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The Nature-Nurture Debate

1. Defining Nature and Nurture

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This first lecture begins by outlining the distinction between nature and nurture explanations for behaviour, using the example of aggression. An important point made early on is that modern perspectives on behaviour consider it largely too complicated to be explained by either nature or nurture factors alone. Instead, gene-environment interaction is introduced as a vital contributor to explanations for behaviour. The example of depression is used to illustrate this, highlighting contributory factors like being biologically related to other sufferers, as well as experiencing negative life events.


In this course, Dr Lydia Kearney (University of Kent) explores the nature ‘versus’ nurture debate in psychology. The first lecture prefaces 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. The second lecture takes a deep dive into the nature side of this debate, introducing Mendelian genetics and explaining the concept of heritability. The third lecture explores 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. The fourth lecture brings in a modern perspective on the interactions between environmental and genetic factors when explaining phenotype expression. The fifth and final lecture uses Dr Kearney’s research specialism of social anxiety 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 a lecturer and Deputy School Director of Education in the School of Psychology at the University of Kent. Dr Kearney’s main areas of interest are social anxiety and experiences of mental imagery, particularly how the two interact and impact attention and interpretation biases. Dr Kearney’s recent research has included investigations of the links between imagery and rumination/emotion, incorporating mixed qualitative and quantitative methods.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

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

MLA style

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

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