potential remain tied to early life experiences and the parent-child relationship within the family” (Weissbourd, 1996). When a baby is born, that child already posses something in common with every other person in the world, a genetic gene pool. Just like anything else in life, when something is given to a person, the way that person displays what they are given depends on a variety of things.

One aspect of human development that has been long debated in the history of psychology is the concept of “nature vs. nurture. ” This phrase, first initiated by Sir Francis Galton in 1874 (S. Wood, 2011; E. Wood, 2011; Boyd 2011, p. 223), refers to the elements of heredity (nature), and the effects of the environment (nurture). I will briefly discus the various arguments for the primacy of nature or nurture in personality development, intelligence, and creativity. Personality is, “a persons characteristic patterns of behaving, thinking and feeling” (psych book, 352).

Heredity may in fact play an important role in the development of an individual’s personality. On the other hand, most psychological theories, including analytical theory, give more emphasis to interpersonal influences. In kindergarten, learning to share is just as important as learning to write. Learning core values at a young age may have more impact on a child’s individuality than any specific genetic code. When growing up, children always look up to someone older than themselves. A child’s mind is like a sponge, gathering up other people’s actions and words.

That is how children learn to share, talk and work well with others. Depending on the stimulation a child gets from others will alter the way that child’s personality is in the future. If a child grows up with parents giving them a positive message (lots of attention, giving positive feedback, showing love and affection on a regular basis) they have a more likely chance of being friendly, outgoing, empathetic and curious.

When a child grows up with parents, who do not demonstrate a positive message, the child is more likely to have limited social skills, poor self-esteem, and less curiosity. Along with parental influence, there is also the influence of one’s surroundings that can alter ones personality. A child, who is brought up in a desolate area, with little or no violence, is going to have a vastly different demeanor then a child who is brought up in a densely populated city, with a high crime rate. The probability that a male who is raised on a farm in Lancaster County will become a farmer is a lot more likely then a male raised in north Philadelphia.

Children raised on farms learn the importance of a good work ethic and determination, because the child understands that if they don’t work hard in the fields, their family won’t survive. Children raised in north Philadelphia (also known as the bad lands) learn the importance of hard work, family, street smarts and grit. These children understand that because of where they live, they will need to learn these life lessons in order to only way of survive or and better themselves. Nurture isn’t the only thing that influences a person’s personality.

Everyone has heard the sayings, “He acts exactly like his father! ” or “He behaves like that because this is how he was brought up! “(Lupu, 2006, sec 1. 3). This is where the controversy comes into play. Psychologists have been debating the theory that heredity influences personality development. Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh carried out a study of more than 800 sets of twins found that genetics were more influential in shaping key traits than a person’s home environment and surroundings (Archontaki, 2012; Lewis, 2012; Bates, 2012; sec 1. 2).

The traits most commonly found between the twins were self-control, decision-making and sociability, but heredity only develops a person’s personality to a point. According to psychologists, the most reasonable answer of all is neither one, nor the other, but the interaction of the two – the genetic and the environmental/educational/experience factor (Lupu, 2006, sect 1. 4). Therefore, heredity establishes the limits of one’s personality traits that can be developed, while the environment – represented by the cultural, social and situational factors – influence the actual development within the limits (Lupu, 2006, sect 1.5).

Another area of study that many psychologists have been debating on weather or not is the result of heredity or ones environment is intelligence. Psychologists like Sir Francis Galton and Thomas Bouchard have done studies to figure out weather or not intelligence is genetic or developmental. In 1874, Englishman Sir Francis Galton, studied a number of prominent females in England. Galton attempted to apply Darwin’s evolutionary theory to the study of human abilities. Galton concluded that intelligence was inherited from genetics.

Another psychologist who studied this field was Roger J. Sternberg. In 1988, Sternberg argued that there are a number of ways to demonstrate intelligence or adaptive functioning (“Psychology 101, sect 4. 5). He suggested a model of intelligence referred to as the triarchic theory. According to this model there are three types of intelligence. The first type was analytical, or the ability to solve a problem by looking at its components. The second was creative, which is the ability to use new ways to solve problems. The third was practical, referring to common sense.

While most IQ tests measure only analytical intelligence, they fail to include practical intelligence which is the most understandable to most of us (“Psychology 101”, sect 4. 5). This test did. Another study conducted was by the Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research. Sense the 1980’s, this research center has been recruiting fraternal and identical twins to participate in research projects examining genetic and environmental influences on a variety of psychological variebles, including intellagents (S. Wood, 2011; E.Wood, 2011; Boyd 2011, p. 224).

In 1997, the center’s director, Thomas Bouchard, summarized all of the studies of intelligence that had been done at the center up that point (S. Wood, 2011; E. Wood, 2011; Boyd 2011, p. 224). What the data showed was amazing. Bouchard reported that the identical twins that had been reared apart at birth were closer than identical twins reared together, and brother and sister reared together. Their research using the adoption study method helps to support the conclusion that genes strongly influence IQ scores.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 13 November 2016

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