The nature-nurture debate is one of the brightest examples of psychological determinism. Researchers have never managed to reach a consensus on whether nature is more important than nurture, or otherwise. In this paper, the key elements of the nature-nurture controversy are discussed. The paper describes two studies exploring the relationship between genetic and external influences on human psychology. Recommendations for the future research are provided.
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Keywords: nature, nurture, behavior, psychology.
Key Elements of the Nature/Nurture Controversy
The nature-nurture debate is one of the brightest examples of psychological determinism. The controversy surrounding the nature versus nurture debate is too serious to be ignored. Psychologists try to define the extent to which genes and the environment affect individual behaviors. Unfortunately, no studies or researches have ever managed to confirm the unilateral importance of either nature or nurture in the development of individual behaviors and decisions. As of today, both genes and the environment are recognized as factors that are playing important roles in an individual decision-making, acting, and thinking. Future researchers should focus on the analysis of the methodological aspects of the nature versus nurture studies.
The nature-nurture debate is one of the central aspects in the study of human psychology. “A nature-nurture debate is a pair of opposing viewpoints concerned with what causes something to develop” (Hayes, 2000, p.28). Simply stated, the nature-nurture controversy reflects an ongoing argument regarding the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors in the development of individual behavioral patterns. Nativists see individual behaviors as the product of predominantly inner genetic factors (Hayes, 2000). By contrast, empiricists perceive individual behaviors as a result of learning and experience (Hayes, 2000). The nature-nurture debate has a long history. As of today, there is no compelling evidence to assert that genes produce stronger influence on individual behaviors than the environment, or vice versa.
For decades, professional psychologists have tried, but failed to reach a consensus as for the relative importance of genes and the environment in the development of individual perceptions, intelligence, personality, language, and mental health disorders (Hayes, 2000). The nature-nurture debate is also associated with problems. Firstly, it results in an artificial polarization of behavioral influence, whereas, in reality, both genes and the environment are needed to produce a living organism (Hayes, 2000). Secondly, the nature-nurture debate treats genetic and environmental influence as fixed, while in reality, their relative importance may vary, depending on the stage of individual development (Hayes, 2000). Nevertheless, researchers are interested in the way nature and nurture interact and affect individual psychology. The number of nature-nurture studies continues to increase.
In their study, Jaffee et al. (2005) sought to understand how genetic vulnerabilities and physical maltreatment could lead to conduct problems in children. The researchers tested whether the risks of conduct problems as a result of maltreatment were the highest among children with a genetic predisposition for those deficiencies (Jaffee et al., 2005). The researchers found that children at high genetic risks for conduct problems were also most susceptible to the negative influence of maltreatment (Jaffee et al., 2005). As a result, genetic factors were found to increase the likelihood of conduct problems among children facing mistreatment. Based on these results, physically maltreated children, whose parents engage in antisocial behavior, need urgent psychological assistance and support.
Morrison, Griffith and Alberts (1997) also explored the relationship of genetic and environmental factors and their influence on 1st graders’ achievements. The researchers sought to test the assumption that children entering school early in their life are not developmentally ready to be a part of learning process. However, Morrison et al. (1997) did not find any evidence that entrance age impacted children’s academic achievements. Unlike Jaffee et al. (2005), Morrison et al. (1997) did not support the relevance of genetic and developmental influence on individual psychology. In the light of these controversies, it is extremely difficult to determine how exactly genes and the environment work together to produce a living being and how they influence individual psychology. Apparently, future researchers should focus on the analysis of the methodological differences and their possible effects on the results of nature versus nurture studies.
The nature/nurture controversy remains one of the central examples of psychological determinism. The nature/nurture controversy reflects the ongoing debate on the relative importance of genetic and environmental influence on individual behaviors. Over decades, the researchers have failed to resolve the nature/nurture dilemma. In the light of the existing problems and controversies, future researchers should focus on the methodological aspects of the nature/nurture study and their possible influence on the study outcomes.
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