In this Nature vs. Nurture essay example, we will offer topics, titles, an outline, and what it takes to make a great paper. We begin with a strong introduction and thesis statement, followed by body paragraphs that offer in depth analysis of the topics as well as current evidence. We end the essay with a succinct recap of everything under the conclusion section. In critical essays, the main thing to focus on is development of a strong perspective to offer readers a unique and interpretive analysis of a text or topic(s).
Table of Contents
5. Essay Hook
6. Thesis Statement
7. Body of Essay
9. Works Cited
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Is Nurture more influential than Nature?
To be or not to be: Nature versus Nurture
The Eternal Debate: Nature versus Nurture
Selected Title: Understanding Origins: Nature versus Nurture
Background on the Debate of Nature vs. Nurture
Interaction of Genes and Environment
Personality Traits and Genetics
D. Middle of the Road
The nature versus nurture debate has existed for thousands of years. Although the phrase was coined in 1869 by Francis Galton, an English polymath, humans have wondered what determined a person’s behavior and actions. While many believe a human’s behavior and personality are formed via a mixture of both nature and nurture, some have taken the side of ‘nature’, while others take on the side of ‘nurture’. Those that feel the nature side shapes people, contend that genotype and DNA determine personalities and traits. Those on the nurture side contend that humanity is born with a ‘blank slate’. Interactions and learning experiences thus shape a person’s understanding of life, allowing a person to acquire various attributes.
The age-old debate of nature versus nurture is nothing new, except now that humanity has a better understanding of genes and genomes, such knowledge has paved the way for new exploration of an archaic topic.
Whichever side people choose, there is merit to nature and nurture in helping form a better picture of what makes humans, human; this essay will explore nature and nurture and provide a potential ‘middle of the road’ interpretation, representing modern perspectives on the topic.
The nature versus nurture debate first came into the spotlight via ancient Greek philosophers through their examination of nature versus nurture in child development. (Rutherford) When the topic was raised again in the early modern era, developmental researchers sought to explore nature and nurture further, by using empirical research that provided context via theories. This is when they tested hypotheses and chose sides. Some became Nativists (those that support ‘nature) and others became Empiricists (those that support nurture). “Nativists believe that aspects of human development such as intelligence and personality are determined by genetic make-up. Empiricists however, believe that there are acquired.” (Conkbayir 186)
Notable Empiricists like John Lock made popular the Latin phrase: tabula rasa. This phrase means ‘black slate’. The child’s mind serves as a blank slate from which learned experiences and interactions can form a child’s personality later and into adulthood. When Empiricists examine child development, they aim to look for how the child was raised, who they interacted with, what traumatic experiences they endured. They then base their conclusions on what they can gather from the child’s past.
Nativists demonstrated their beliefs from the nature perspective through examples like Chomsky’s 1965 Language Acquisition Device. Chomsky believed “the ability to understand and reproduce language was innate in all humans due to an existing mental capacity and the requisite vocal mechanisms.” (Conkbayir 187) Certain aspects of human personality like anger, flight or fight, or language can be interpreted as ‘nature’ driven developments. Chomsky and those with similar perspectives, provided strong evidence supporting the idea that genes can impact how a person behaves as he or she develops.
When examining the debate from the nature perspective, language appears to be the best direction to further understand this side of nature versus nurture. Chomsky believed human beings possess an innate ability to develop language. Although children can imitate and form habits, thus allowing nurture to provide some role in language acquisition, it is the potential predisposition to acquire competency and speech in language that makes it lean more towards nature. According to Chomsky, children can map language.
There is, I believe, good evidence that a generative grammar for a human language contains a system of base rules of a highly restricted sort, a set of grammatical transformations that map the deep structures formed in accordance with base rules onto surface structures, and a set of phonological rules that assign phonetic interpretations, in a universal phonetic alphabet, to surface structures. (Chomsky 150-151)
Modern technology has dispelled much of nativist thinking in relation to certain aspects of language development. However, new research into genetics has reopened the nature side of the argument. Genetics has been used to better understand the criminal mind as well as the origins of mental illness. Robert Plomin in his article, “Beyond Nature versus Nurture”, refers to nature as inheritance. People inherit from their parents’ certain predispositions that may make them more inclined to be aggressive, depressed, alcoholic, and so forth. “… cognitive ability and scholastic achievement, several recent studies found genetic effects overlap completely. For behavior problems, similar results indicating genetic overlap have been reported for major depression and generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, and phobias, and major depression and alcoholism.” (Plomin 30) When people are analyzed and evaluated for their behavior, some of it can be related back to family history and genetic predisposition.
If humans inherit some aspects of their personality, then the idea that certain things that make people human come from pre-determined information seems plausible. Although genetics cannot account for every part of a human being’s personality and behavior, it can account for some of it. A good example of this is schizophrenia. Researchers are still unsure of the number of genes responsible for development of schizophrenia, but they believe it to be an inherited mental disorder. (Plomin) People who have schizophrenia have the tendency to have a relative who also developed it at one point during their life.
Schizophrenia can manifest early in life or very late in life. The prevalence of very late-onset schizophrenia is low affecting roughly 1% of the population. However, those that are affected experience auditory and visual hallucinations. The most common cause of the development of this form of the disorder is family history. (Plomin) Although a genetic link cannot be established, those with family history of schizophrenia are more likely to develop it than others with no prior family history. Because family history plays a role in developing schizophrenia, it can be used in the nature argument. Meaning, people born with a specific problem stemming from family genes could result in mental health problems or disordered behavior. Although people with a family history can become schizophrenic, the potentiality for development is not 100%.
Saying Schizophrenia is inherited does not automatically denote certain development of the disorder. However, genetically speaking, a predisposition makes the brain more vulnerable to environmental stressors that allow for formation of this mental disorder. The same can be said of alcoholism. Not everyone with alcoholism in the family will become alcoholic, but when exposed to drinking these people may be more predisposed to developing an addiction to alcohol than other people. Environmental stressors are another part of the nature versus nurture debate and represent the ‘nurture’ side of the argument.
Empiricists see the environment as playing a crucial role in the development of a child. As an infant, the person experiences according to the empiricist, a ‘blank slate’ mentality where nothing has influenced his or her thought processes. From there, various experiences and interactions begin to form the identity and behavior of the person. “Empiricists assert that there is no endowed knowledge at birth. Instead, all knowledge comes through the senses, and mental development reflects learned associations. They argue that external stimuli naturally provoke sensations.” (Bornstein, et al. 3) Furthermore, through association, individual raw sensations meld into what is considered, ‘meaningful perceptions, creating a personality and behavior.
For example, two siblings with the same mother and father are raised in different households. They both have a genetic predisposition to depression but only one sibling is exposed to physical and verbal abuse. Later in life, the sibling that experienced abuse develops depression, while the sibling that grew up in a loving, stable home is active and happy. Although both siblings have a brain more vulnerable to depression, only one develops depression due to the environment that sibling grew up in. Empiricists feel the personality and behavior of an individual is learned as he or she ages rather than having these attributes be innate.
A strong proponent for environmental learning, John Watson believed he could train infants (chosen randomly), to become any kind of specialist he wanted. He believed a child’s talents, race, or potentialities had no impact on what the child could become because the environment dictated how the child develops. Watson proposed that most “emotional reactions are the result of learned associations between unconditioned stimuli and neutral events so that these neutral events come to elicit emotional responses through classic conditioning.” (Bornstein, et al. 257) Some of what Watson stated may be correct however, it is important to also see what modern researchers believe when it comes to environmental learning.
In the last few decades, new theories have emerged to explain how humans learn. Social learning theory posits that human behavior stems from the integrated point of view of behavioral, environmental, and cognitive influences. Modeling allows for continuous reciprocation of these influences. “Bandura’s work emphasized the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others from the assumption that most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling.” (Baker and Brandell 128) If humans see something, they understand how it is done and can learn how to do it themselves. For instance, a person sees another person fishing. That person did not know how to fish before. However, after seeing what steps the other person took to fish, that person can mimic these steps and learn.
Learned behavior serves as the basis for nurture. If parents teach their children to behave in a certain way, they will learn to act accordingly. An example of this is writing using the right hand. Some children are born left-handed but may be taught to only write with their right hand. Therefore, although the trait is left-handedness, the learned behavior replaces the right hand as the dominant hand. This changes not just how the child writes, but uses his or her hands. Many other examples exist where children are taught to behave in one way that counteracts what the children are born with and develop. This perspective strips the potential influence of genes, and proposes that all behavior is learned behavior. However, as Chomsky noted, as geneticists note, not all behavior is learned behavior. This is where the Empiricist perspective falls short.
To state that hereditary factors remain irrelevant to a person’s development is not supported enough by evidence. Even when taking into consideration what the mother eats and where she lives as the fetus develops in her womb, that is not enough to determine the environment as the sole cause of human development. Therefore, the latest research is dedicated to incorporating both nature and nurture in human development. Nature represents the potentiality of an individual and nurture and environmental stressors.
Middle of the Road
When it comes to combining the nature and nurture sides of the debate, many use the 50-year Twin Study example to state human development involves nature and nurture. The study, published in May 2015 in the Nature Genetics journal, surveyed 2,748 studies all conducted within the last fifty years as well as researched 14.5 million sets of twins and their respective personality traits. What the researchers found was remarkable. “the reported heritability is 49%.” (Downey 25) This means, loosely, that nurture counts for almost 50% of what people become. The other 50% percent is genetic. The study did not state every case was 50/50. Some that had bipolar disorder has a 70% genetic origin and 30% due to environmental factors.
Still, what the twin studies show, is the murky line of nature and nurture. What seems like a potentially one-sided explanation turns into a complex, multifaceted exploration of causes and development structure. It seems like life and the way the human body works, the origins of human behavior, lie within the mixture of genetic and environmental. This makes sense considering the spectrum that is visible in all of life. From the range of emotions people feel to the varied processes happening within the human body, balance is needed to create stability in life. Humans require a mixture of influences to develop normally.
Epigenetics seems to marry nature and nurture by determining that factors like environment, can cause change in phenotype while keeping the genotype the same. For example, many people in the United States suffer from obesity. Obesity has an impact on health by making many people who are obese, more susceptible to certain cancers. Three systems, including histone modification, non-coding RNA-related gene silencing, and DNA methylation are presently considered to start and maintain epigenetic change. If obesity promotes development of diabetes, some segments of the population that never experienced diabetes, are beginning to see occurrence of the disease to the point where it becomes family history (Clark and Lappin).
Obesity and diabetes appear to be a major topic of interest in epigenetics. “Studies are beginning to uncover specific genes affected by epigenetic modifications that accumulate over time. One diabetes-specific example is the hypermethylation of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit Vlla polypeptide 1 promoter in elderly twins compared with young twins.” (Clark and Lappin 140) If specific aspects of nutrition play a part in diabetes development, which then affects genes, this leads to a combination of nature and nurture in that, the environment affects the genes that lead to development of predisposition. Although epigenetics is new, this area of study can answer many questions that were left unanswered from the Nativists and Empiricists of the past.
Gene expression is the execution of the blueprints that are genes. Gene expression can be affected by the genes themselves and the environment. Epigenome is the interface regulating gene expression via environmental feedback. Putting it simply, when the directions in the blueprints cannot be executed properly because there are missing components like proteins and carbohydrates, changes occur. Without these proteins and carbohydrates or anything else needed to run the blueprint, the environment can then have an impact on the development of a person’s genes. This can be seen in the human immune system.
Sophisticated host defense mechanisms have developed among vertebrate animals to help combat potentially hostile antigens. These mechanisms chiefly consist of “the immune system and the epithelial cells that cover the body surface. Accumulating studies reveal epigenetic mechanisms in collaboration with signal transduction networks regulate gene expression over the course of differentiation, proliferation and function of immune and epithelial cells.” (Obata, et al. 226) Fine-tuned via physiological conditions, these cells change. Although some environmental factors can lead to inflammation and immunodeficiency disorders. Multiple Sclerosis for example, generates problems with a person’s myelination processes within the brain.
Epigenetic regulation of the immune system constantly shifts due to introduction of new viruses and other pathogens. Europeans were exposed to many different pathogens when they ventured into the Americas. The natives however, were not exposed to such pathogens, which resulted in the deaths of millions. This shows the environment having a direct effect on the genes and the genes expressing themselves in a way that precedes environmental stimulation. If the environment plays a role in how humans develop at the genetic level and the consequences is altered genes that then create pre-existing conditions, this shows how nature and nurture can go together.
Epigenetics is a great new area of research that promised a better understanding of nature versus nurture. It offers deeper insight into how humans development and evolve on earth. Furthermore, it provides the idea that one does not exist without the other.
In conclusion nature versus nurture has deep roots in the work of ancient Greek philosophers. They sought to understand child development and see what causes a child to behave and act a certain way. This was then carried on to the 19th century and beyond where people like Chomsky and Watson chose sides to see which made the most sense. From a Nativist perspective, people were born with innate knowledge and potentiality. To some extent this is true because people are born with certain predispositions. Some may be more predisposed to alcohol addiction, while others to mental disorders.
From an Empiricist perspective, people exhibit learned behavior due to their environment. Two siblings sharing the same parents could exhibit different behavior and lifestyle choices based on where they were raised. To some extent this way of thinking rings true because learning does involve interactions and experiences with the environment. However, neither nurture or nature could explain the reality of human development as seen in the 50-year long Twin Study.
In the end, it seems 50% of human development can be attributed to the environment, and 50% to genes. When putting this into context through the study of epigenetics, this means nature and nurture play a part in how humans behave. Epigenetics states gene expression can be changed leading to a change in the genes. People see this through the immune systems of people exposed to various pathogens compared to those not exposed.
Whether epigenetics will answer all the nature versus nurture questions is still unknown. But, it does offer some understanding of how genes play a role in development and how the environment could affect genes. There is so much to discover when it comes to genetics and the environment. It remains a mystery that is begging to be solved. Hopefully it will be in time.
Baker, Karen E, and Jerrold R. Brandell. Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis: One Hundred Years After ‘little Hans’. Routledge, 2013.
Bornstein, Marc H, et al. Development in Infancy, Fifth Edition: A Contemporary Introduction. Taylor and Francis, 2013.
Chomsky, Noam. Language and Mind. 3rd ed., Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Clark, Alexander, and Shalom Lappin. Linguistic Nativism and the Poverty of the Stimulus. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
Conkbayir, Mine. Early Childhood and Neuroscience: Theory, Research and Implications for Practice. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.
Downey, Myles. Enabling genius: A mindset for success in the 21st century. LID Editorial, 2016.
Niculescu, Mihai D, et al. Nutrition in Epigenetics. Wiley, 2011.
Plomin, Robert. “Beyond Nature versus Nurture.” Genetics and Mental Illness, 1996, pp. 29-50.
Rutherford, M. D. Developmental Psychology: An Evolutionary Perspective. Lulu Press, 2016.
After reading this Nature vs. Nurture essay example, we hope this helps you understand what it takes to craft a quality essay for your academic endeavors. Nature vs. Nurture can be a difficult topic to tackle because it lacks the kind of finite direction that other topics have. However, we hope we have assisted you on your journey towards academic success. If you need any additional assistance, feel free to leave a comment below, and we’ll be sure to assist you.
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Nature versus Nurture
How to start an essay
When writing an essay, a writer first needs to organize their thought and ideas in a manner they can make sense of the flow of the same. It is common for one to be overwhelmed by the ideas they have in for a given topic especially where an essay is concerned. Organizing the thoughts and ideas is a crucial part as it helps with reducing the clutter in the thought process. This means by the time one is writing down their ideas they need to have solid topic. Topic selection is an aspect that requires the writer to be very conversant with the ideas associated with the same. As such, choosing a topic requires the writer to have some insight on the question at hand. This is relative to the ease associated with writing about something one is conversant with. From the topic, flows the ides to the included in the paper. Writing down will give order to the content and improve the element of delivery. In this essay the topic of choice is, nature versus nurture. This has a comparative approach and further argumentative. To set the pace in the argument to be presented in the paper, the writer needs a thesis statement. This is an argumentative statement that guides the thought process of the writer and further sets the direction of the ideas for the readers to follow. Thesis statements come at the end of the introduction of the essay.
Example of introduction:
“The nature versus nurture is a debate that is common around the elements of bringing up and the capabilities passed to the children and what they end up becoming in the future. Talents and precepts that people may have growing up are largely attributed to either nature or having come from the way the children were brought up. For some, nature which largely the genetic makeup of a person is the sole reason they are the way they are at an older age. For the other faction of the debate, it is the way that one brings up their children that determines the success they have in their adulthood. It is important to note the impact environments have on the growth of a child. Much like a seed, a child is open to the platform they are introduced to. As such, a large part of the development is attributable to the environment their parents introduce them to.”
Example of thesis:
“Nature has some profound impact on the development of a child, however, it is the element of nurture which determines their level of growth and most importantly development.”
How to write the body
When writing the body of the essay, it is crucial to note this the part where the argument is delivered. As such, all the ideas in this section are directly associated to the argument the writer wants the readers to interact with. It is in this section, the writer presents both sides of the argument and then presents the winning side, with support from various ideas they have, drawn from statistics or their personal opinion and observation. Each of the paragraph has to be designed in such a way to represent one set of ideas. By packaging the ideas into paragraphs, writer is able to direct the readers in a manner which is orderly. However, it is crucial for the writer to note the need to create transition between the paragraphs. Remember, this is an argument and all the part of the body are directed towards the argument the writer is trying to bring out. In this case, there are three paragraphs, where one is on nurture, another on nature and the argument. The number of paragraphs in this are kept on the minimum as the essay is short and hence precision is key.
Example of body paragraphs for nature vs nurture essay:
Example: (1st )
“Nature is associated with the genetic makeup the parents and hence those of the child. When a child is born of a high pedigree, this means their parents are of a higher standard when it comes to a certain attribute. This could be, the child is born of a family that is musically adept. As such, they also have the elements of quality vocals and a great appreciation for sound whether instrumental or from vocals. Families where most of the parents are into athletics or generally sports, the children also tend to be into the same. There is a genetic elements that impacts the paths the children take from an early age and this is also reflected in the choices they make when they are old enough. Other than that there is the fact that they also have the genes for sports or quality vocals. This is something they get from birth rather acquire as they go along. However, there is an element to be considered with the reference to the same, the environment.”
“Nurture on the other hand is associated with the environment the children are brought up in. where a child grows up in an environment, where most of the adults are in the financial industry or even sports, they are likely to take that path as they are brought up in an environment nurturing them towards such. Growing, parents ensure they give their children the very best. This is part creating the environment to enhance the chances of their children developing the qualities they want. As such, it is important to consider the environment the children.”
“Nature is mostly associated with the way one is born, as such all the advantages or disadvantages one may have are largely defined by their genetics. Who were your parents? However, in reality, it is the environment the child grows in which has the most impact on how the child turns out. Growing up in family of singers has more to with the environment than it has to do with the genetics. It is the exposure to the musical world that forms the foundation for the child to follow. As such, based on the experiences they have been through in the environment they have been brought up in. Ideally, while one may have been born into a family of athletes which translates into having the genetic makeup for sports; it is the environment which determines the growth and life choices they make along the way. This explain why most of the children will tend to take the path their parents took in their career. There are families that have been in politics for the longest time through several generations. However, it may not be that they are great orators, rather it is the environment they have been brought up in. This is the exposure they have had throughout their lives. If the environment is not right, a great orator may not even discover their talents and develop them. They are likely to live through life trying something different other than being a public speaker.”
How to conclude
Conclusions are the close of the argument developed in the paper. This is the part where the writer summarizes all the main points they have states in the body paragraph. It is a section that should give a reader all the viewpoints given in a certain essay, without the need for them to read through the paper.
Example of conclusion:
“The debate about nature versus nurture is one that has been around for a while. For the faction on nature, they feel much of the development is associated with the genetics one inherits from their parents. The nurture faction on the other hand associate growth with the environment one is brought up in. is important to note, genetics are a crucial part of development, however, it is the environment which the growth and development of person. As such, nurture has a more profound impact on the growth and development process than nature.”