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.