‘Nature and nurture interact; both are vital to understanding and explaining human behaviour.’ Referring to this statement, discuss the nature-nurture debate in psychology.
Nature is the idea that behavior is determined by pre-determined factors such as biological mechanisms (for example, your genetics). Nurture is the idea that behavior is determined by non pre-determined factors such as the environment.
One theory that supports the idea of Nature is the ‘Theory of Evolution’ by Charles Darwin. This states that the most advantageous traits in an animal (including humans) will get passed on to their offspring, and traits which are not as advantageous will not be passed on. This presents the idea that those most capable of surviving are most likely to reproduce. As a result, human behavior as it is today may arise as a result of advantageous genes being passed along generations of humans.
However, this theory can be seen to be seen as too reductionist and simplistic. This is because it does not include other individualistic factors which may affect the behavior of a human, such as its environment.
One case study that can disprove the idea of human behavior being as a result of biological mechanisms is the Bobo Doll experiment by Bandura. In this experiment, children were seen to be more likely to hit the Bobo doll when they witness adults hitting the doll and being rewarded for hitting the doll. Likewise, when the adults were not rewarded for hitting the doll, the children were less likely to also hit the doll. The actions of the children were shown to be down to environmental factors, which disproves the Theory of Evolution which supports Nature because the behavior of the children has changed as a result of their surroundings.
On the other hand, another case study which supports the idea of Nature is the Monotropic Theory of Attachment by Bowlby. This states that babies have an innate mechanism to associate with their primary caregiver in order to survive. Without this innate mechanism, babies may not have a reliable source for basic necessities like food and water, and so may die. Furthermore, by associating with the primary caregiver that caters to the baby the most, the baby can make links and associations as to what to expect in future relationships, leading to more stable relationships in the future, and being able to produce children in more stable conditions. This innate mechanism may be a biological mechanism obtained through generations.
Nature and Nurture may also been be seen as working alongside one another. One example could be in Schizophrenia, where an individual may hold a gene that promotes Schizophrenia (Nature) however it may not be expressed until there is an environmental trigger (Nurture). This may explain why Schizophrenia is often diagnosed in the late teenage/early adult stage and not in earlier ages, as this stage is often a period of high stress for humans. This is also why it is ‘vital to understanding and explaining human behavior’ as both Nature and Nurture can explain causes of Schizophrenia.
However, some cases may only be an example of either Nature or Nurture. For example, if a women smokes, then her eggs may be negatively impacted, and so this may have a negative impact on her children. This is arguably a cause for ‘nurture’ rather than ‘nature’ as the negative impacts on her children may be as a result of the mother smoking (an environmental cause for damage).
To contradict this, there may be further evidence to explain why nature and nurture may be looked at simultaneously. This is because in some examples humans may possess the gene for a certain characteristic, however it is expressed at a later stage, for example humans growing facial hair at the early teenage stage. This could be due to factors due to maturation as the child develops, or it could be due to environmental factors as well. Both are equally as important as each other in assessing the cause of human activity and show that both are vital into ‘understanding and explaining human behavior’.