Are you the way you are because you were born that way, or because of the way you were raised? Do your genetics and biology dictate your personality and behaviour, or is it your environment and how you were raised? These questions are central to the age-old naturenurture debate. In the history of psychology, no other question has caused so much controversy. We are so concerned with nature nurture because our very sense of moral character seems to depend on it.
While we may admire the athletic skills of a great basketball player, we think of his height as simply a gift, a payoff in the “genetic lottery.” For the same reason, no one blames a short person for his height or someone’s congenital disability on poor decisions. To state the obvious, it’s “not their fault.” But we do praise the concert violinist (and perhaps her parents and teachers as well) for her dedication and her hard work which is not based on genetics, it’s always that is acquired from the surroundings, just as we condemn cheaters, slackers, and bullies for their bad behaviour. The problem is, most human characteristics aren’t usually as clear-cut as height or instrument-mastery, affirming our nature–nurture expectations strongly one way or the other.
In fact, even the great violinist might have some inborn qualities perfect pitch, or nimble fingers that support and reward her hard work. And the basketball player might have eaten a diet while growing up that promoted his genetic tendency for being tall. When we think about our own qualities, they seem under our control in some respects, yet beyond our control in others. And often the traits that don’t seem to have an obvious cause are the ones that concern us the most and are far more personally significant. What about how much we drink or worry? What about our honesty, or religiosity, or sexual orientation? Or let it be just a simple but complex concept of Intelligence, they all come from that uncertain zone, neither fixed by nature nor totally under our own control. When we talk about Nature and Nurture, we also incorporate the definition of intelligence. Intelligence is the key element which is a product of both nature and nurture through common believes.
The basic definition of intelligence is to acquire and apply knowledge and skills in particular situations. However different psychologists have defined intelligence in different ways as the global capacity to reason well, act purposefully and take rational decisions in different situations. Nature and nurture debate further takes it’s stand on the intelligence of what affects more or determines individual’s cognitive and problem solving ability. And as we move into discussing the nature and nurture basis of intelligence, one person often gets quoted, Arthur Jensen who presented a revolutionary research paper “how much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement” in 1969 that shaped the nature & nurture debate. Arthur Jensen’s theory of intelligence claimed, on the basis of his research, that general cognitive ability is essentially an inherited trait, determined predominantly by genetic factors rather than by environmental conditions.
He also contended that while associative learning, or memorizing ability, is equally distributed among the races, conceptual learning, or synthesizing ability, occurs with significantly greater frequency in whites than in blacks. He suggested that from the data, one might conclude that on average, white Americans are more intelligent than African-Americans. Jensen suggested that the difference in average performance between whites and blacks on intelligence tests might be the result of innate differences rather than contrasts in parental upbringing, formal schooling, or other environmental factors.
Jensen further surmised from the data that federal educational programs such as Head Start could only raise the IQs of disadvantage children by only a few points and are therefore not worthy of funding. The relative influence of heredity and environment on intelligence tests had been an area of debate since their inception in the 1920s, and the prevailing view of Jensen’s contemporaries was that of environmental factors in the home and school play the decisive role which is totally opposite of what Jensen’s research concludes that 80% the nature affects the individual’s intelligence as compared to nurture which does contribute but not that significantly. And as we look at the modern take on the most unanswerable debate of nature and nurture, now the researches have shown that nature and nurture works together to build one’s intelligence, its rather a partnership and not a competition.
More over many other findings have also been found such as of the epigenetic factors having the biological roots in our DNA where it suggests even though our certain behaviours are controlled by specific genes, they also get affected by the environment, yes the genes get influenced by our surroundings and as it affects the genes, the changes that occurred due to environment stays behind permanently changing the behaviour of that gene which does get passed on to the next generation and that’s how research concludes by saying even though its biological but at basic level its nurture that is playing its part. These are some of the views put forward in the latest researches. Let’s now focus on the theory presented by the psychologists of Virginia university where they claimed that intelligence is based both on nature and nurture.
It was found by the researchers that children born and brought up in wealthier and educated house hold grew up to be smarter as compared to the ones in poorer families. They studied the group of biological brothers and sisters and twins which were raised in different socio economic conditions and families and had different and similar IQs. They compared the IQs of 436 Swedish brothers where one was raised by the biological parents and other by the adopted ones. The researchers found that the brothers who had been adopted had level of intelligence 4.4 points higher that their siblings. The professor of psychiatry at the university states that they are not denying cognitive ability to be genetic based but it’s a naïve idea to say it’s just only genes and also that there is an evidence that justifies the increased numbers, he says its due to the environment’s complimenting nature towards the biological basis.
The research showed that in Sweden people are tend to adopt more and it is ensured by the agencies that the persons who are adopting are more educated than the biological ones. Professor Eric turkheimer of the university says that differences among people in their cognitive ability are influenced by both their genes and environments but the genetic effects have often been easier to demonstrate because identical twins are essentially clones and have highly similar IQs. And on the other hand environmental effects have to be inferred as in the rare event when pairs of siblings are raised by different parents in different socioeconomic circumstances. For this research done by the university, they used the Swedish population data which allowed them to summarise their findings to the bottom line where the point that was made was and contradicts the theory of Jensen is that better educated parents produce real gains in the cognitive abilities of the children they raise. Which means they had the genes but just not that much facilities to showcase it and environment provides them the stage to perform. Therefore, nature and nurture, both work and perform together and intelligence in the product of both.
One advantage of studying with both nature and nurture is that if we can understand what behaviours are learned, rather than innate, then we have the possibility of changing that behaviour for the better. For example, the study conducted by Bandura showed that when children were exposed to an aggressive model they learned to show the same aggressive acts. This shows if a child can learn aggression then we can prohibit what children are exposed to and therefore what they are/ aren’t learning. For example, putting age ratings on films and having the watershed for TV. A weakness of studying nature and nurture can be that it is difficult to separate out the effects of heredity and environment and researchers may expose participants to negative stimuli in an attempt to access the impact of the environment. This therefore raises ethical issues, particularly linked to the protection of participants. A further benefit of studying nature and nurture is that if we know behaviour is innate, rather than learned, then we can recognise that people cannot be blamed for it, as they have no choice.
Instead of being punished for undesirable behaviours, they should be treated or made aware that they are susceptible to health issues and know how to access help. A further drawback of studying both nature and nurture is that as genes and environment are often combine together to affect our behaviour, there may be evidence for both nature and nurture affecting behaviour but often researchers only focus on one or the other. This can lead to problems of reductionism. Overall I feel that it is important to consider both nature and nurture when looking at behaviour as I feel that they both have an impact on a person and their behaviour/decisions and that one is not more important than the other when influencing a person. And when we also look nature and nurture with respect to intelligence, we should consider nature-nurture together as its written that intelligence is based on nature and genetics but an individual also learns from his or her surroundings which elevate their level of intelligence further more. If nurture is the innate ability to think then nurture is the platform to showcase and adapt to the process of cognitive reasoning. Genes and environment are interwoven at extensive level, someway or other environment describes the way the genes will express themselves and that’s how the nature vs. nurture debate intelligence rests.