Nature vs. Nurture debate for Psychology essay

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The Nature Nurture Debate Essay


1.     Culture: there are millions of cultures around the world and each have customs, lifestyles, values, traditions and heritages that make them unique from other groups of people. A person’s culture can effect how they develop psychologically…

2.     Nature: Cross-cultural research has been used by theorists to argue that the attributes, abilities and tendencies a person has when they are born and inherit genetically from their biological parents that they are not taught.

3.     Nurture: Others believe the environment in which a person develops, both physical and social, which causes a person to habituate to the physical environment as well as become part of a society. This means that, in theory, if brought up in a different physical and/or social environment, the same person would develop differently.

4.     Development: is the process of learning and the culmination of knowledge and skills so that a person develops to be independent unique from anyone else.

5.     Twins:

6.     Monozygotic: twins born from the same ovum (egg), and so they are identical

7.     Dizygotic: twins born from 2 separate ova (eggs), and so they are not identical

Origins of debate (early theorists): the earliest appearance of the debate is the writings of Socrates, Plato, & Descartes in 300BC who believed that a person’s nature was a larger determinant of their development than their environment (nurture).
Aristotle and Locke were also theorists who helped development of the debate because of their view that ‘the mind and body were connected (monism) and that the mind was a "blank slate" upon which experience writes (Nurture over Nature)’ ( citing Aristotle)

8.     Broad Evaluation (statement): For the last 50 years the debate of whether a person’s nature or nurture is a larger contributing factor to their psychological development has been largely driven by the findings of numerous cross-cultural studies. The findings of which have led to an ongoing debate and contributed to our current understanding of the various aspects of nature and nurture in a person’s development.

9.     Evidence that will be discussed in the response in more detail (supporting the statement): nature (twin studies studying the correlation of): IQ, behavior and psychiatric illnesses, nurture: aggressive behavior and IQ


Explain how cross-cultural research supports the nature viewpoint: the nature viewpoint is that the development of a person is determined by their genetics. Socrates, Plato, & Descartes were the first to explore this in 300BC when they are claimed ( citing Socrates) to have written that ‘most ideas, thoughts, traits, etc., were inborn1 Since then, several more modern studies have been conducted cross-culturally to reinforce the nature side of the argument.

10. Briefly describe evidence (theorists from textbook) used to support the nature viewpoint: Bouchard 1990 IQ is strongly affected by genetic factors, Daniels and Plomin 1985 the shyness of biological mothers correlates with the level of shyness in a child in a separate environment and Holland et al 1988 development of anorexia nervosa in the second twin suggests genetic link.

11. Name a study conducted: Bouchard 1990 Minnesota Twin Study

12. Briefly comment on the study:

Cross cultural: J, 100+ sets of twins reared apart ‘from across the US and UK … and Austria, Canada, China, New Zealand, Sweden and West Germany’(Bouchard 1990 (

13. Results: ‘genetic factors exert a pronounced and pervasive influence on behavioral variability, and the effect of being reared in the same home is negligible for many psychological traits.’(Bouchard 1990 (

14. Critique it: cross cultural apart from Asian countries with China as the only Asian country

15. Name: Daniels and Plomin 1985

16. Comment:

Cross-cultural: J, they ‘tested the sociability versus shyness of children adopted at 12 and 24 months to see whether they were more like their biological or adoptive mothers.’

17. Results: ‘Heredity was found to play a role in shyness, as extreme shyness in the biological mother predicted that her biological child would be shy at age 2 years,’(Self and Others)

18. Critique: they did not all have the same amount of contact with their bio mum

19. Name: Holland, Sicotte and Treasure 1988 study of anorexia nervosa

20. Comment: Cross-cultural: J, longitudinal study of MZ and DZ twins

21. Results: where ‘56% of the female MZ twins and 5% of the female dizygotic twins were concordant for AN’ (

22. Critique: there were 25 MZ and 20 MZ (uneven) and they were all female.


23. Explain how cross-cultural research supports the nurture viewpoint: the nurture viewpoint is that the development of a person is determined by their environment and their experiences. Cross-cultural research has been conducted to support this viewpoint by assessing real life modes of development such as IQ to be able to apply the findings into the field of developmental psychology.

24. Briefly describe evidence (theorists from textbook) used to support the nature viewpoint: Bandura’s 1961 study on whether social behaviors (i.e. aggression) could be learned through observation, Loelhin and Nichols’ 1967 study into the cause of the similarities of IQ’s between twins led to the finding that the identical treatment of twins in childhood accounts significantly for such similarities, and Capron and Duyne’s 1989 study of IQ that revealed heredity and environment are equally important in developing a person’s IQ.

25. Name a study conducted: Bandura’s 1961 Bobo Doll Experiments

26. Briefly comment on the study:

Cross-cultural: L, 24 B+G from the Stanford university nursery school aged between 3 and 6, 24 shown ag, 24 non-ag, 24 no model.

27. Results: ‘Children who observed the aggressive model made far more imitative aggressive responses than those who were in the non-aggressive or control groups’ (

28. Critique it: they were only from 1 place (above)

29. Name: Loelhin and Nichols 1967

30. Comment:

Cross-cultural: L, 1,188 sets of same-sex twins US high school students they did a self-assessing questionnaire

31. Results: ‘environment carries substantial weight in the determination of personality- it appears to account for at least half the variance’ (

32. Critique: only US kids. Were self-assessing so not as accurate, relied on clarity of memory

33. Name: Capron and Duyne 1989

34. Comment:

Cross-cultural: J ‘they used four very different groups of adopted children, involving all four possible combinations of biological parents of high or low socio-economic status and adoptive parents of high or low socio-economic status’(

35. Results: ‘the effects of the socio-economic status of the biological and of the adoptive parents were comparable. Thus, genetic and environmental factors were of about equal importance in determining the intelligence of the adopted children.’(

36. Critique: the socio-economic status of the parents and the children cannot have been completely compatible.


37. Evaluate the evidence on each side of the debate

Evidence for nature is more common than nurture though they are equally plausible having appreciated the above studies.

38. Develop a logical argument to explain how the evidence outlined supports the statement, It would be fair to argue that, upon knowledge of the previous cross-cultural findings, ultimately both nature and nurture play significant roles in a person’s psychological development. Nature allows someone to be born with the ability to learn and the environment (nurture) means this ability is ‘switched on’. So rather it is nature via nurture as opposed to nature versus nurture.

39. Describe the evidence on each side of the debate

Nature has the support of Bouchard’s hereditary IQ’s, Daniel’s and Plomin’s hereditary shy behavior and Holland et al’s genetic predisposition for AN


Nurture has the support of Bandura’s bobo doll, Loelhin and Nichols’ twins trait similarities and Capron and Duyne’s influence of the environment on IQ.


40. How does the evidence outlined support the statement

All fail to explicitly state that one or the other are 100% responsible.

41. Comments on the nature vs. nurture debate

More research should go into the interconnections between them and how one experience or gene can effect a person’s development.


42. Broad evaluation of the statement

The nature vs. nurture debate of whether a person’s nature or nurture is a larger contributing factor to their psychological development has been largely driven by the findings of numerous cross-cultural studies and overlooked as having a yes or no answer. Consideration should be made that nature and nurture do in fact co-exist. Such is apparent in the inconclusive findings of psychological theorists. Our current understanding is now shaped by our raw opinions as there are now so many theories and studies that have been conducted.


43. Summarizes evidence in support of this viewpoint

The evidence presented above, a culmination of research into various relevant traits of a person such as intelligence, behavior, psychological disorders and personality have all reinforced the view that a person’s development is nature via nurture, not one or the other.

44. Relates to relevant parts of self, others or society

By considering both nature and nurture, anyone can deduce that both affect a person’s development. If a person’s parents both love reading and have high IQ’s then it is no wonder that they would in-turn get good grades at school. If a person has a loving and supportive family environment, then they are more likely to have good social skills later in life. In society, both a person’s hereditary and their experiences will and do shape how they develop both physically and psychologically. Human beings are not born ‘clean slates’, they have genetic traits passed down by their biological parents. People are not born with all of the attributes or the knowledge that allows them to be individuals in society either, they constantly are learning lessons from experiences and absorbing information from people around them. Human beings may look the same all their life, but they learn something new every day. Nature via nurture.




Unit 1: History of Psychology, no author, no date


Personality Similarity in Twins Reared Apart and Together, Published in: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1988, A. Tellegen et al. Published by: American Psychological Association Inc.


Heredity, Environment and Personality: A study of 850 sets of twins by J. Loehlin and R. Nichols 1976. Published by University of Texas Press in 2012.


Anorexia Nervosa: Evidence for a Genetic Basis by A. Holland, N. Sicotte and J. Treasure in 1988. Published in the Journal of Psychometric Research.

Bobo Doll Experiment, by S. McLeod 2014. Based on study by A. Bandura in 1961 at Stanford University.


Psychology: An International Perspective by M. Eysenck. Published by Taylor and Francis 2004. Includes study by Capron and Duyne 1989.


Sources of Human Psychological Differences: The Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart by T. Bouchard et al 1979-1990. Published in Science, New Series in 1990.


Janet Fletcher and Alison Garton Psychology WA ATAR Self and Others Units 1 and 2 3rd edition published by Cengage Learning Australia in Melbourne Australia

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