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What is the nature-nurture debate?

It's concerned with the extent to which aspects of behaviour are a product of inherited or acquired characteristics.


What does nature refer to?

Those characteristics and abilities that that are determined by your genes. Supporters of this view are hereditarians or nativists.


What does nurture refer to?

The influences of experience and environment. A belief that all knowledge is gained through experience Supporters of this view = empiricists


What is heredity?

The genetic transmission of mental and physical characteristics from one generation to another.


What is the heritability coefficient and what does it measure?

The heritability coefficient is a numerical figure ranging from 0 to 1 which indicates the extent to which a characteristic has a genetic basis, one means it is entirely genetically determined zero means not at all.


In the nature-nurture debate what does the term environment mean?

Any influence on human behaviour that is non-genetic. This may range from prenatal influences in the womb through to cultural and historical influences at a societal level.


On a practical level why is it impossible to solve the nature nurture debate?

It is impossible to solve because environmental influences in the child's life begin as soon as it is born therefore nature and nurture are so closely intertwined that practically and theoretically it makes little sense to try and separate them.


What is the interactionist approach?

The idea that nature and nurture are linked to such an extent that it does not make sense to separate the two so researchers instead study how they interact and influence each other.


What is the evaluation for the nature-nurture debate?

Implications of nativism and empiricism
Shared and unshared environments
G-e interaction
Relationship to other debates


Evaluation point for the nature-nurture debate: Implications of nativism and empiricism

The nativists follow an extreme determinist approach which is controversial e.g when linking race to intelligence.


Evaluation point for the nature-nurture debate: Shared and unshared environments

Research attempting to tease out the influence of the environment is complicated by the fact that even siblings raised within the same family may not have experienced exactly the upbringing. Individual differences in the siblings mean that they experience the same life events in different ways, age or temperament may lead to different interpretations of the same event.


Evaluation point for the nature-nurture debate: Constructivism

Constructivism is the notion that genes and environment interact as people create their own nature by actively seeking environments that are more appropriate for their nature. Aggressive individuals are more comfortable in an aggressive environment so would choose this environment. This is further evidence of the idea that it is impossible and illogical to try to separate nature and nature influences on the childs behaviour.


Evaluation point for the nature-nurture debate:
Genotype - Environment interaction

This is a theory of gene-environment interaction and includes three types;
Passive interaction - the parents genes influence the way they treat their children
Evocative interaction - the child's genes influence and shape the environment in which they grow up
Active interaction - the child creates his own environment through the people who experience it selects.
All of this suggests a complex and multilayered relationship between nature and nurture.


Evaluation point for the nature-nurture debate: Relationship to other debates

A strong commitment to either the nature or nurture explanation of behaviour leads to some form of hard determinism, empiricists who think interaction with the environment is all are environmentally deterministic while nativists who suggest the 'anatomy is destiny' are biologically deterministic.


What is the diathesis stress model in the context of the nature nurture debate?

This is a model which emphasises the interaction of the nature and nurture tending to be more persuasive as a result. The model suggest that psychopathology is caused by a biological/genetic vulnerability only expressed when coupled with a biological or environmental trigger.


What is Epigeneticsl?

This refers to a change in our genetic activity without changing our genetic code this process happens throughout life and is caused by interactions with the environment.


How are epigeneticsl significant in the nature-nurture debate?

Aspects of our lifestyle and the events we encounter need epigenetic marks on our DNA. These marks tell our bodies which genes to ignore and which to use and in turn may go on to influence the genetic codes for our children and their children in turn. Epigenetics therefore introduce a third element into the nature nurture debate the life experience of previous generations.


What are the strengths and weaknesses of the nature position?

+ Causes of behaviour can be treated through drugs
- Tends to be biologically deterministic and may lead to eugenic policies


What are the strengths and weaknesses of the nurture position?

+ We can change & alter behaviour through drugs
- Tends to be environmentally deterministic and can dictate societies (ignore biology)