A Discussion of Modern Psychology's History Highlighting One of Its Most Influential Theory's: Nature Versus Nurture

Topics: Nature versus nurture, Human nature, Tabula rasa Pages: 5 (1779 words) Published: October 30, 2010
A Discussion of modern Psychology’s history highlighting one of its most influential theory’s: Nature versus Nurture

The mind- body debate and Modern Psychology

JoAnne Castrechino
University of the Rockies

This paper will examine how the nature-nurture argument has been a part of psychology’s history since Sir Francis Galton proposed the idea in 1869. It will further discuss how researchers continue to try and understand the mind-body relationship. It will discuss early ablation studies, explore a review of John Dewey’s book Human nature and conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology and look at other’s ideas about this age old question, were we born to behave a certain way or did we live in an environment that played a part in our behavior? I think it will be eminently clear that this argument has been one of the biggest theories that has and continues to have a strong influence on modern psychology.

A Discussion of modern Psychology’s history highlighting one of its most influential theory’s: Nature versus Nurture
He told the Judge “If you let that man walk out of this building, I will kill him”. This is what a young man of nineteen told the Judge who had released a man on his own recognizance that had been charged with a violent crime toward his “mother” (she was actually his mother’s best friend). Two hours later this young man did exactly what he said he would do and killed this man. What drove him to kill? Was he born with a killer genetic makeup or did he learn his behavior from his upbringing and surroundings?

Human behavior is the transformation of our thinking, feeling, perceptions and understanding. Trying to understand behavior has been a central aim of psychology. If we are to understand behavior we need to understand what is manipulating this behavior. Almost as long as philosophers have been asking the questions, scientists have been trying to reveal the answers. As Human beings, we seem to have a curious desire to understand what drives behavior. This drive to understand human behavior has resulted in the age old question is it nurture or is it nature? This paper will explore how the nurture versus nature debate (the mind body debate), that has inundated psychology from its infancy, is one of the most prominent theories in the history of psychology and continues to shape the practice of psychology today. Sir Francis Galton initially proposed the idea of nurture versus nature with his book Hereditary genius: An Inquiry into its laws and consequences (1869/1892). Galton suggested that intelligence was inherited and that men born into privilege had a better chance of accomplishment than those who had more modest beginnings (Galton 1869/1892). Galton also suggested however that if these men born into poverty were exposed to the “right” teaching opportunities than they would have the same chance as the men born into privilege (1869/1892). Galton’s theory became what we know today as the on-going debate between nature and nurture thus, creating decades of research to prove that one was more powerful than the other to explain human behavior. Pierre Flourens used pigeons to study the brain’s affect on behavior. Flourens discovered that if he took pieces of the birds brain out consequently it would affect its behavior (Goodwin, 2008). Flourens ablation study’s were for the sole purpose of proving phrenology wrong thus paving the way for more scientists to study this phenomena further (Goodwin, 2008). Karl Lashley continued these ablation studies and furthered the research. Lashley proposed that animals did have the capacity to learn so that they could survive in their environments and demonstrated this with his rats in the maze studies (Goodwin, 2008). While Lashley also looked at behavior and its relationship to how much of the brain was taken out, he also was interested in how this “destroying” of the brain also affected their ability to learn....

References: Berger, R. L., Frederico, R. C., & McBreen, J. T. (1991). Human behavior: A perspective for the helping professions (3rd ed.). White Plains, NY: Longman.
Cason, H. (1924, July). Human Nature and Conduct: An introduction to social psychology [Review of the book Human Nature and Conduct: An introduction to social psychology by John Dewey]. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 19(2), 192-194.
Galton, F. (1892). Hereditary genius: An inquiry into its laws and consequences. (Original work published 1869) Retrieved from http://galton.org/books/heredity-genius/text/pdf/galton-1869-genius-v3.pdf
Goodwin, J. C. (2008). A history of modern psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
McLafferty, C. L., Jr. (2006, February/March). Examining unproven assumptions of Galton’s nature-nurture paradigm. American Psychologist, 61(2), 177-178. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.61.2.177
Sternberg, R. J., Grigorenko, E. L., & Kidd, K. K. (2005). Intelligence, race and genetics. American Psychologist, (60), 46-59. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.1.46
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