Nature Versus Nurture Question

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In the worlds of psychology and philosophy, the nature versus nurture, or nativism versus empiricism, question is not only a very controversial issue, but also one of the oldest debates (Bee & Boyd, 2012). Those who adopt an extreme hereditary position are known as nativists (the nature side). A nativist basically assumes that the characteristics of humans as a whole are a directly related to evolution. They believe that all human differences are due to each person’s unique genetic code. They also believe that the earlier a particular ability appears in a person, the more likely it is to be under the influence of genetic factors. In short, nativists are for the argument that humans are born with genetic ability to develop regardless of the environment.

An empiricist (or nurture) view is that at birth, the human mind is a blank slate and experiences fill the mind and result in learned behaviors. From this point of view, it is believed that how one is raised, taught, spoken to, etc. governs a person’s abilities and development. To sum and compare each view in comparison, nativism is the view that abilities are genetic and hereditary; empiricism is the view that abilities are learned from outside sources (Bee & Boyd, 2012).

Idealists and Empiricists

Idealists, as well as rationalists, such as Plato and Rene Descartes, believed that one is born with knowledge; at therefore represent the nature side of this debate (Bee & Boyd, 2012). G. Stanley Hall, a childhood researcher, believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution, and believed that humans are born with a developmental plan. He believed that people reach certain milestones at generally the same ages and that these norms could be used to study both the development of children and evolution of the human species in general (Bee & Boyd, 2012).

On the contrary, empiricists, such as the British philosopher John Locke, believed that one’s mind is essentially a blank slate at birth (Bee & Boyd, 2012). Empiricists believe that all knowledge is gained through experiences in one’s environment. This is often referred to as behaviorism, a term developed by John Watson (Bee & Boyd, 2012). Watson adamantly disagreed with any inborn development plan theories, and instead insisted that children could be trained to do anything, or be anything, with manipulation of the environment (Bee & Boyd, 2012).

There are behaviors that can be attributed to both nature and nurture. An example of this is a fear that a child may have instilled in him or her. In a famous study relevant to this debate, John Watson conditioned a child to fear a rat that he did not initially fear (Bee & Boyd, 2012). In this situation, Watson made a noise when the rat entered the room, startling the child. Afterward, the rat was associated with the noise and, therefore, fear in the child. This was not a natural phenomenon. It was learned. The scary noise was innately startling, which would be something genetic (or native), while the rat association was empirical (nurture).

Design a research project that would ascertain how parenting styles influence the development of a child. Include (a) your hypothesis and (b) your method.

Something I read in the textbook about children developing the same regardless of how they are spoken to is something I believe would make for a good research project. Nativists believe that no matter how a child is spoken with, and no matter how much baby-talk is used, speech development will still occur in a regular manner. Empiricists would argue that the “blank slate” of the mind would pick up on the baby-talk and not allow for a child to develop as they should. Having one parental style of only speaking properly and another using baby-talk would be a good project. I believe that the child being spoken to like a child will not develop speech above that of a child until much later in life. This shows that there are some genetic codes that force a child to eventually pick up on speech by becoming more attentive to all speech, while at the same time showing the way the environment conditions the child to continue with “baby talk.”


I suppose there is no real way to know which side of this argument is correct. Many studies throughout history show that environment has much to do with the way children—or anyone at any age—develop, but what about at birth? Genetics play a role in intelligence and other aspects, so why not development? It is very likely that a combination of both nature and nurture combine to create the people that children become, as well as the children that infants become.


Cite this paper

Nature Versus Nurture Question. (2021, Aug 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/nature-versus-nurture-question/

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