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Nature - Nurture Debate

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Discuss the assumptions made about nature and nurture in two areas of psychological theory or research (30) The nature-nurture debate concerns the extent to which human behaviour is determined by heredity (nature) and to what extent it is the product of environmental influence (nurture). The controversy regarding the nature-nurture debate stems back to 1800 where it originated between psychology and philosophy. The philosophers represent the empiricist stance, whereby a baby is born with a mind like a blank slate - Tabula Rasa and they are shaped by individual experiences. On the other hand, there are the Nativists who believe that our inherited characteristics are the key influence on our individual characteristics. The nature aspect of the debate relates to the biological approach within psychology, this covers areas such as; genetics, biochemistry and brain structure. Research has been conducted into these areas in order to prove the greater influence of nature. Research has been conducted by Gottesman into the prevalence of schizophrenia between relatives. Gottesman found that if both parents have schizophrenia there is a 40% likelihood that a child of theirs will develop the disorder. ...read more.


This supports Lerner's levels of environment which proposes that there is no such thing as pure nature as we are already influenced by our mother's environment. This links in with the Transgenerational effect research by Marcus Pembry who found that environmental influences during the time when sperm and eggs are developing can affect the children they later produce. Research and theories have proposed an interaction between nature and nurture. The diathesis-stress model states that both a genetic predisposition to a mental disorder and environmental stressors are necessary for the condition to affect an individual. Further interaction of the two influences in the form of genotype and phenotype. Genotype is the genetic make up of an individual and the phenotype is the observable physical and behavioural characteristics. The phenotype is a product of both genetic and environmental influences. For example, two children may be born with a similar high predisposition to a condition; the environment which the children are in will be the deciding factor in the development of the condition - an environmental trigger. ...read more.


There are case studies where biology has been the stronger influence over nurture. Imperato - McGinley's study into the Batista boys found that they were born as females but when they reached puberty their reproductive organs changed to male. They were raised as females, but easily changed to males once the physical change had occurred. However, there are also case studies where nurture has ruled over nature. The case study of Mrs Went who had a male reproductive system and a male sex centre in the brain was raised as a female and continued to live her life as a female. These decisions to live as male or female were able to be made despite the structural differences in the brain. The differences occur especially in areas relates to sexual and reproductive behaviours such as the hypothalamus. Overall, both nature and nurture do undisputedly significantly influence every aspect of an individual. Nature seems to be the stronger force in determining characteristics as these are biologically predetermined and cannot be easily changed. However, Lerner's levels of environment mean that we can never truly separate nature from nurture. Both areas produce and influence us so it is increasingly difficult to make judgement on which one is more important. ...read more.

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