Nativism vs Empiricism

Nativism versus empiricism, more commonly known as nature versus nurture, has been a hot topic for debate among psychologists in their attempt to understand how someone’s personality develops. Nativism and empiricism are two different approaches to this development, with nativism placing an emphasis on being born with certain innate traits. Empiricism, on the other hand, states that all knowledge is derived from experience. I believe there is a middle ground in this debate, and that who we are is a combination of our genetics and the environment we are raised in.

It is undeniable that genetics play a role in how a person develops through the various stages of their life. Aesthetic traits, such as hair color, eye color, and skin pigment are clearly determined by the genes of the mother and father. However, genetics also plays a role in the passing of certain hormonal traits as well, which have a much more significant impact on the development of the personality. Take serotonin for example. Most psychologists would agree that there is some connection between a serotonin deficiency and depression. It is believed that if a person is born with a serotonin deficiency, they are more likely to suffer from depression later in life. Suffering from something like depression has a considerable effect on how a person develops, and will impact their personality. This and many other similar hormonal deficiencies are purely genetic, and serve as evidence to support the nativism standpoint.

The way a person is raised has a lasting impact on their development in life. Even on the most basic levels, people subconsciously behave the way they were raised to, which tends to be different than how those around them behave. The simplest way I can think to explain this is with an example. When I was staying with my cousins two years ago, we had used the oven to make food. Upon taking the food out and turning the oven off, I opened the oven door to allow it to cool off. My cousin, not anticipating it being open, turned the corner and walked right into it, smacking his shin into it. He was both annoyed and baffled that I would leave the oven door open, even though it seemed so natural to me. At that moment I thought about why I had left the oven door open, and I realized it had to do with my mother. Every time she finished using the oven at home, she would open it to let it cool. I didn’t even question this; I just did as she did. Behaviors like this are common in all people and back up the claim that empiricism makes.

Leave a Reply