Nature vs. Nurture Discussion Questions

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

There is so much research behind the nature vs. nurture debate. The discussion questions presented here will help your students learn and think about nature vs. nurture on a deeper, more critical level.

Nature versus Nurture Discussion Questions

Description: Is it time for your students to learn about one of the oldest psychological debates ever, by learning about the nature versus nurture debate? You can help to facilitate your students' understanding of nature vs. nurture by asking and discussing the following questions together as a class.

Basic Questions About Nature and Nurture

  • Nature deals with anything that is determined by the genes and hereditary factors. What are some examples of characteristics that are influenced by nature?
  • Nurture deals with anything that is heavily influenced by the environment. What are some characteristics that are influenced by nurture?
  • You may be thinking that both nature and nurture seem to be well defined. Since they are so well defined, then why is there such a huge debate about nature versus nurture?

Questions About the Philosophies

  • Many philosophers were or are on one side or the other when it comes to debating about behaviors. What were the beliefs of Descartes and Plato in regards to behaviors? What name was given to people that held the same beliefs about behaviors?
  • Other philosophers believe in behaviorism and empiricism. What is behaviorism? What is empiricism? How does empiricism relate to what a person can learn and become? Why? How does behaviorism relate to the nature vs. nurture debate?
  • Biologists developed the theory of evolution many years ago to help explain some phenomena over history. What is the theory of evolution? How do you think evolution comes into play in the nature versus nurture debate? Explain your position with evolution and nature vs. nurture.
  • Still, some philosophers and scientists hold another belief when it comes to whether nature or nurture influences learning and development. Which term means the belief that the mind begins as a blank slate? Is there evidence to support tabula rasa? If so, what evidence exists? If not, why do you think the evidence doesn't exist to support this belief?
  • Does tabula rasa help to support the nature or nurture side of the debate? How does it help in the debate?

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