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Nov 8, 2017 in Sociology

Introspecting Nature versus Nurture Debate

The Book Discovering Psychology by Hockenbury and Hockenbury

Man is a complex being. Even before the establishment of the fields of psychology and neurobiology, scholars had been trying to understand various components that contribute to human development. Correspondingly, the debate on the effects of social environments and genetic predispositions on human development has yet to reach its conclusion. Some argue that behavior is social - it means we adapt and absorb society’s or environment’s general tendencies to know how to behave, while the others suggest that behavior is natural- physiological characteristics of a man determine behavior.

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Presently, scholars seem to have reached an impasse by saying that both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ aspects influence man’s behavior. Yet, there is still much to be discovered on the whole discourse on human development. This paper aims to delve into various positions regarding the “nature versus nurture” debate. More specifically, it describes contribution of the entire debate to the theories on gender. The book Discovering Psychology by Hockenbury and Hockenbury is used as the main source of this paper.

Gender Roles and Behavior

Gender refers to the assumed roles and behavior associated with a certain sexual orientation – male or female. These assumed roles and behavior are usually attributed to cultural and larger social predispositions of a society. By these characterizations alone, it is quite easy to assume what the “nurture” side of the debate is trying to argue. Most scholars advocate that gender is social – that is to say that ideas of sexuality and gender are adapted from a larger society. One of the leading theories that offers this explanation is the Social Learning Theory. The theory suggests that the exposure to different social institutions form and mold the gender concepts of an individual. These social institutions influence an individual according to the kind of society he or she belongs to.

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For example, Latin Americans are known for having tightly knit families where religion is the base for such closeness. Hence, the gender concept of people from this society may come from Christian notions. Another person, who perhaps grew up in a more technologically advance nation, may form his or her gender concept on what he or she sees on the media – being more exposed to various forms of the media. The entire point of this theory revolves around the idea that human behavior is more complicated than born characteristics. The theory further suggests that environment forms these gender concepts through demonstration or modeling.


Contrary to this theory, other scholars suggest that hormones and other physiological factors contribute to gender conception as well. It, on the other hand, contributes to explanations of people who advocate the “nature” factor. They say that biological and other physiological factors are also inherent to the development of gender ideas and, correspondingly, the roles and behavior connected to such ideas. For example, testosterone, a hormone present in a male body, is said to affect overt behavior. It is often attributed to aggressive conduct. On the other hand, estrogen, a hormone found in a female body, is said to be the cause of certain emotional outbursts. Considering that these two hormones are used to determine the sex of an individual and that these hormones do affect behavior, it is quite easy to understand what the “nature” argument contends for. This explanation however cannot explain gender differences completely.

Moreover, these hormones are only said to explain visceral reactions or directly observable behavior. Accordingly, this biological explanation cannot account for the different cognitive processes and perception related to gender differences. Of course, it is does not mean that this argument is illogical and has no basis, rather it should be noted that understanding gender with the help of the “nurture” side of the debate explains much more the complexity of the whole idea of gender. Again, acceptance only of one theory presents an impasse for the whole point of the debate. This only proves that due to the vastness of whole idea of gender, trying to understand it through various perspectives actually explains much more compared to a futile attempt to understand it through one.

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