Have you ever questioned how much of your personality or difficulties you’ve faced may be due to your biology, and how much may be due to the environment you’ve lived in and learned from? If so, you aren’t alone. This is one of the fundamental bases of nature vs nurture psychology, which has been studied by experts for decades. It’s even been featured in countless articles from publishers as prominent as the New York Times for decades.
The debate over what drives human culture, personality, and behavior is actually believed by many to go back thousands of years to Ancient Greece. It can involve cultural, philosophical, and scientific elements to identify a variant or a hypothesis of the primary force behind human nature. Understanding this element of scope and pursuing ongoing education in this area can help you to determine how either element affects your present-day experience and how you can live well in your current situation.
Read on to learn more about the nature vs nurture debate in psychology and how both can affect your daily experiences.
Nature Vs. Nurture Psychology
Nature refers to inherent characteristics while nurture refers to outside factors. The topic has been debated for millennia, and many have found that science has yet to arrive at a definitive answer—possibly suggesting that human nature is complex and not easy to define with labels.
The History Of The Nature Vs. Nurture Debate
Galen, a philosopher in Ancient Greece, is thought by many to have first proposed that a person’s personality can arise from the levels of four types of bodily fluids (or “humors”), also known by many as the humorism or humoralism theory.
Later on, in the 1870s, Sir Francis Galton is quoted in historical texts using the terms “nature” and “nurture” when explaining his theory that traits, like intelligence and personality, could be developed by genetics and inherited at birth. During the same period, philosopher John Locke proposed that children were born as blank slates, and their characters developed from what they learned.
According to medical history, many behavioral and psychoanalytic theories in the early 1900s relied on the assumption that learning, environment and experience might be the most critical elements that can contribute to a person’s mental health. However, as time progressed to the later years of the 20th century, genetics and neuroscience gained popularity—and many medical professionals may have shifted back toward the nature “side” of the argument.
Current research generally indicates that individual differences in personality, behavior patterns, and mental health can all have intricate ties to genetic and environmental factors.
The Interactionist Position In The Nature–Nurture Debate
Many field experts appear to support the interactionist position in the nature vs nurture debate—which is thought to state that genetics and environmental factors work within a fully interactive system that can determine a person’s personality and overall mental well-being.
As parents can provide someone with both genetic makeup and early environment and childhood lessons, in most cases, it can be argued that one of the most influential factors in human and child development—childhood caregivers—is, by definition, driven by both nature and nurture.
“Nature vs nurture is one of the oldest questions in science. The answer is not an either/or, but rather it is both nature and nurture, acting in various degrees”. — Grand Challenge: Nature Versus Nurture
Why Does The Nature Vs Nurture Debate Matter?
Your opinion on what matters most may affect how you approach your mental health. For example: If you stand firmly on the nature side, you may feel powerless to change something you believe was determined before birth. If nurture is the basis of your philosophy, however, you may feel powerless in pursuit or ownership of your unique fusion of personality traits.
Understanding both sides of the debate can give you an open mind regarding mental health treatment options, as you can change your experience in a range of ways. Those who favor the interactionist position may work with all the factors that could influence them—possibly empowering them to make an informed decision about improving their well-being with varied methods.
To help you to determine your own set of personal beliefs, we’ve listed a summary of both nature- and nurture-related elements below.
Nature—The Biological Factors
Nature can refer to your genetics and other biological factors that can influence your mental health and personality development.
Elements Included On The Nature Side Of The Debate
While there can be a range of elements included in this area of the nature vs nurture argument, some of the most includes:
- Genetic diseases and disorders
- Appearance-related elements, such as eye, hair or skin color
How Does Nature Affect You?
In a 2021 study, researchers sought to determine genetic influence on one’s experience and understanding of self with the removal of the environmental factors provided by parents to avoid errors related to causation. As a result, they suggested using the Familial Control Method as a workaround when genetically sensitive information isn’t available.
This could be a plausible measure to determine how nature truly can affect you. Per current psychological understanding, your genetic code is thought to be the source of your nature—while your genes might determine your brain structure, and your individual neurochemistry may shape your thought patterns, emotions and behaviors.
Nurture—The Environmental Factors
Nurture generally refers to the environmental factors, such as relationships, experiences and culture, which can impact who you are and how your mental health develops.
Elements Included On The Nurture Side Of The Debate
Many people might have common nurture-related experiences, such as:
- Parenting and attachment style variations during childhood
- Learned experiences (facilitated by school or extracurricular activities)
- Social relationships
- Culture-related achievements (variable)
How Does Nurture Affect you?
As you might imagine, your experiences and everything you’ve been through can impact your life and experiences. For example: Your experiences as an infant and throughout childhood substantially influence who you become, from your attachment style affecting how you form and maintain relationships to traumatic experiences changing how you react to certain situations.
Can Nurture Be Changed?
Psychotherapy is generally defined as a proven method to help change one’s behavior and thought patterns. It can be regarded as an effective treatment for various mental health conditions.
Many may have nearly limitless ways to alter your environment—and psychotherapy can help you rebuild your cognitive pathways, according to data presented in a 2017 study. This published work alone shows the potential of change that nurture can hold, encouraging those who may wish to change facets of their personality or thought processes over time.
What Are Examples Of Nature Vs. Nurture In Psychology?
You can see practical examples of nature vs nurture in everyday life, specifically in the area of behavioral psychology. Many believe that rather than showing definitive evidence for one side or the other, the evidence can show how integral and widespread the connection between nature and nurture truly is.
Nature Vs Nurture: Abusive Behaviors
If a person exhibits abusive behavior, is it because they learned it by observing violence during their formative years, or is it due to being born with violent tendencies? This can be a common topic that’s brought up in the nature vs nurture debate.
Nature Vs Nurture: Intelligence
Does a person who demonstrates a high level of intelligence owe that to their genetic makeup or years of studying? How do we account for people who are born geniuses?
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Nature Vs Nurture: Personality
Twins can offer a unique view into how genetics and environment can shape your personality, mental health and emotional stability. For example, why would identical twins develop separate personalities and interests when they have the exact same genetics? Or how could children adopted into a home develop personality characteristics like their non-biological siblings?
Nature Vs Nurture: Mental Health Conditions
Some mental health conditions, like schizophrenia, might have a significant genetic component, while others can be directly caused by experiences—such as post-traumatic stress disorder. There are several brain issues, like Huntington’s disease, known to be passed on through genetics as well. What role would nature vs nurture have in these instances? How would one account for that?
Nature Vs. Nurture Debate Status
According to a 2018 study the medical community suggests that there’s not a single answer to the nature vs. nurture debate. The solution for many may be to allow both nature and nurture to interact throughout your life, shaping you into the person you are and influencing your mental health and stability in many complex ways.
How Can Online Therapy Help You Establish Mental Stability
Mental health conditions can often leave you feeling overwhelmed. This level of overwhelm can make it difficult for you to leave the home, especially to confront your nervousness head on through in-person therapeutic intervention. Working with a licensed therapist online through virtual therapy platforms like BetterHelp can empower you to work on your mental health from the convenience and comfort of your own home—possibly offering a sense of safety when speaking about vulnerable topics.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
Studies published by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggest that online therapy can be a viable, affordable option for many mental health conditions. It can also effectively boost the overall mental well-being of people who are not currently diagnosed with a mental condition. The APA has been quoted stating that virtual options for therapy can make treatment available in areas that did not previously have in-person option, possibly maximizing the amount of benefit that a larger pool of people can gain.
Why is Nature Vs Nurture important to psychology?
The nature versus nurture debate is the extent to which aspects of our behavior are the product of either inherited (i.e., nature) or learned (i.e., nurture) influences. Nature is what we think of as what we are pre-destined to become and is influenced by genetic inheritance (i.e., hair color). On the other hand, nurture is the influence of external factors after conception (i.e., personality characteristics).
Breaking down nature versus nurture within the psychological science disciplines involves a discussion around the two extreme schools of thought – Nativism and Empiricism. The first is nativism. Eye color, hair texture, skin pigmentation and predisposition to genetic diseases are all a function of the genes we inherit. These facts have led nativists to speculate whether psychological characteristics such as behavioral tendencies, personality attributes, and mental abilities are also genetically influenced. The basic assumption amongst nativists is that the characteristics of the human species is entirely a product of evolution and individual differences can be explained by each person’s unique genetic code.
Empiricism is the opposite of nativism in that it takes the extreme nurture position. Their basic assumption is that at birth, the human mind is a blank slate, or a tabula rasa, and that it is gradually filled as a result of experience. Psychological characteristics and behavioral differences that emerge from birth through childhood are the results of learning and being part of an environment.
Researchers in the field of behavioral genetics study how genes affect behavior and therefore relate variation in behavior between people. Behavioral genetics allows psychology to quantify just how much nature and nurture impact specific psychological traits. Adoption also acts a natural experiment that allows researchers to determine whether certain traits are more or less a product of either nature or nurture or a combination of the two. Studies have consistently shown that adopted children show greater physical resemblance to their biological parents, rather than their adoptive parents.
Another way researchers have studied nature versus nurture is through twin studies. Like adoption studies, twin studies support that psychological traits are extremely inheritable, about 50% on average. In a Twins in Early Development Study, there was found to be correlations between twins on a range of behavioral traits such as personality (empathy and hyperactivity) and the reach of phonetics.
Nature versus nurture is just one way that developmental psychology tries to explain and understand the differences in human behavior and how genetic and environmental factors contribute to those differences.
Is Developmental Psychology a nature or nurture?
Developmental psychology is the scientific study of changes that occur in human beings over the course of their lives and examines change and development across a broad range of topics, such as motor skills, cognitive development, problem-solving skills, personality and emotional development, among others.
When explaining development, considering both nature and nurture is important. Developmental psychology seeks to answer two big questions around nature versus nurture. The first is how much weight does each contribute? And the second is how do nature and nurture interact? Developmental psychology considers both nature and nurture when it comes to explaining human development since they are both seen as playing a crucial role in determining the development of personality and other behaviors.
Was Freud nature or nurture?
Sigmund Freud stated that events in our childhood have a great influence on our adult lives, shaping our personality characteristics. Freud was of the belief that parenting is of primary importance to a child’s development. These aspects of the theory led Freud to believe early childhood was crucial to the development of personality as an adult. In fact, he focused primarily on the first five years of life as being critical to healthy outcomes.
While Freud was primarily interested in how nurture influences a person’s behavior, Freud’s theory of aggression is steeped in nature. Freud believed that aggression was an innate drive propelled by thoughts and feelings of the subconscious mind. Unlike his belief that personality traits are influenced by a person’s environment during early childhood, he saw aggression as something that was innate in everyone.
Despite Freud’s flourishing success and contributions to the psychology field, it is clear that even he struggled with the nature versus nurture debate.
How does nature and nurture affect personality?
As discussed above, there are various schools of thoughts around whether nature or nurture influence personality. However, the contemporary school of thought is that person’s personality is multi-faceted and is therefore a combination of both influences, rather than one being solely responsible.
Personality is not determined by any single gene. Rather, genes work together to determine certain actions. There is no “IQ gene” that determines intelligence. Genes are also not so powerful that they can control or create our personalities solely by themselves. In the same way that personality is not determined solely by genes, it is also not solely determined by environmental influences. Personality is affected by both genetic and environmental influences and because of this, it is something that can continue to be shaped throughout a person’s life.
How does nature and nurture affect intelligence?
Intelligence is a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that cannot simply be boiled down to whether one’s genetics or environment influence intelligence.
Throughout the history of psychology, the nature versus nurture debate has caused quite a bit of controversy. Eugenics, for example, was a movement heavily influenced by the nativist approach.
Psychologist Francis Galton, a cousin of naturalist Charles Darwin, coined the terms nature versus nurture as well as eugenics and believes that intelligences were the result of genetics. Galton believed that intelligent individuals should be encouraged to marry and have many children, while less intelligent individuals should be prevented from reproducing.
Today, the majority of experts believe that a combination of nature and nurture impact behavior and development, including intelligence.
How does nature and nurture influence child development?
In the past, children were viewed as blank slates, which led to parents believing they could mod their child’s development solely through their actions. The idea put a lot of pressure on parents as it suggested that any decision would impact their child. We now know that this is not the case as their genetic makeup influences aspects of their behavior and personality. Beginning at conception, how a child develops and behaviors is partly influenced by the genes they inherit. Examples of nature influencing characteristics include sleeping behavior and parts of a child’s personality. However, the child’s environment plays a crucial role in influencing which genetic influences play a prominent role.
The reality is that nature and nurture both play a crucial role in influencing child development. In fact, new research demonstrates that environmental influences can actually affect genetic expression and whether or how the genes are expressed in the first place. The research found that adverse fetal and early childhood experiences can, and oftentimes do, lead to physical and chemical changes in the brain that can last a lifetime. Additionally, the study found that variations in DNA sequences between individuals influences the way genes are expressions, but the environment in which one develops, before and soon after birth, provides an impactful experience that chemically modify certain genes.
What are the 6 principles of nurture?
The six principles of nurture include: environmental variables, childhood experiences, how we were raised, social relationships, surrounding culture, and having a sense of belonging.
Is anxiety caused by nature or nurture
Around 40 million people are diagnosed with anxiety annually. When it comes to mental illness, the nature nurture debate can be quite helpful in shedding light on why some people develop issues whereas others do not. Anxiety researchers cite social learning theory as significant to the development of clinical anxiety conditions. Four ways the development of anxiety can be explained is:
- Exposure to a traumatic event can lead to fear and anxiety.
- Anxiety and fear are learned by people through watching the reactions and experiences of those around them.
- Simply talking about situations, objects, or people can lead to fear or anxiety.
- Children may negatively reinforce anxiety by avoiding it, which can lead to the development of a clinically significant anxiety condition.
On the other side of the debate, nature plays a pivotal role in understanding anxiety. Twin studies on anxiety disorders have found a genetic foundation for developing anxiety. However, gene-mapping findings have been less clear. This has led researchers to believe that there may be different genes responsible for the development of specific anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
When it comes to the nature nurture discussion for just about any topic, it becomes clear that both likely play a role in determining why certain behaviors and health problems arise.
Is aggression Nature or nurture?
Examples of nature influencing aggression include Sigmund Freud’s belief that aggression is innate and therefore is influenced by nature. In contrast to this view, Albert Bandura’s social learning theory states that aggression is learned from the environment through observation and imitation. In 1961, Bandura sought to prove this through his famous Bobo Doll experiment. During the experiment, 24 children were shown an aggressive model, 24 children were shown a non-aggressive model, and 24 children were shown no model. The study found that children are able to learn social behavior such as aggression through the process of observing another person’s behavior.
Is high IQ nature or nurture?
A high IQ is not determined by nature or nurture, rather it is a combination of the two. As stated previously, there is no single “IQ gene” that will predetermine whether a person is destined to have a higher IQ than someone else. Rather, it is a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental influences that truly impact a person’s IQ.
Does nature affect intelligence?
Intelligence is a complex trait that is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Intelligence is strongly influenced by the environment a person grows up in. Many psych reports show that factors related to a child’s home environment and parenting, education and availability of learning resources, and nutrition are just some of the environmental contributions to a person’s intelligence. Examples of nature influencing intelligence have been studied extensively, however the studies have not conclusively identified any genes that play a major role in differences in intelligence.
Which one is more important between nature and nurture?
The current school of thought is that nature and nurture are equally important and that both influence a person’s overall behavior and personality.
Why is nurture important?
While certain genetic factors may create an increased chance for a particular illness or behavior, the probability that a person develops either is oftentimes dependent on environment. One example of this is that the basis for addiction is not thought to be entirely genetic by most researchers. Environmental aspects, such as the habits of parents, friends, or a partner might also be significant factors contributing to whether a person develops an addiction. Similarly, researchers found that while a family history of mental health conditions was the second strongest predictor of mental illness, the strongest predictors were life events and experiences, such as childhood bullying, abuse, or other trauma. Nurture plays a crucial role in how we develop and evolve into who we are in the world.
How do you nurture yourself?
There are many ways to nurture yourself and doing so will have many positive impacts. A technique for treating yourself better is by developing your “Inner Nurturing Parent.” Even if you did not have the most nurturing of familial relationships, you can create your inner nurturing parent by forgiving your past mistakes, making every effort to keep yourself healthy and safe,to love and support yourself. Some tips to get started include telling yourself “I love you and appreciate who you are” at the end of each day or saying “I believe in you” when you’ve had a particularly tough day. Making time each day for things you enjoy and prioritizing your health and well-being by starting a weekly exercise routine are other ways to begin to nurture yourself.
What is a nurturing woman?
There is no one “right” way to be a nurturing person. However, some characteristics of a nurturing person is someone who makes an effort to keep loved ones healthy and safe, listens to and acknowledges their feelings, forgives mistakes, and lets their loved ones know how loved they are. A nurturing person makes mistakes, lets others know when they have made a mistake and accepts responsibility for those mistakes.
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