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The Nature-Nurture Debate

1. Defining Nature and Nurture

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In this lecture, we think about the distinction between nature and nurture explanations for behaviour, focusing in particular on: (i) the example of aggression to contextualise this debate; (ii) the fact that modern perspectives on behaviour consider it largely too complicated to be explained by either nature or nurture factors alone; (iii) gene-environment interaction as a vital contributor to explanations for behaviour; (iv) the example of depression to highlight contributory factors, such as being biologically related to other sufferers, as well as experiencing negative life events.


In this course, Dr Lydia Kearney (University of Kent) explores the nature ‘versus’ nurture debate in psychology. In the first lecture, we preface the course by proposing the removal of ‘versus’, predicated on the origin of any human behaviour being too complicated to be explained by just one set of factors. In the second lecture, we take a deep dive into the nature side of this debate, introducing Mendelian genetics and explaining the concept of heritability. In the third lecture, we explore the nurture side of this debate, outlining a timeline, from the ancient philosophers who proposed the tabula rasa, to modern research on environmental factors that impact aggressive tendencies. Next, we bring in a modern perspective on the interactions between environmental and genetic factors when explaining phenotype expression. In the fifth and final lecture, social anxiety is used to exemplify how environmental and genetic factors, as well as their interactions, can predict the prevalence and experience of the condition.


Dr Lydia Kearney is Deputy School Director of Education in the School of Psychology at the University of Kent. Dr Kearney’s research areas of interest are social anxiety and experiences of mental imagery, particularly how the two interact and impact attention and interpretation biases. Some of Dr Kearney’s recent publications include 'Observer perspective imagery in social anxiety: effects on negative thoughts and discomfort' (2011) and 'The intra and interpersonal effects of observer and field perspective imagery in social anxiety' (2013).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Kearney, L. (2021, December 13). The Nature-Nurture Debate - Defining Nature and Nurture [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Kearney, L. "The Nature-Nurture Debate – Defining Nature and Nurture ." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 04 Jan 2022,

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