The Nature vs. Nurture Debate

Essay by volsonUniversity, Master'sA+, May 2004

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The nature versus nurture debate is of constant discussion amongst psychologists today. In the 17th century the French philosopher Rene Descartes set out views which held that people possess certain inborn ideas that enduringly underpin people's approach to the world (Bee, p.3). On the other hand, the British philosopher John Locke took a more empirical approach emphasizing the role of experience as fully contributing to behavioral development (Bee, p.3). Since the days of Descartes and Locke, the empirical "nurture" approach has possibly tended to have the best of the argument but the debate is far from being settled.

        Nature is our genetic gift; it determines our basic physical layout, hair and eye color. It determines the types of emotions and motivations we can experience like happiness, sadness, and fear. A person maintains his mental ability only based on what he is born with genetically on the nature side of the debate; therefore stating the environment plays no role in determining his mental aptitude.

Nurture is the experience during our lifetime; the assumption that what makes children turn out the way they do, aside from their genes, the environmental part of child development, is the experiences they have at home in particular the experiences they have with their parents and society. This side argues that the environment and surroundings of a person affect their mental ability and are influential in the development of that person.

        A nature-nurture debate is concerned with what causes something to develop. The debates of nature vs. nurture tend to be historical rather than current. Today, most psychologists see development differently: they believe biological predispositions guide development in certain directions, but experience as influencing how that development manifests itself. The two sources are seen as interconnected, not as opposing alternatives, and it is the way that they...