Type of paper: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Psychology, Nature, Nurture, Personality, Behavior, Children, Development, Environment

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/04

Nature Vs. Nurture: Do They Work In Isolation, Or Does Each Contribute To Personality And Behavior

The ideological war between the nativists and the empiricists continues to spur an endless debate in the circles of social sciences, especially in psychology. While this is the case, the role of inheritance and environment continues to be a topic of hot contention by the day. With both sides bearing indisputable facts, the debate has changed direction. Currently, the debate is shifting from whether it is about nature vs. nurture, to the question: how much do they contribute to personality and human development. While this is even more complicated, scientists in the social spectrum have resorted to investigating and proving whether or not the two factors – nature and nurture – work independently in shaping personality. This thesis is an endeavor to unravel the truth behind this question. The paper illustrates that both nature and nurture play a central role in determining the personality and the development of a human being. Additionally, the paper focuses on the counterarguments that stick to the traditionally one-sided belief that it is either the environment, or genetics. The conclusion sums up the most significant findings of the paper.

Nature vs. nurture: do they work in isolation, or does each contribute to personality and behavior

Currently, the nature-nurture debate is not an all-or-nothing kind of argument (Fleming, 2004). On the contrary, social scientists have come to acknowledge the reality that both sides of the argument bear substantial facts, which cannot be disputed. Ordinarily, when both sides of an argument are factual, the likelihood that there will be no end to that debate is exceptionally high. This being the case, the only coherent thing left to do is to replace the conventional nature-nurture debate with the question: do they both contribute, and if so, how much? However, it is critical to note that, the “how much” part of the question may not be practical because quantifying the contributions may be impossible. For this reason, the most realistic thing to do is to establish whether or not both contribute to the shaping of personality and development. This paper uses all the nature oriented theories (biopsychology, psychoanalysis, and cognitive psychology) and the nurture oriented perspectives (humanism and behaviorism) to explicate the thesis – Nature and Nurture contribute to personality and human development, and neither works in isolation.

Nature and Nurture in Determining personality and behavior

The most pronounced contemporary psychologist in the nature-nurture debate is Arthur Jenson, an American scientist who carried out a study using African American males and white males. Subjecting them to the same conditions and tests, Jenson established that on a general scale, the white males were more intelligent than the African American males. From this study, Jenson came up with a conclusion that sparked yet another hot debate. He concluded that genetics or hereditary factors contributed 80% to human intelligence. Jenson’s findings reflected the theory of Francis Galton, a renowned relative of Charles Darwin. According to the 19th century psychologist, genes were completely responsible for human development and personality. Galton, therefore, concluded that the genius factor runs in the family and is inherited. He believed that the environment had absolutely nothing to do with behavior and personality.
Biopsychology explains that nature is a bigger contributor to personality, intelligence and human development. According to biopsychology experts, the distinguishing features are passed down from generation to another through hormonal substances, genetics and other neuro-chemical substances (McLeod, 2007). According to psychologists associated with this branch argue that personality and human development are innately passed down. Biopsychology simply defines the connection between biological aspects and psychological elements of the brain and other distinguishing factors.
Related to the theory of biopsychology is the psychoanalysis point of view. According to this theory, such tendencies as aggression and sex drive are purely determined by the genetic characteristics passed down from the parents. The theorists associated with view point are strict believers in the full role of nature. Another theory that is associated with innateness and heredity, but attempts to create a link between the nurture and nature facts is the perspective of cognitive psychology. According to this branch of psychology, personality, and human development are determined by innate intellectual or mental structure which is persistently altered by the environment. In point of fact, this is the most realistic viewpoint because unlike the others, it is realistic and acknowledges the fact that innate features cannot exist in isolation. On the contrary, they are affected by the surrounding.
In furtherance of the cognitive explanation, it is essential to point out the fact that cognitive psychologists acknowledge that such factors as memory are affected by the environment. For instance, an individual with a perfect memory innately, could develop memory issues due to being brought up in a harsh environment. Considering such factors as child abuse, unstable families and alcoholism, it is clear to see that the conduct and personality of a child can be molded by the environment.
Having discussed the nature point of view, it is critical to comprehend the nurture side of the argument as well, so as to come up with the link between the two – a link that is the impetus of this thesis. As mentioned earlier, the nurture side of the argument is best explicated through such concepts as behaviorism. Skinner (1957) explained behaviorism as a concept that is molded by the surrounding in which an individual lives. Skinner (1957) arrived at the conclusion through various scientific observations and experiments. Foremost, skinner (1957) used the language factor in explaining behaviorism. Arguably, language is the most significant illustration of the fact that nurture is a little bit more notable than nature in determining the self. According to skinner and other like-minded psychologists, when a child is born, their brain is a void slate, which they refer to as Tabula rasa. They argue that whatever is fed into the brain, determines the personality and behavior of the child.
Bandura’s (1977) perspectives of human development and behavior change led to what is referred to as the learning theory. According to Bandura, such tendencies and factors as aggressiveness are learned. Using the Bobo doll experiment, in the year 1961, psychologists arrived at the conclusion that behavior is acquired rather than inherited. In addition to the views of Skinner and Bandura, Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs explains the self concept – another significant illustrator that nurture contributes greatly to the personality of an individual (McLeod, 2007). As a matter of fact, the chase of comfort and proximity to human needs determines our personalities. It may seem like a fruitless endeavor trying to create a link between nature and nurture, but using the above discussed perspectives, it can be effortlessly proven that the two are closely related, and have a near equal contribution to the development of personality and human behavior.
Today, it is a matter of universal knowledge that children subjected to good institutional instruction perform better than those in poor schools. For instance, children in the developed nations’ schools perform exemplary compared to their third world counterparts. Essentially, it does not mean that all the children in the developing nations are innately weak in the cognitive sense. It implies that the developed nations provide better environments for the children. This far, it is possible to infer that the environment plays a fundamental role in determining the performance of a child. On average, children in developed nations are better performers and grow up to have a sense of self worth. With a high self esteem, the children grow up with positive thoughts, good behaviors and feelings of satisfaction.
Worth of note, however, is that in the same developed nations with good schools, there are children (however few) that perform poorly, develop a low self esteem and feelings of dissatisfaction. Similarly, in the poor environment, there are children that perform extremely well and grow up successful and contented. This explains something about nurture. Fundamentally, it means that it is not all about the environment. On the contrary, there is some innate aspect to be considered. It means that some students are innately weak, and that the environment in which they are brought up does not matter much. Practically speaking, a person with a low IQ will not perform exemplarily even if they were subjected to the best of schools. Similarly, a person with a high IQ will perform relatively well even when they are taken to poor institutions. This explains the role of nature.
Worth of note is the reality that nature is mainly concerned with the physical attributes of a person. For instance, such deformities as albinism are genetically transferred from the parents to the off-springs. Similarly, the body posture of an individual can be traced back to their parents. While this is the case, it is true that nature affects personality. Research in social circles explains that the physical characteristics of a person. For instance, it is factual that in most cases; such deformities as dwarfism are genetically passed down the generations. As such, a dwarf, who may not be comfortable with how they look, has nature to blame. It is possible that the condition (dwarfism) will affect the way such a person relates to other people around him. Ordinarily, a person with such a condition as dwarfism develops a low self esteem, and may feel inferior to others. This way, he develops negative thoughts, negative feelings, and other lowly tendencies that may affect his capacity to socialize. His personality becomes tampered with, and in the end, he or she may become anti-social. This way, nature affects personality. The contrary is accurate for a person with an attractive physique. Such a person will always feel good about him or herself, have a sense of self worth, develop positive feelings, and have strong social skills. These improve his personality and make him contented. This way, nature alters and determines the personality of the individual.
On the other hand, nurture affects and determines the personality of an individual. Research indicates that people from a friendly environment have admirable personalities, unlike the people from struggling backgrounds and neighborhoods. Criminologists argue that the upbringing or parenting of a child contributes to the probability of such children engaging in juvenile delinquency and criminal activities. A child brought up in the shanty residential areas such as the ghetto areas faces a lot of difficulties, which plunge them into crime. In the 1990s the ghetto culture contributed to high crime rates in the United Nations. Organized crime was rampant in such areas as Harlem. In the third world nations, slum culture is associated with crime, and this is the direct opposite with the affluent neighborhoods. This explains the role of environment on behavior and personality.


While it is proven from the above discussion that nature and nurture contribute substantially to behavior and personality, some proponents argue that the argument has an end, and that it is either nature or nurture. While this may not be applicable to modern thinkers, such psychologists as Skinner, Bandura, Maslow and Francis Galton held strict positions (McLeod, 2007). Similarly, as explained above, early social scientists such as the criminologists relied on nature alone to come up with conclusions regarding behavior. This may not have ended there because in the 1920s, the American Eugenics Society recommended the sterilization of all people confined in the psychiatric institutions. The sterilization of these men and women, they argued, could eliminate the negative genes from the society, hence reducing the probability of there being psychiatric cases in alter generations.
In a nutshell, all the proponents of the hardliner theories and branches of psychology – cognitive psychology, biopsychology, psychoanalysis, humanism, behaviorism, and so on, are proponents of the nurture-nature debate which will never end in a mutually acceptable conclusion. Presently, however, there are no opponents to the fact that nature and nurture contribute to personality and behavior.

Pros and cons

Both the nature argument and the nurture proposition have pros and cons. Foremost; the nature argument is easily provable. For instance, using the physical attributes, it will not be difficult to tell the potential of an individual. For instance, a child born of parents with a high IQ is likely to have the same. As such, the capabilities of the child can be foretold. Similarly, the physical attributes that affect the self esteem and feelings of satisfaction can be explained using the nature argument. On the other hand, the nature argument has several cons. for instance, currently; there are immigration policies, especially in the European countries, which tend to discriminate against Asians and Africans. While they may not expressly say the reasons for such discriminative measures, it is the reality that they do not want to introduce the “inferior” genetic characteristics in their region. As a matter of fact, such measures are designed based on the nature argument of personality and behavior.
Another con associated with the nature side of the argument is seen in what was proposed in the 1920s by the American eugenics Association – the proposal to sterilize all men and women in institutions concerned with psychiatry (McLeod, 2007). Such recommendations violate the fundamental human rights of the individuals. The first pro of the nurture argument is that is substantially practical, and can be applied in such fields as parenting. Secondly, it gives people the hope that there is a possibility to make it in life, even when such persons are born to parents of low capacity. Using the nurture argument, a parent can determine the future of his or her child by providing a friendly and enabling environment. On the con part of the story, the nurture argument may discourage people growing up in unfavorable environments. It may destroy the hopes of such people, making them give up on the pursuit of a good life.


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Fleming, B. E. (2004). Sexual ethics: Liberal vs. conservative. Lanham, Md. [u.a.: Univ. Press of America.
Galton, F. (1883). Inquiries into human faculty and its development. London: J.M. Dent & Co.
McLeod, S. A. (2007). Nature Nurture in Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html
Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. Acton, MA: Copley Publishing Group.

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