Nature vs nurture

Nature refers to the genetic and hereditary factors that influence who we are, from our physical appearance to our personalities, whereas nurture refers to all the environmental factors which impact who we are, including our early childhood experiences, how we were raised, our social relationships, and our surrounding culture.

The nature versus nurture debate is one of the oldest debated topics in psychology. Different branches of psychology have tended to take a one versus the other approach. The longstanding debate centres around the relative contributions of genetic inheritance and environmental factors to human development and there are many different approaches to this debate.

Some philosophers such as Plato, suggest that certain things are natural, or they occur naturally, regardless of environmental influences. Other well-known philosophers such as John Locke, suggest that the mind begins as a blank page so that everything that we are, and all of our knowledge is determined by our experiences.

Empiricists take the view that all or most behaviours and characteristics result from learning. These behaviourists believe that all actions and behaviours are the results of conditioning. Some theorists believed that people could be trained to do and become anything, regardless of their genetic background.

A simple question can raise these issues. For example, when a person excels academically, did they do so because they are genetically predisposed to high intelligence or is it a result of an enriched environment? If a man has a violent temper, is it because he was born with violent tendencies or is it something, he learned by observing his own parent’s behaviour?

Some characteristics are tied to environmental influences. How a person behaves can be linked to influences such as parenting styles and learned experiences. For example, a child might learn through observation and reinforcement to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Another child might learn to behave aggressively by observing older children engage in violent behaviour in the playground.

Even today, research in psychology often tends to emphasise one influence over the other. What researchers do know is that it is the interaction between heredity and environment which is often the most important factor of all.

Throughout the history of psychology, this debate has continued to stir up controversy, although today, the majority of experts believe that both nature and nurture influence behaviour and development.

Increasingly, people are beginning to realise that asking how much heredity or environment influence a particular trait is not the right approach. The reality is that there isn’t a simple way to unscramble the influences which exist. These influences include genetic factors that interact with one another, environmental factors that interact such as social experiences and overall culture, as well as how both hereditary and environmental influences interact.


Although genetics and environment play their part to a certain extent, we can learn things like empathy, compassion, tolerance and patience. There is room for change if we want to change, our lives aren’t set in stone there are things we can change.

We must consciously think about what we want to do with our lives and consider who we want to keep in our lives. When we unconsciously live our lives and ignore our conscious thinking, we will change nothing.

Deal with childhood issues and be mindful about your beliefs and make sure they’re not tying you into anything that allows for change, then decide on a way forward and live presently.

You mustn’t rely on your parentage to see you through, you must rely on yourself.


5 Sep, 2019

4 thoughts on “Nature vs nurture

  1. I believe both Plato and John Locke are correct in their comparisons. Something significant happens in heredity factors as well as environmental factors, identity comes from both.

    But I’m inclined to believe that our past lives influence who we are, possibly to a large extent.

    1. Thanks Tim. Yes, I believe them also. I also agree with you, through my spiritual beliefs I believe our past lives also influence who we are to a large extent.

      Environmental and heredity factors are also a key factor with our parents conditioning us, but that said and as I have proved, we are all capable of change.

      The key lies in us not relying on our unconscious thinking, but consciously thinking about how we want our lives to go. We must also look at and deal with any past issues. Our past issues are what hold us back.

      There was so much from my own childhood that I know I needed to change. I remember having an internal conversation with myself about the things I needed to change.

      We can work to change most things, as long as we’re not relying on our unconscious. It’s our unconscious that ties us into our behaviour traits and patterns, without giving those our attention.

  2. I have always believed nurture played a greater role than nature but Tim raises an interesting point I hadn’t considered before, and that makes sense too.

    Our past life experiences must contribute to an equal amount.

    1. Thanks. Yes, before we live a physical life we’ve already had spiritual lives before this and they do very much play their part in our lives.

      Of course being conditioned from a very early age doesn’t help. It also doesn’t help that parents parent as they have been parented.

      That’s fine as long as the experience is positive, but I still believe we get to call the shots on some of our experiences and can change certain elements of ourselves.

      I don’t think we try hard enough. There’s never anything wrong with us, it’s always someone else’s fault.

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