The essential characteristics of a nature vs. nurture debate

Written by katie wilson
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The essential characteristics of a nature vs. nurture debate
Children learn in many different ways, but is it innate and natural or learnt behaviour? (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

The debate between the nature and nurture issue has been around for hundreds of years. Nevertheless, scholars still have not decided on which of the two has a greater effect on a person's development. They both have great arguments for and against. The key to the debate is to know the key characteristics, so you can form your personal opinion. One way of doing this is learning about the key scholars. Read up on philosophers such as Plato, Descartes and John Locke for a broader view of the topic.

Function of the Topic

This thought-provoking theory is mainly used to determine cause or blame to an individual's or an animal's behaviour and actions. In American and English law, the nature versus nurture debate is often referenced in murder cases and divorce proceedings as a way to justify uncharacteristic or deviant behaviour.

Evolutionary/Historic Characteristics

In terms and view of evolution, certain things people know about the world are innate but are modifiable by institutions with which they come into contact. This includes: family, education, religion and society. The idea is that human beings have instinctive thoughts and feelings, which can be selectively reinforced over a period of time. For example, if pack behaviour is observed in dogs, collective behaviour such as caring and sharing is apparent while at the same time perpetuating a common genetic pool. Charles Darwin was a theorist who went into great detail on this evolutionary view and is one of the most famous ever to write about this topic.

Scientific Characteristics

Although there are no proven studies on whether nature or nurture has a greater effect on a person's development, there are many scientific views on the topic. These scientific approaches try to break down the boundaries between the two topics. Famous psychologist Sir Francis Galton was one of the earliest scientific debaters on this topic, and he spoke of the differences between nature and nurture in his writings "English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture." This book was published in 1874 and goes into great detail on the scientific approach to the nature/nurture debate.

Philosophical Characteristics

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, determinism -- the view that every event, including human cognition, behaviour, decision, and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences -- is an important characteristic of the nature versus nurture debate. This characteristic debates whether intelligence, for example, is innate or determined by the primary and secondary socialisation and the education we receive.

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