8 Aug 2022


The Nature vs. Nurture Debate: What Determines Who We Are?

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Academic level: College

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Behaviorism started in the 20th century with psychologist Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov was performing research into the digestive structure of dogs, and he accidentally discovered classical conditioning which he termed the process of learning via associations. He noticed that dogs salivated upon seeing the lab technicians who fed them and therefore concluded the dogs associated the lab technicians with food ( Tabery, 2014).    Pavlov through experimentation conditioned the dogs into salivating at the chiming of a bell as he had earlier paired the food with clanging bells. 

Evolutionary Concepts were initially visible in Greek writings for instance in the work of Anaximander as well as Empedocles. The former observed that animals could be changed from one kind to another while the latter noted that the animals could be made of numerous combinations of pre-available parts. In the 19th century, Lamarck projected his theory of the transmutation of species and that qualified to be the first wholly formed evolution theory ( Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2014).    A few years later, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel published a novel evolutionary theory and elaborated further on what had earlier been projected. 

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Baby Genie’s story began 20 months after she was born in 1957. Clark Wiley locked her away believing she was insane and separated her from her partially blind mother as well as six-year-old brother ( Steen, 2013).    Wiley spoon-fed his daughter solely on milk and Pablum and communicated to her in growls and barks while beating her with wooden paddle each time she said anything. 

Thesis: Research about what influences child development whether by genetics or if the majority of influence can be found in the environment is a major question relating to the nature-nurture debate. The debate has been at the lead of psychology for many years. The purpose of this paper is to try and reply this question applying the case study of Genie. Moreover, the essay shall look at some of the responsibilities a multidisciplinary group would play in a case similar to Genies and if there was any optimism of rehabilitation. Apparently, the big question that had to be retorted is whether or not it was late for Genie to advance into a normal human being. 


Nature role 

People need nurture to develop their full potential. Nature takes place organically; however, nurture is the manner in which people develop their behavior, personality as well as intelligence. Humans are mostly hardwired by nature and therefore have the ability to produce wholly nonetheless are limited if proper nurture is not provided. The attention and time that is imperative for true development were not available for the majority of Genies childhood. It is essential to note that all humans have the capacity to attain a new language, but that was not the case with Genie who at thirteen years of age can scarcely comprehend or say a word ( Prinz, 2014).    This is an indication that albeit specific behavioral and cognitive skills are hardwired in the form of nature, they need to be enriched via the practice of caring and loving nurture. 

The initial approach about nurture-nature deliberation in the acquisition of language is referred to as nativism. This is fundamentally the notion that acquisition of language is an innate capability of human beings. Therefore, the approach is known as innatism. Nativism is a concept that dates back to philosophers Kant and Plato whose belief was that knowledge is derived from human nature ( Tabery, 2014).    Today nonetheless the model is fundamentally related to the famous linguist Noam Chomsky; a staunch supporter of the innatist or nativist theory of language acquisition. Chomsky clarified the knot between his notions on language innateness and Plato's first situation of the nature of mind. 

Conversely, another approach about nurture-nature controversy is the acquisition of language is referred to as empiricism. Notably, empiricists are of the idea that children acquire language by extracting all scientific data from the environment. According to this group of people, language acquisitions revolve around the formation and the result of nurture. Therefore, this approach is what they termed behaviorism ( Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014).    Behaviorism is an old plan dated back many years but in recent literature links it to philosopher B.F Skinner; a renowned proponent of empiricism and behaviorism. 

Nurture role 

Genie was raised in isolation and spent most of her days tied to a bed and locked up in the bedroom. Many believe her language problems were because of physical abuse when she made any noise. Wiley, her father did not utter a word while whipping her but growled and barked at her like a dog ( Gottlieb, 2014). Months after her discovery, Genies mother observed just after her isolation she listened to her saying words. This is an indication therefore that Genie was in the process of learning a language before incarceration, therefore, proving Chomsky's theory. However, this theory would be against Lenneberg who had earlier noted the brain of an infant before the age of two has not fully developed for language acquisition ( Tabery, 2014).    It is nevertheless noted that in her entire lifetime, Genie failed to learn sentence construction and grammar which according to Chomsky divides the language of people from other species. This might be an indication that Genie had passed the important era for the acquisition of language. 

With Genie’s background of operant conditioning, people propose the behaviorist model would be the method to rehabilitate her. This indicates that the group dealing with her condition would need to change the ramifications of an action. Numerous journals on behaviorists claim the infant can draw enough scientific data from the well-organized setting. As per empiricists and behaviorists, language is attained by association and therefore, they assert acquisition of language as the associative procedure ( Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014).    To such minds, acquisition of language is similar to any other process of learning linked to cognitive development. They further project that the beneficial quality of communication plays an essential role in the ubiquitous distribution. Individuals who come in contact with it adopted it thanks to its beneficial impacts and therefore, language spread across the world. 

It can be presupposed that Genie had receptive and expressive language disorders because of her isolation. Also, it may be possible that sections of her language issues might have related to the fact that Genie’s oral muscles had not fully matured for the little child to utter correct sounds. In the course of the years of isolation, she was fed on soft drinks, and baby foods and research indicate she could leave food bits in her mouth until the time enzymes in her saliva began to disintegrate the food. Genie would receive particular attention from a language and speech therapist to attempt and overcome her feeding and speech complexities ( Gottlieb, 2014).    Language intervention tasks would also be active with her as the therapist would interact and develop a therapeutic link by aptly talking and playing with her. Mostly, the therapist should demonstrate how sounds are developed and deploy a variety of exercises to solidify her mouth's muscles. 

Nature-Nurture Roles in Baby Genie 

Nurture and nature controversy about the question of how people possess language capability has existed for long starting among the linguists. Today there is no clear victor regarding the deliberation as both environmental factors and stimuli (nurture), and genes (nature) appear to play important and vital roles in the acquisition of language. Individuals cannot disregard the fact that human behavior is apparently a combination of both environmental and genetic constructs. Maybe these correct acquisition of language as well ( Coll, Bearer & Lerner, 2014).    Perhaps, specific genetic features including nutritional requirements or an enormous sour brain have predestined people in some way to acquire oral communication that in turn has developed a full language as a ramification of environmental aspects, for instance, social system, upbringing as well as the deployment of symbols. 

Language is essentially a complex trait that develops with the aid of both nurture and nature. Without both, language cannot wholly develop to its ultimate potential. This is apparent from the living example of a little girl named Genie who illustrates a living example of nurture and nature to operating in tandem. In her situation, Genie was isolated from other people for the first thirteen years of her childhood ( Beaver, Barnes & Boutwell, 2014).    Genie has a perception of solely two words, nonetheless once integrated into community, her use of words increases very fast. This, therefore, provides evidence to support the nurture point of the debate because since Genie never discovered the language of her own. Nonetheless, she attained complete comprehension of grammar. 


The manner in which human beings possess the ability of language is a matter of elongated controversy among linguists due to the various theories advanced that with different explanations. Some of the linguists believe that the language capability is the outcome of natural knowledge. Different to other species, human beings possess the innate ability that is depicted as genetically coded. To linguists, language is the result of genes (nature). Different minds assert that the capability of language is acquired through experience extracting all linguist data from the exterior environment. It is fundamentally the result of nurture also relating to stimuli or environmental factors. 

Linguists believe that there is thought to be vital, sensitive period regulated by a person's genome, which is universally entirely within the species. In the course of this short time span, something can be achieved that cannot be once the opportunity is lost. In the case of Genie, the crucial juncture was lost, and the probability of grasping all the concepts of grammar and language vanished into thin air. The collaboration of both nature and nurture is needed to complete the knowledge as well the deployment of language. Apparently, nurture teaches the concepts while nature controls the important period where a person has the capability to acquire knowledge. Genie, similar to how other children grow would have attained normal language characteristics if her father had kept her closer to other siblings or maybe engaged her in conversations. 


Beaver, K. M., Barnes, J. C., & Boutwell, B. B. (Eds.). (2014).    The nurture versus biosocial debate in criminology: On the origins of criminal behavior and criminality . SAGE Publications. 

Coll, C. G., Bearer, E. L., & Lerner, R. M. (Eds.). (2014).    Nature and nurture: The complex interplay of genetic and environmental influences on human behavior and development . Psychology Press. 

Gottlieb, G. (2014).    Synthesizing nature-nurture: Prenatal roots of instinctive behavior . Psychology Press. 

Prinz, J. J. (2014).    Beyond human nature: How culture and experience shape the human mind . WW Norton & Company. 

Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014).    Positive psychology: An introduction   (pp. 279-298). Springer Netherlands. 

Steen, R. G. (2013).    DNA and destiny: Nature and nurture in human behavior . Springer. 

Sternberg, R. J., & Grigorenko, E. L. (Eds.). (2014).    Environmental effects on cognitive abilities . Psychology Press. 

Tabery, J. (2014).    Beyond versus: The struggle to understand the interaction of nature and nurture . MIT Press. 

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