One of the oldest and longest issues conferred upon the psychologists of the past and today’s scientists surround nature versus nurture debate. The debate questions whether environment or heredity play a larger role in shaping or determining human being’s behavior (Schaffner). There has been no definite on whether individual traits are developed by our surrounding (environment) or genetically (heredity) influenced. Nature includes physical traits, skin or hereditary factors which influences the individual’s physical appearance as well as personality traits (Hoy et al.). In contrast, psychologists claim that behavioral traits and thinking are largely part of social development. In essence, it means if a child’s upbringing was done properly, he or she is likely to have a successful irrespective of inherited genetic traits.
In the past, numerous philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle endeavored to understand the aspect of human behavior development. For instance, Plato believed that knowledge and behavior was a result of innate factors. He theorized human knowledge is present at birth, but the environment plays a role in the human process though not a unique (Ridley). In this end, Plato argues environment does not teach human beings anything new but reminds them of information they already know. In contrast, Aristotle theorized that people are born to place with a “blank slate” and their thoughts and behavior is due to experience. Aristotle differs from Plato because he acknowledges people are not born with knowledge but acquires it via experience (Lippa). His belief on the influence of environment factor in shaping the human behavior influenced several empiricists in the field of psychology throughout history. For example, John Locke who campaigned for empiricism (nurture) argued that individual thoughts and actions are shaped by their unique experiences, not innate factors. Arguing against internalists (nature), Locke tentatively examined numerous human processes such as reasoning and logic. He would ask a basic question, “how people use logic and reasoning if they are born with knowledge?” Internalists such as G.W. Leibniz argued against Locke citing that there is no way ideas that came into instincts from the environment could be turned into judgments and thoughts without triggering functionality of internal mechanisms (Collins et al.).
However, in the last five decades, researchers is both sides seem to have reached an agreement that both nature and nurture influence human development. For instance, in the early 1960s, experts on both sides began to research on the interaction of environment and genes (Dai). In her research, Dr. Ann Barnet claims that genes and environment for unborn baby interact after conception. Others have suggested that human behavior development is a combination of the two aspects (Pigliucci). For instance, an individual may learn from the society he lives on but at some point in his life be associated with traits of his parents.
Increasingly, people have started to realize the question of the right approach does not depend on environmental or heredity influence. Disentangling the multitude of the existing forces is difficult. More research should be done to determine how the environment modulate genes influences and vice versa. The debate between these aspects as produced advanced research particularly in the field of psychology associated with human behavior development. Despite the lack of evidence to support the interaction between hereditary factors and environment, studies will be carried on to determine the effects of each aspect, and its impact on human development. There is hope future studies can settle the debate and bring a better understanding of human behavior.
Collins, W. Andrew, et al. “Contemporary Research on Parenting: The Case for Nature and Nurture.” American Psychologist, vol. 55, no. 2, 2000, p. 218.
Dai, David Yun. The Nature and Nurture of Giftedness: A New Framework for Understanding Gifted Education. Education & Psychology of the Gifted Series. ERIC, 2010.
Hoy, Anita Woolfolk, et al. Psychology in Education. Pearson Education, 2008.
Lippa, Richard A. Gender, Nature, and Nurture. Routledge, 2005.
Pigliucci, Massimo. Phenotypic Plasticity: Beyond Nature and Nurture. JHU Press, 2001.
Ridley, Matt. “Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human.” New York, 2003.
Schaffner, Kenneth F. “Nature, and Nurture.” Current Opinion in Psychiatry, vol. 14, no. 5, 2001, pp. 485–90.