Nature Nurture Gender Essay Topics

Posted on by Goll

Nature vs. Nurture in Psychology

by Saul McLeod updated 2015


The nature vs. nurture debate within psychology is concerned with the extent to which particular aspects of behavior are a product of either inherited (i.e., genetic) or acquired (i.e., learned) characteristics.

Nature is what we think of as pre-wiring and is influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors. Nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception, e.g., the product of exposure, experience and learning on an individual.

The nature-nurture debate is concerned with the relative contribution that both influences make to human behavior.


Nature Nurture Debate in Psychology

It has long been known that certain physical characteristics are biologically determined by genetic inheritance.  Color of eyes, straight or curly hair, pigmentation of the skin and certain diseases (such as Huntingdon’s chorea) are all a function of the genes we inherit.  Other physical characteristics, if not determined, appear to be at least strongly influenced by the genetic make-up of our biological parents.

Height, weight, hair loss (in men), life expectancy and vulnerability to specific illnesses (e.g., breast cancer in women) are positively correlated between genetically related individuals.  These facts have led many to speculate as to whether psychological characteristics such as behavioral tendencies, personality attributes, and mental abilities are also “wired in” before we are even born.

Those who adopt an extreme hereditary position are known as nativists.  Their basic assumption is that the characteristics of the human species as a whole are a product of evolution and that individual differences are due to each person’s unique genetic code. In general, the earlier a particular ability appears, the more likely it is to be under the influence of genetic factors.

Characteristics and differences that are not observable at birth, but which emerge later in life, are regarded as the product of maturation. That is to say, we all have an inner “biological clock” which switches on (or off) types of behavior in a pre-programmed way.

The classic example of the way this affects our physical development are the bodily changes that occur in early adolescence at puberty.  However, nativists also argue that maturation governs the emergence of attachment in infancy, language acquisition and even cognitive development as a whole.

At the other end of the spectrum are the environmentalists – also known as empiricists (not to be confused with the other empirical / scientific approach).  Their basic assumption is that at birth the human mind is a tabula rasa (a blank slate) and that this is gradually “filled” as a result of experience (e.g., behaviorism).

From this point of view, psychological characteristics and behavioral differences that emerge through infancy and childhood are the results of learning.  It is how you are brought up (nurture) that governs the psychologically significant aspects of child development and the concept of maturation applies only to the biological. 

For example, when an infant forms an attachment it is responding to the love and attention it has received, language comes from imitating the speech of others, and cognitive development depends on the degree of stimulation in the environment and, more broadly, on the civilization within which the child is reared.

Examples of an extreme nature positions in psychology include Bowlby's (1969) theory of attachment, which views the bond between mother and child as being an innate process that ensures survival. Likewise, Chomsky (1965) proposed language is gained through the use of an innate language acquisition device. Another example of nature is Freud's theory of aggression as being an innate drive (called Thanatos).

In contrast Bandura's (1977) social learning theory states that aggression is a learned from the environment through observation and imitation. This is seen in his famous Bobo doll experiment (Bandura, 1961). Also, Skinner (1957) believed that language is learnt from other people via behavior shaping techniques.

In practice, hardly anyone today accepts either of the extreme positions.  There are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view.  So instead of asking whether child development is down to nature or nurture the question has been reformulated as “How much?”  That is to say, given that heredity and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important?

This question was first framed by Francis Galton in the late 19th century.  Galton (himself a relative of Charles Darwin) was convinced that intellectual ability was largely inherited and that the tendency for “genius” to run in families was the outcome of a natural superiority. 

This view has cropped up time and again in the history of psychology and has stimulated much of the research into intelligence testing (particularly on separated twins and adopted children).  A modern proponent is the American psychologist Arthur Jenson.  Finding that the average I.Q. scores of black Americans were significantly lower than whites he went on to argue that genetic factors were mainly responsible – even going so far as to suggest that intelligence is 80% inherited.

The storm of controversy that developed around Jenson’s claims was not mainly due to logical and empirical weaknesses in his argument.  It was more to do with the social and political implications that are often drawn from research that claims to demonstrate natural inequalities between social groups. 

Galton himself in 1883 suggested that human society could be improved by “better breeding.”   In the 1920’s the American Eugenics Society campaigned for the sterilization of men and women in psychiatric hospitals.  Today in Britain many believe that the immigration policies are designed to discriminate against Black and Asian ethnic groups.  However the most chilling of all implications drawn from this view of the natural superiority of one race over another took place in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

For many environmentalists there is a barely disguised right-wing agenda behind the work of the behavioral geneticists.  In their view, part of the difference in the I.Q. scores of different ethnic groups are due to inbuilt biases in the methods of testing.  More fundamentally, they believe that differences in intellectual ability are a product of social inequalities in access to material resources and opportunities.  To put it simply children brought up in the ghetto tend to score lower on tests because they are denied the same life chances as more privileged members of society.

Now we can see why the nature-nurture debate has become such a hotly contested issue.  What begins as an attempt to understand the causes of behavioral differences often develops into a politically motivated dispute about distributive justice and power in society.  What’s more, this doesn’t only apply to the debate over I.Q.  It is equally relevant to the psychology of sex and gender, where the question of how much of the (alleged) differences in male and female behavior is due to biology and how much to culture is just as controversial.

However, in recent years there has been a growing realization that the question of “how much” behavior is due to heredity and “how much” to the environment may itself be the wrong question. Take intelligence as an example.  Like almost all types of human behavior, it is a complex, many-sided phenomenon which reveals itself (or not!) in a great variety of ways.  The “how much” question assumes that the variables can all be expressed numerically and that the issue can be resolved in a quantitative manner.  The reality is that nature and culture interact in a host of qualitatively different ways.

It is widely accepted now that heredity and the environment do not act independently. Both nature and nurture are essential for any behavior, and it cannot be said that a particular behavior is genetic and another is environmental. It is impossible to separate the two influences as well as illogical as nature and nurture do not operate in a separate way but interact in a complex manner.

Instead of defending extreme nativist or nurturist views, most psychological researchers are now interested in investigating how nature and nurture interact. For example, in psychopathology, this means that both a genetic predisposition and an appropriate environmental trigger are required for a mental disorder to develop. Therefore, it makes more sense to say that the difference between two people’s behavior is mostly due to hereditary factors or mostly due to environmental factors.

This realization is especially important given the recent advances in genetics.  The Human Genome Project, for example, has stimulated enormous interest in tracing types of behavior to particular strands of DNA located on specific chromosomes.  Newspaper reports announce that scientists are on the verge of discovering (or have already discovered) the gene for criminality, for alcoholism or the “gay gene.” 

If these advances are not to be abused, then there will need to be a more general understanding of the fact that biology interacts with both the cultural context and the personal choices that people make about how they want to live their lives. There is no neat and simple way of unraveling these qualitatively different and reciprocal influences on human behavior.

 View the complete article as a PDF document

References

Bandura, A. Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through the imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-582

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York: Basic Books.

Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. MIT Press.

Galton, F. (1883). Inquiries into human faculty and its development. London: J.M. Dent & Co.

Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. Acton, MA: Copley Publishing Group.


How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2015). Nature vs nurture in psychology. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html



Gender Behavior: Nature Or Nurture Essay

Gender is the general identity that defines a person's biological differences as well as their sociological differences used to emphasize the distinctions between males and females. Gender roles are the stereotypes that are assigned to a specific gender by the general culture; these roles help people distinguish their gender differences but at the same time create inequality between the two sexes. A strong example of gender roles implemented by society is children and their awareness of their own gender identification. Children's striving for appropriate behavior according to their stereotypes is largely influenced by their parents and early surroundings. In the given articles about gender roles along with my personal experience as a female and my brother's experience as a male, gender behavior is culturally conditioned, we are not automatically born with gender roles instead they are learned.

Beginning with birth of children, their environment is instantly influenced by the gender stereotypes in the culture. Because the parents wish for their babies to be masculine or feminine, boys are never dressed in pink as it is considered to be a feminine color. We can also distinguish gender though their name. In a traditional Chinese family, people think two different names before the baby is born, one is for girl and one is for boy. Male usually are named "Wai", "Kei"and "Man" which mean grandeur, preeminence and intelligence. Female usually likes to call "Yan", "Mei" and "Yee" which mean flourish, beauty and good carriage. In addition, parents usually buy different kinds of toys for their male and female children. For example, they buy trucks or guns for boys and buy dolls or cooking sets for girls.

In "Girl," Jamaica Kincaid frames a story as a mother's advice to her daughter. The mother constantly orders her daughter how to be women that accepted by the society and further presents what a contemporary daughter must take on to become a woman. I learned gender roles from my parents. When I was a little girl, my parents always bought dolls and cooking sets for me. As Holly Devor states, "Both males and female are popularly thought to be able to do many of the same things, but most activities are divided into suitable and unsuitable categories for each gender class" (418). I remember once I asked my mother to buy me a remote controlled vehicle and she refused to buy it. She said that this kind of toy was not suitable for girls to play with. This experience made me realize that my mother was not keen to buy toys for me that boys like. Besides, my mother is a music teacher; she always thinks that playing the piano is the best thing for girls to do in their leisure time. Furthermore, she believes that playing the piano can make a girl become gentle. For this reason she taught me how to play the...

Loading: Checking Spelling

0%

Read more

Nature, Nurture, or Both Essay

916 words - 4 pages Have you ever wondered what makes someone incredibly smart while others may struggle to understand the simplest things? Are some people just naturally more intelligent than others? Maybe one should consider things such as upbringing and environment as factors in the equation of human behavior. This is what has come to be known as the nature vs. nurture debate. Nature versus nurture is a debate that has been going on as far back as the...

Homosexuality, Nature or Nurture? Essay

1652 words - 7 pages Is homosexuality a result of a deviation in someone's biological make-up, or is it due to the factors of environment while they are growing up? In this essay, I argue that homosexuality is indeed a inborn property rather than the way a child is brought up. To back up my argument I will use religious support, scientific proof and insight from someone who has been around a gay her whole life. This is a topic that has gone through much debate, a...

Intelligence: Nature or Nurture?

1375 words - 6 pages Intelligence by definition is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills” (Oxford Dictionary, 2014). However, many psychologists argue that there is no standard definition of ‘intelligence’, and there have been many different theories over time as psychologists try to find better ways to define this concept (Boundless 2013). While some believe in a single, general intelligence, others believe that intelligence involves multiple...

Alcoholism - nature or nurture?

2780 words - 11 pages The nature nurture debate is one of the most enduring in the field of psychology. Nature is innate behaviour that has been evolved over many generations, under the influence of natural selection. The behaviour is adapted to our way of life and is shown by all members of the human species. Nurture is learned behaviour that is learned by the individual...

Homosexuality as Nature or Nurture

2661 words - 11 pages Homosexuality as Nature or Nurture Human sexuality has been one of society's most interesting, controversial, debated, and misunderstood topics. It has been the topic of numerous books, essays, documentaries, websites, and television magazine segments. More specifically, homosexuality is probably the most misunderstood aspect of human sexuality. This is mainly due to lack of education, exposure, or just a general close mindedness. ...

"Men vs. Men Women: Nature or Nurture"

541 words - 2 pages It's amazing how men ad women can be considered the same but yet be so very different. On the outside they may look alike- two eyes, two ears, a nose, mouth, hands, and so on, but they could not be more different. So the saying goes, "men are from Mars and women are from Venus". The question is why though? Is it...

Nature vs Nurture: Do Genes Or Environment Matter More?

993 words - 4 pages What makes us who we are? Does the answer lie in our genes, our environment, or in the way we are raised? For years, there has been an on-going debate between nature and nurture. T.H. White, author of The Once and Future King, explores the debate through many of the book’s characters. The issue clearly appears in the relationship of Queen Morgause and her sons, the Orkney brothers. The debate caused people to pick a side, to pick nature over...

Nature vs Nurture: Do Genes Or Environment Matter More?

1286 words - 5 pages Nature versus nurture has emerged as one of the most heated debates in the 21st century. It is more aligned towards the internal and external factors that comprise human beings behavior. The internal factors are innate and perceived to be genetically revolved as opposed to the external factors that are influenced by the environment and individuals’ experiences. However, scholars in different fields have researched on the relationship between...

What determines who Jim and Huck are? Nature or Nurture

662 words - 3 pages BY JGCan the influence of Nature and Nurture on two souls be compared? Nature and Nurture both determine Huck's and Jim's personality ad behavior. Nature gives them their inborn traits often. Nature is how they are treated, and Nurture is the society, who natures them, and society nurtured them.Nature helps Huck...

The Nature of Aggression (or is it Nurture?)

1439 words - 6 pages The Nature of Aggression (or is it Nurture?) Every night on the news there are reports about murders, wars, and rapes. But the news isn't the only place where people encounter violent or aggressive behavior. Driving home from work, people get cut off and cussed at on a daily basis. At school, children fight over who will be the first in the lunch line. On the street, people get pushed out of the way if they are not walking fast enough. The...

Who We are is Determined by the Intertwined Forces of Nature or Nurture?

665 words - 3 pages Nature or Nurture Every human being is unique. Were we destined to be the way we are, or have we been made this way through our environment and experiences? Psychology has long been debating the issue of Nature versus Nurture. Characteristics such as hair and eye color are generally recognized to be controlled by genetics. Those on the Nature side (Nativists) claim that genetics control much more, including personality and character. Nurture...

Categories: 1

0 Replies to “Nature Nurture Gender Essay Topics”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *