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The Nature-Nurture Debate

3. Nurture

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This third lecture takes a second deep dive, but this time into the opposite end of the debate – nurture. The first part of the lecture introduces some of the ancient philosophical thinkers who originally formulated contrasting ideas about how the environment can influence our development. The ‘tabula rasa’ idea formulated both by Aristotle and Ibn Sina (or Avicenna) is described, followed by John Locke’s then controversial continuation of the theory. Dr Kearney then moves to some more modern viewpoints, starting with John B. Watson’s famous ‘dozen healthy infants’ quote, and its less commonly cited follow-up comment. The next part of this lecture explores experimental evidence for environmental influences on our behaviour, using Watson & Rayner’s ‘Little Albert’ study to evidence acquiring fear, and Bandura’s ‘Bobo Doll’ study to evidence developing aggressive tendencies. The last part of this lectures brings to light some potential impacting factors of our physical environment. These include evidence for raised temperatures and overcrowding increasing people’s tendency to aggress, as well as a study by Happ et al. (2013), which demonstrated prosocial behaviour in videogames increasing prosocial behaviour in real life.


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 - Nurture [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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

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