Nature Nurture and Interactionism | Study Coach UK

Nature Nurture is a philosophical debate, that sets out to explain whether it is genetics factors or the environment that is more influential in shaping human development. Is our personality due to the genes we inherited from our family or did we acquire our personality because of being raised in a certain environment? Were we born this way or did we learn to be this way? 

In simplistic terms the Nature Nurture argument therefore suggest that if we behave in an aggressive manner then we have inherited the trait of aggression from our family or we learned the behaviour from being in an aggressive environment. The same rationale is given to explain personality, for example, extroversion and introversion and also to explain the development of intelligence. Meaning that we have either inherited a low or high level of intelligence or it is the quality of the teaching environment that will ultimately determine our level of intelligence.  


For those studying a GCSE in Psychology the technical term for Nature is Nativism/Nativist argument. Nurture is referred to as Empiricism/Empiricist argument. The philosopher/psychologist Frances Galton (Darwin’s cousin) was a seventeenth century Nativist theorist, Rene Descartes was also a seventeenth century Nativist theorist. John Locke (seventeenth century) and John Watson (nineteenth century) were Empiricists supporting the environment argument. Nativism and Empiricism is clearly an old debate and you might be wondering whether there could be a third perspective. The answer is yes, it is a combination of both Nativism and Empiricism and it is called Interactionism.  


To aid understanding here is an example of the Nativist, Empiricist, Interactionist approach as applied to the topic of intelligence. The Nativist argument would be that genius runs in families. If your descendants were intelligent or present close relatives are highly intelligent then this will explain why you are highly intelligent. Intelligence is deemed to be in your bloodline. If I struggle to learn and am deemed to be of low intelligence then according to Nativism I have inherited the inability to learn, resulting in low intelligence.  


On the other hand Empiricists would argue that children are not born clever and they are not born with low intelligence. John Locke argued that children could be liken to a blank slate (a tabula rasa) children come into the world knowing nothing and through nurturing, good teaching and learning, children acquire knowledge. The blank slate or blank canvass gets filled in. Intelligence is therefore acquired as the child interacts with his/her environment. 


The third perspective of Interactionism appreciates that Nativism and Empiricism argument both have merits. Interactionism approach therefore believe that during the developmental stages a child will develop intelligence because of hereditary factors and social factors/experiences. 

CONTACT: If you have a question about Nature Nurture, then do get in touch with Study Coach UK. Email: Morel Benard 


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