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Discuss psychological research in terms of its contribution to the "nature-nurture" debate (30 marks)

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Discuss psychological research in terms of its contribution to the "nature-nurture" debate (30 marks) The nature-nurture debate in psychology (and philosophy) is concerned with whether certain behaviours (or all) are a product of for example either genetic or environmental factors. Those who argue for nature are deemed 'nativists'. They suggest that any ability present at birth is determined by genes and thus nature - behaviour is pre-programmed. 'Empiricists' argue that all behaviour is a consequence of interaction with the surrounding world. Newborn babies are a 'blank slate' at birth and thus any behaviour is a result through nurture. Evolutionary psychologists (nativists) assume that all behaviour is a product of natural selection. For example, depression still exists because it once served a survival purpose to the ancestors. Depression is beneficial for an individual that has lost in status conflict. It renders them demotivated therefore unwilling to pursue another fight. This reduces further injuries and thus maximises their survival and reproductive success. Physiological psychology assume that stress is a response governed by biology e.g. ...read more.


In addition, Mineka et al (1984) found that it was easier to condition monkeys to fear snakes than flowers, supposedly because snakes posed as a survival threat to their ancestors. This suggests that conditioning can be affected by innateness. The nature-nurture debate can be explored with the example of gender. Dr Money's theory of neutrality suggests that all babies are born neutral - they are a 'blank slate' and that with sex reassignment and the appropriate environmental factors, gender can be reassigned. However, there is a critical period of 2 years. An alternative explanation is that gender is pre-programmed before birth (Dr Diamond). Supporting evidence comes from a study where testosterone was injected into female foetuses of rats before birth. They found that the rats appeared and acted like males after birth e.g. they attempted copulation with female rats. Further research have found physical differences in the brain of both genders in both transsexual humans and rats. They named this the Sexual Dimorphic Nucleus (SDN). ...read more.


Whilst on the other hand a poor environment equates to small environmental changes to having a bigger impact. Turkheimer et al (2003) studied data of 350 children and found that variations in IQ of children of poor background were due to shared environment and found not genetic links (heritability 0.10). Rich families had heritability of 0.72. Therefore supporting the view that a poor environment will permit smaller changes to having a bigger impact on behaviour and the opposite for richer environments where emphasis is more on genes. A more contemporary view on the debate is that biological and psychological factors are too entwined that it seems nonsensical to separate them. The diathesis stress model provides a reasonable explanation. It combines both nature and nurture and suggests that individuals may be more prone to illness due to genetic vulnerability but will only be triggered by environmental cue e.g. stress. Tienari (1994) found that adoptees schizophrenic biological parents only developed the disorder if the adopted family was rated as 'disturbed'. In other words the illness was triggered only under appropriate cues. Therefore, nature and nurture coincide in influencing behaviour. ...read more.

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