In the article Richard Weinberg provides detailed overview and critical analysis of the nature-nurture debates stressing that it re-appears and every generation of scholars face the problem of revealing whether nurture or nature plays crucial role in forming social behavior. In particular, the author discusses the Plomin and McClearn’s selection of papers devoted to nature-nurture debate and authors’ contributions to identifying what affects human development.
Psychological theories tend to identify the extent, to which genes and environment affect the development of human identity and what makes individuals differ from one another. The nurture-nature debate is flourishing as methodological repertoire has increased and the amount of population, necessary for practical research, is already available. Recent studies on nature, nurture, phenotypes, psychology illustrate that nature plays important role, although one should also consider environmental factors.
Weinberg admits that Sir Francis Galton was the first to create the phrase ‘nature and nurture’, but the debate became a mainstream of social and psychological researches only in the past decade. In their selection of papers Plomin and McClearn provide insightful overview of the past, current and future of nature-nurture debate. Weinberg writes that the book starts with historical inquiries reporting on the earliest experiments on the dichotomy of nature and nurture. The issue of nature-nurture is argued to go by different names, as their meaning depends on the subspecialty of psychology.
All the variations are maturation vs. learning; nativism vs. empiricism; heredity vs. environment; environment vs. biological preparedness and some others. Two key findings are summarized as the following: “first, that high heritability of a phenotype does not mean that environment has no effects, and second, that heritability within groups cannot be generalized to heritability between groups”. (Weinberg) The book also presents burgeoning literature that highlights cognitive abilities and disabilities, associations between personality and temperament, psychopathology and environment, etc.
For example, one of the authors discusses genetics of alcoholism stressing that the nature of genetic influence on alcoholism is mapped from genes to phenotypes. Environmental factors are argued to play central role in development of alcoholism. Weinberg says that the first 300 pages of the book provide excellent introduction to behavioral genetics as the authors present new findings, discuss conceptual issues and develop new methodologies, whereas the final 175 pages present challenges to behavioral psychologists and geneticists.
Two final sections are the result of a series of symposia held at the American Psychological Association Centennial Convention in Washington. The key idea is that the nature-nurture spectrum is identified with behavioural genetics. For example, Weinberg cites Wachs, who argues that “the importance of directly measuring specific genetics and environmental contributions to developmental variability” and “the need to shift from traditional effect or additive models to complex, systems based models of genetic and environmental influences”. (Weinberg)