Nurture VS Nature: Critical Essay

Nurture VS Nature: Critical Essay
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There is an unanswered question about what makes us who we are. What determines our traits? Is it environment or genetics? Obviously, our traits are determined by genetic information that we got from our parents, but the influence of our environment also plays a key role.

Such physical traits as the color of our hair or eyes depend on our DNA. But can we say the same about our character? This sample essay is an attempt to answer all these important questions. You can order your own original essay on this topic on

Our Genetic Features

The color of our eyes and hair as well as some diseases, like Huntingdon’s chorea, are determined by our genes. According to McLeod (2007), our genes can also affect our height, weight, lifespan, and the possibility of developing some illnesses. Given that these traits are closely related to our biology, many people keep arguing whether or not our behavioral patterns and cognitive abilities are also determined by the genetic factors.


People who believe that everything about us can be explained from the genetic point of view are called nativists. Indeed, we are just another species that appeared due to the long evolutionary process. Our bodies are built according to our genetic code. At the same time, nativists believe that our personality is also determined by genes. These traits just evolve from our birth to maturity.

People have their own biological clocks that rule their behavioral patterns, activating or deactivating them. Bowlby presented a theory that considers the relationship between a mother and her child as a process of inheriting traits that help us survive as a species. Chomsky went further and stated that we learn language due to a special innate mechanism that we are born with. Even Freud suggested that aggression must be determined by our DNA.

Fraternal Twins

There’s no surprise that the relationship between the genetic code and criminal activity remain a hotly discussed issue. An evidence of such a relationship is that fraternal twins show the same behavioral traits even if they are raised separately. Mental health is also a thing that is directly related to our biological features.

If somebody in the family was bipolar, the person has more chances to become bipolar in the future. The same applies to many other mental conditions as well. Researchers also found certain genes that are responsible for a higher probability of developing alcoholism.


Empiricists have the opposite point. They state that the human mind is completely clear of any genetic behavioral patterns. According to this idea, all our personal characteristics are determined by our environment and experience. While our biological development determines the maturation process, our experience forms the way we think and react to any events.

Attachment of Infants

Infants forming attachment is a great example of the empiricists’ point. This attachment develops as a result of the attention given to a child. In other words, children don’t form it if parents don’t give them love. We also learn language based on what we hear from other people.

The development of our cognitive abilities depends on the cultural environment. According to Bandura’s theory of social learning, children observe aggression and imitate it. Skinner also paid attention to nurturing, studying language learning and noting that children copy behavioral patterns to learn the use of new phrases.

Environmental Learning in Watson’s Works

According to John Watson, our behavioral traits develop depending on our experiences. He states that environmental learning plays the key role when it comes to debates about nurture and nature. According to Sincero (2016), Watson believed that a new type of behavior can be formed if a child considers the existing behavioral model unfavorable.

Watson often pointed out that any baby can be raised under certain circumstances so that the child will become a specialist of any kind. He said that such factors as social groups, talents, and potentialities won’t affect the learning process.

Nurturing and Mental Health

We already found out that nature affects our mental condition, but the same applies to nurture as well. Even though some people are genetically disposed to certain mental conditions, they still need environmental options that will trigger the development of this condition. If a person has certain genes responsible for a mental disease, he or she can be raised in a right way to prevent the further development of the disease.

A well-known neuroscientist James Fallon studied the psychopath’s brain and discovered that if such a child is raised in a loving environment, the sociopathic traits don’t develop and so don’t affect the child’s life.


Even though there is a genetic predisposition to many addictions, including alcoholism, they are not completely determined by the genetic factors. A person is much more likely to develop an addiction when being placed in a certain environment where he or she observes alcohol abuse.

The University of Liverpool published a study that revealed an important role of family history in the development of problems with mental health. Children who experience bullying, abuse, and various childhood traumas are more likely to develop mental problems.

Between Two Theories

Most people agree that our behavioral traits are determined by the combination of nurture and nature. Both sides of the discussion have enough evidence to conclude that both these factors are worth considering. The impact of nature on our mental health can be illustrated by twins that develop the same conditions. If one of them has schizophrenia genes, another one has a 50% chance of developing schizophrenia as well.

Thus, now the question is not which factor is responsible for our character and behavior, but what role both factors play. At the end of the 19th century, Francis Galton was the first researcher who asked this question. He said that our cognitive abilities are mostly determined by genetics.

Intelligence Testing

Galton’s position received many positive reviews, that’s why the scientific society became interested in intelligence testing. At first, these experiments were conducted for adopted children and separated twins. Arthur Jenson is one of the most well-known modern supporters of the nativist theory. He studied IQ scores of white and black Americans and found out that black Americans show lower results. He concluded that it can be explained by the inheritance of intelligence.

Obviously, such a point is racist, so it sparked controversy and conflicts. His arguments were logically weak, and scientists agreed that his point was dictated by his political implications. There are many people who try to justify the racial inequality talking about nature, but the truth is, IQ scores are affected by social inequalities. Certain ethnic groups don’t have the same access to education as white Americans do. Inequality is a reason why we cannot compare IQ results of men and women as well.

Nature and Nurture

According to Davies (2001), the modern scientific society understands that complex characteristics of our behavior and intelligence cannot be expressed as a numerical value based on genetic or environmental factors.

Trying to express different features of our cognitive abilities and characters in a form of quantitative values, we forget that our environment and biology cannot work independently from each other. Both systems are important for our psychological characteristics, so we cannot consider them separately.

Unlike empiricists and nativists, most modern psychologists are focused on studying how nurture and nature interact, forming our traits. Psychotherapists agree that even in cases where a person has a genetic disposition for a certain mental condition, it still needs to be triggered by the environment (Feller 2015).

It’s especially important to realize such a relationship between nature and nurture in the 21st century when we learn more about DNA. For example, the Human Genome Project has found certain elements of chromosomes that are responsible for particular behavioral traits. According to McLeod (2007), now scientists are looking for genes that are responsible for such characteristics as alcoholism and criminality.


During many decades, scientists have been debating about the role of nature and nurture in the formation of our traits. Now we understand that both environment and biology play key roles, so it’s impossible to define what factor is the most important. The relationship between environment and genetic dispositions is too complicated to consider these two factors separately.

Even if certain conditions are determined by genes, they also need to be triggered by environmental factors to develop.

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