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Nature Versus Nurture

‘Nature vs Nurture’ is an indefinite debate concerning the extent that particular aspects of the human life, such as behaviour are genetic or obtained attributes. Nature links to how genes and hereditary factors define who a person is, this may be through someone’s physical appearance and general characteristics. Whereas nurture is how a person’s environment, upbringing and experiences make a person who they are and how they may behave. Overall both nature and nurture play vital roles in shaping who humans are.

History and evolution of the nature vs nurture debate

Foundation of the topic

The debate that has caused controversy has officially been around since 1869 and has been the topic of many scientific reports and articles. The man who popularised all of the speculation around this topic was an English polymath by the name of Francis Galton.

However, sources that link to this topic date way back to the 16 hundreds but the sources do not officially refer to the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate.


After Francis Galton popularised the topic there was increased interest about how environmental factors may influence a person’s characteristics in the 20th century. According to Galton’s report in 1869 it was theorised that intelligence was inherited through family, therefore leaning to the nature side of the debate.

(According to J.L. Mackie, 20th century) “the evolutionary origins of human behavioural traits forces us to concede that there is no foundation for ethics.” This highlights that in the twentieth century many scientists believed that ethical behaviours and mindsets did not come naturally.

There was a theory by a man who was a specialist in behaviourism called John B. Watson who in the 1920s theorised that he could turn any healthy infant into whatever he wanted from a doctor or lawyer to a thief or beggar. His material was also in favour of the ‘nurture’ side.

In the text ‘Behaviourism’, 1930 Watson states, Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”

From the 1940s to the 1960s Ashley Montagu believed that genetics did not contribute to behaviours whatsoever.

In more recent times the University of Queensland created a site in 2015 revealing that 49% of human traits are genetic while 51% are environmental. (The statistics were according to a study conducted by T.J.C Polderman and B. Benyamin in 2015)

Twin Studies

Twin studies are a key component to help scientists answer the indefinite question of ‘Nature vs Nurture’. These studies are so useful because of the fact that identical twins have an extremely similar genetic makeup. Therefore it is assumed that their differences would come from being in different environments. (Corresponding to an article on the ‘eNotes’ page authored by a certified educator) “The ideal way to conduct twin studies is to compare monozygotic twins who have been reared apart from each other in vastly different types of families or environments.”

A famous twin study called the ‘Jim twins’ study case was a representation of the nature side of the debate. These two men were separated from birth, coincidentally the adoptive parents of each of the twins were named James, ‘Jim’ for short. Amazingly they were both married twice, the first time they were both married to women named Linda and the second time they also married women with the same name (Betty). They drove the same brand of car, worked in the security field and had many more similarities throughout their life. This unbelievable study showcases how the difference in environments had little to no impact on the twin’s upbringings.

Topic 1- Aggressive Behaviour

Aggression is a feeling of anger which generally translates to violent behaviour. The argument for nature involves various answers to why humans may be naturally or genetically aggressive. (According to McCawley, 2001) “The reasons for why there is aggressive behaviour in humans include a range of hypotheses. Aggression may have a chemical, hormonal, or genetic basis.” Research has shown that stimulating certain parts of the brain can actually cause aggressive behaviour, in contrast stimulating other parts of the brain can prevent this behaviour. There is a study that highlights how aggressive behaviour is linked to a person’s genetics. The study was conducted by Mednick, Gabrielli and Hutchings in 1984. The scientists wanted to find out wether orphan children were more safe with adoptive parents who committed crimes, or having genes from a biological family member who has committed crimes. Results showed that it was more risky to have genes from a biological parent who has committed crimes, compared to an adoptive parent who has also committed a crime. On the opposite side of the debate arguments for nurture involving aggressive includes how past experiences, work or school and relationships can also make a person aggressive. According to ‘Healthline’ a key component of aggression amongst teens and children is related to stress. Overall aggression is generally the result of natural causes such as stimulation of certain parts of the brain and genetic inheritance.

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