Thenature-nurture controversy in psychology aims at explaining whetherthe human behavioral aspects are a result of learned/ acquired orgenetic/inherited characteristics. Nature refers to what isgenetically acquired and is mostly influenced by various biologicalfactors, for instance, most of our physical features are similar tothose of parents i.e. the color of the eye, height, hair color, andso on (Plomin & Bergeman, 2014). Some psychologists andphilosophers such as Jean Piaget, Descartes and Plato were staunchnativists who suggested that human traits are inborn. Advocates ofthe nature theory claimed that most human characteristics andbehaviors are due to inheritance. Nurture, on the other hand, refersto the influences on the human behavior as a result of externalfactors and human experiences gained after birth. The nurture theorystates that, despite the mere genetic influences on abstract traits,the human behavior origin is as a result of environmental factors(Plomin & Bergeman, 2014). Environmentalists embrace the conceptof a blank state of mind at birth, which is filled with experiencesas one develops. The nurture theory suggests that human cognitivedevelopment is due to conditioning of certain new traits into a childor alteration of unfavorable behaviors in a child. In other words, anindividual’s talents or personality are as a result of theenvironmental factors and not genetic inheritance. The environmentmay have a lifelong influence on how persons talk and behave (Ridley,2013). However, according to new studies on the nature-nurturedebate, it has been concluded that both environmental and geneticfactors influence an individual’s traits. Today, most professionalsbelieve that both nurture and nature play significant roles inbehavioral development, however, it is not clear whether persons aremajorly developed due to nature or nurture. In this paper, I seek togive insights on both nature and nurture theories, emphasizing ontheir contributions to human behavioral development.
Nativistssupport the nature theory and claim that the human species is theproduct of unique genetic codes, that gradually evolve. Nativistssuch as Jean Piaget argue that human behaviors or traits that emergeearlier enough are under the more genetic influence than those thatemerge later on in life. Moreover, they claim that human traits thatare not noticed at birth, and surface later in life are a part of thehuman maturation process and that human beings are equipped with apre-programmed inner biological control, that periodically switchestraits on and off (Ridley, 2013).
However,some aspects of the nature theory are heavily criticized byprofessionals. For instance, the ‘gay gene’ argument which statesthat gays are not born straight. This issue has been critiqued byenvironmentalist who contends that the ‘gay trait’ as an acquiredbehavior, and not a cause of biology. Nativists justify theirarguments on behavioral traits by claiming the human geneticcomposition consists of ‘behavioral genes.’ Research shows thatbehavioral genes actually exists for example, the case of fraternaltwins who are separately raised, but still show similar behavioralresponses as if they were raised in a similar environment (Plomin &Bergeman, 2014).
Atthe other hand, environmentalists or empiricists such as Vygotskyargue in support of the nurture theory. Environmentalists claim thatat birth the human mind is blank a state they refer to as a tabularasa, and it gradually fills up with newly gained and learnedexperiences. This is behaviorism approach (Ridley, 2013). In otherwords, they argue that behavioral differences and psychologicaltraits that surface from infancy to childhood, to adolescence, up toadulthood, are as a result of learned experiences.
Inconclusion, the debate of whether we were born the way we are orwhether our behaviors are attributes of our life experiences, stillremains a contentious matter. The nature-nurture controversy is oneof the most relevant aspects of psychology that tends to explainhuman development. In practice today, professionals choose to tagwith either of the extreme stands. Both sides bear strong facts torule one as either right or wrong. Therefore, instead of conflictingwith oneself asking whether human developed is a result of nature ornurture, the correct approach should be just how much does eachaspect influence development? This is due to the fact that none ofthe two influences acts independently they both complement eachother.
Plomin,R., & Bergeman, C. S. (2014). Nature and Nurture. Behavioraland Brain Sciences, 14(03),414-427.
Ridley,M. (2013). Naturevia Nurture: Genes, experience, and what makes us human.HarperCollins Publishers.