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The Nature-Nurture Debate

2. Nature

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About this Lecture


This second lecture deep dives into the nature explanation, exploring the origins of modern genetics, heritability, and their application to human behaviour. Dr Kearney begins by introducing Mendelian genetics/inheritance: the origin of modern genetics centred around plant research. Mendelian genetics/inheritance has three key principles. Firstly, specific traits can be encoded in ‘units’ (genes), which are passed on from one generation to the next. Secondly, each specimen receives one ‘form’ (allele) of a gene from each of its parents. Thirdly, when two different alleles are present, it is the dominant allele that will have its characteristic expressed. The next part of the lecture notes Galton’s later views that more complicated human traits, like personality and intelligence, might also be inherited. The last part of this lecture focuses on heritability within quantitative genetics, investigating how often a particular trait appears in a population, and whether it is more likely than average to appear in genetically related members of a group. The three methods of testing heritability are described as family, twin, and adoption studies.


Heritability is a statistic used in the fields of breeding and genetics that estimates the degree of variation in a phenotypic trait in a population that is due to genetic variation between individuals in that population.


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 - Nature [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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

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