Discuss the Nature and Nurture Approaches to Understanding Human Behaviour

essay on the nature vs nurture debate for PSYB4

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Olivia
  • Created on: 17-06-12 21:23
Preview of Discuss the Nature and Nurture Approaches to Understanding Human Behaviour

First 628 words of the document:

Discuss the nature and nurture approaches to understanding human behaviour. Refer
to at least two topics in psychology to illustrate your answer. (12 marks)
The nature-nurture debate is a controversy within psychology that is
concerned with the extent to which particular aspects of behaviour are a product of
either inherited or acquired characteristics. Those who subscribe primarily to the
nature side of this argument might see some aspects of behaviour such as the
manifestation of criminal behaviour as being a product of genetics. Those who
subscribe to the nurture side of this argument would see the behaviour as being a
product of environmental influences, for example the criminal behaviour being a
result of imitation.
The nature versus nurture debate has been at its most controversial when
applied to explanations of the differences between individuals, for example in IQ.
When used in this context, psychologists have attempted to determine the
proportion of variation that is attributable to one or the other influences. As with
most issues where there are extreme positions, research shows the truth to lie
somewhere in between. This is what is meant by the Interactionist position ­ that to
understand and explain human characteristics and behaviour both nature and nurture
need to be taken into account. The challenge then is to attempt to show the relative
contribution of both genetics and environment to psychological characteristics.
One way to investigate the effects of nature and nurture is to look at the
behaviour of both Mz and Dz twins. Mz twins are genetically identical whereas Dz
twins are as similar as any other siblings - they share 50% of the same genetic
material, but Dz twins have shared the same prenatal environment and probably go
on to share a more similar environment than siblings. Research studies typically find
many more similarities between Mz than Dz twins, for example Mz twins have a 48%
concordance rate for schizophrenia compared to the 17% for Dz twins. This supports
the notion that many behaviours have a large genetic component. These studies also
indicate that some other factor is involved, as otherwise the Mz twins would have a
100% concordance rate. If similarities between Mz twins are due to nurture rather
than nature, then Mz twins should be less similar when reared apart. The Minnesota
study of twins reared apart has been underway for several decades and has assessed
many such twins, for example the `Jim twins'. Many similarities were found, such as
each Jim had been married twice ­ the first wife was called Linda and the second
called Betty. Such similarities are hard to explain, but overall, the Minnesota twin
study concluded that `on multiple measures of personality and temperament etc, Mz
twins reared apart are about as similar as Mz twins reared together'. Therefore such
findings give strong support to the nature position.
Adoptive siblings share the same environment but no genes. If genetic
influences are of prime importance then we should observe little similarity between
adopted children and their siblings and greater similarity between adopted children
and their biological parents. This is exactly what research has found, lending even
more support to the view that nature is of greater importance than nurture.
Loehlin et al, as part of the Texas Adoption Project, looked at IQ in 200 pairs
of adoptive siblings. The correlation was 0.26 at 8 years but 0 at 18 years. This
suggests that there are some weak early similarities which might be due to shared
environment, but that these virtually disappear by the time the children have left

Other pages in this set

Page 2

Preview of page 2

Here's a taster:

The environment is commonly thought of as being external to the individual,
post natal and acting on a passive individual. However, such a view is oversimplified.
Lerner talks of different levels of the environment. The environment can be internal
and pre-natal as well as external and post-natal.…read more


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all resources »