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Nature vs. Nurture: Are we shaped by one or both?

Updated on August 25, 2010
Photo curtosy of Google Images
Photo curtosy of Google Images

The Nature vs. Nurture debate

Nature vs. Nurture is a widely debated topic in the field of psychology. The nature vs. nurture issue has to do with whether biology shapes who we are or environment. Biology is the nature side and environment is the nurture side. There are many psychologists who agree with one of the sides over the other while some psychologists believe that both have an influence on the type of person we will become. However, most contemporary psychologists feel both have an effect on us.

Have you ever wondered if you fear something because it is natural for humans to fear it or do you fear it because society has taught you that you should fear it? Have you ever wondered why you may have the same attitude as a family member, is it because of genetics or the fact that you have grown up with this person in your life? Many questions like these have forced us to wonder what the real cause of all of this is.

Photo curtosy of Google Images
Photo curtosy of Google Images


Nature, this is the biology of the person, the genetics. We inherit many traits from relatives such as hair color, eye color, height, etc. These are traits that usually cannot be changed naturally. They are a part of our genes that are encoded on our chromosomes. It is a known fact that all of this stems from biology, there is no doubt about that. What the real questions is, when it comes to nature, is whether or not more abstract traits such as behavior, temperament, fear, personality, etc. come from our genes as well.

Twin/Adoption Studies

Twin/Adoption studies are often performed to test the nature vs. nurture issue. What a twin/adoption study, in this case, refers to is when two identical twins are separated at birth, both are living in two different parts of the world and being raised by two different families (both non-biological). Results, sometimes even shocking ones, are found when the twins eventually reuinte and discuss their lives. What is often found is that twins raised in completely different environments share very similar characteristics such as the same interest, talents, personalities, behavior, etc. This goes to prove that genetics can have an effect on the way people behave and so on.

Photo curtosy of Google Images
Photo curtosy of Google Images


Nurture, this has to do with our environment. The question on the nurture side of the argument is whether or not a person's environment influences the person he or she will become. For example, if nurture is indeed the cause of a person's behavior, attitude, personality, etc. this would mean that others that surround the person have influenced a particular behavior if you may. This would mean that a person is not really born with a personality at all, it will be the people in his or her life or society that will shape the kind of person he or she will become.

Tabula Rasa

British Philosopher, John Locke was on the nurture side of the argument and believed that everyone is born with a Tabula Rasa, Latin for Blank Slate. He believed that at birth, the mind is a blank slate and that our experiences write on these slates. According to this theory, we are born without a knowledge of what we should fear or how we should act, it is up to our environments to teach us how to act and behave.

Little Albert

In 1920, an experiment was conducted by John B. Watson and his assistant Rosalie Rayner at Johns Hopkins University. This experiment included an 11 month old child, Albert. In this experiment, Albert was given a white rat to play with which was now a natural stimulus. Albert showed no fear of the rat, in fact, he reached out towards the rat who walked all around Albert. Later on in the experiment, the rat was again brought to Albert except this time the rat was repeatedly brought to him with a loud clanking noise. This scared little Albert and because of the unpleasant loud noise, Albert would begin to cry. The loud clanking noise was the unconditioned stimulus which resulted in an unconditioned response. After awhile of Albert being exposed to the rat along with the loud noise, he was exposed to the rat alone, without any noise accompanied by it at all. The rat now became a conditioned stimulus. This caused Albert to cry every time he saw the rat, expecting a loud noise along with it. He now feared the rat because he feared the noise. This was a conditioned response. After Albert was taught to fear the rat, Watson continued the experiment by introducing other furry objects to Albert including a black rat, a dog, and a Santa Claus mask with a furry beard. Albert feared all of these things. Little Albert was taught to fear.

An overall assesment

It seems to be that there is a great amount of evidence that supports each side of the nature vs. nurture argument. While many psychologists may choose one side as their support and as much evidence as they may have, there is what seems to be an equal amount of evidence on the other side as well.

Yes, nature does effect us for the simple fact that we sometimes share the exact same characteristics as family members or by the fact that a pair of twins can share the same interests and personalities even though they have never met. And yes, nurture does effect us and we can see the proof through the Little Albert experiment alone. Nature and Nurture are both a part of our lives and they both shape who we are.

Nature vs. Nurture

Which do you believe shapes us the most?

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    • profile image

      Rfordin 2 years ago

      Very intersting article you have copied.

    • profile image

      cesssy 4 years ago

      Hi guys, if you're citing with APA guidelines, you can leave the author out if it is not given and cite the title and from where it is given. However, I recommend you search on google scholar for the studies mentioned in this article and cite them from there. It will gain you more marks, as the sources such ass journal are more reliable and professional

    • profile image

      ash 4 years ago

      Nurture is the way

    • profile image

      Happygirl 5 years ago

      Thanks that really helped!!!!!

    • profile image

      blah 5 years ago


    • profile image

      celeste horan 5 years ago

      This is very good and useful information to use, this cleared up most of my confusion on nature vs nurture. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

      BUT: Im sure this article has an author, rather than a username. Greatly appreciated if anyone knows the author and date published?

    • profile image

      aya 5 years ago

      thank u that helped

    • profile image

      Rachel 5 years ago

      I am trying to use this as a research piece and trying to cite it I need the authors name.

    • profile image

      unknown 5 years ago

      please answer i need to know your full name so i can put it on the works cited page

    • profile image

      unknown 5 years ago

      what is the name of the person who wrote this?

    • NotaCorrelation profile image

      NotaCorrelation 6 years ago from Tampa

      A good overview of the basic theories, however in the past few years the researchers have started to form a middle ground in 'epigenetics' the idea that your genes play some part in your development, and the environment that you are in can affect the way your genes express themselves. Very interesting.

    • Zannie10 profile image

      Zannie10 7 years ago

      That is great to hear! I am so glad I was able to help. Good luck on your report!

    • profile image

      ramdom 7 years ago

      cool this will hepl me on my report

    • Zannie10 profile image

      Zannie10 7 years ago

      Well I can definitely agree with you. This is because the answer is both. One may reign over the other depending on the situation, however, it is relatively balanced.

    • profile image

      libz1997 7 years ago

      This is all really confusing as I'm trying to a conclusion as to which one of them reigns over the human mind. Nothing is giving me straightforward proof.

    • Zannie10 profile image

      Zannie10 7 years ago

      Yup and gotta love psychology! Thank you!! :)

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 7 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      The answer is... both. Great article. Yay for psychology! Haha.

    • Zannie10 profile image

      Zannie10 7 years ago

      Thank you so much!!

    • danatheteacher profile image

      Dana Rock 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Very nice hub!

    • Zannie10 profile image

      Zannie10 7 years ago

      Thank you, Melissa!! I can definitely agree with you! :)

    • profile image

      Melissa 7 years ago

      Very interesting. I can see both sides of the argument as sensible.


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