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The Nature-Nurture Debate

3. Nurture

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In this lecture, we take a second deep dive, but this time into the opposite end of the debate – nurture, focusing in particular on: (i) some of the ancient philosophical thinkers who originally formulated contrasting ideas about how the environment can influence our development; (ii) the ‘tabula rasa’ idea formulated both by Aristotle and Ibn Sina (or Avicenna), followed by John Locke’s then controversial continuation of the theory; (iii) some more modern viewpoints, starting with John B. Watson’s famous ‘dozen healthy infants’ quote, and its less commonly cited follow-up comment; (iv) experimental evidence for environmental influences on our behaviour, using Watson & Rayner’s ‘Little Albert’ study to evidence acquiring fear, and Bandura’s ‘Bobo Doll’ study to evidence developing aggressive tendencies; (v) some potential impacting factors of our physical environment, including evidence for raised temperatures and overcrowding increasing people’s tendency to aggress; (vi) a study by Happ et al. (2013), which demonstrated prosocial behaviour in videogames increasing prosocial behaviour in real life.


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).

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APA style

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

MLA style

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

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