Nature versus nurture

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The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities ("nature", i.e. nativism, or innatism) versus personal experiences ("nurture", i.e. empiricism or behaviorism) in determining or causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits.

"Nature versus nurture" in its modern sense was coined[1][2][3] by the English Victorian polymath Francis Galton in discussion of the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement, although the terms had been contrasted previously, for example by Shakespeare (in his play, The Tempest: 4.1). Galton was influenced[4] by the book The Origin of Species written by his cousin, Charles Darwin. The concept embodied in the phrase has been criticized[3][4] for its binary simplification of two tightly interwoven parameters, as for example an environment of wealth, education and social privilege are often historically passed to genetic offspring.

The view that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioral traits from "nurture" is known as tabula rasa ("blank slate"). This question was once considered to be an appropriate division of developmental influences, but since both types of factors are known to play such interacting roles in development, many modern psychologists consider the question naive - representing an outdated state of knowledge.[5][6][6][7][8] Psychologist Donald Hebb is said to have once answered a journalist's question of "which, nature or nurture, contributes more to personality?" by asking in response, "Which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?"[9][10][11][12] That is, the idea that either nature or nurture explains a creature's behaviour is a sort of single cause fallacy.

In the social and political sciences, the nature versus nurture debate may be contrasted with the structure versus agency debate (i.e. socialisation versus individual autonomy). For a discussion of nature versus nurture in language and other human universals, see also psychological nativism.

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