Intelligence by definition refers to the ability to apply reason, grasp information quickly, comprehend complex ideas, adapt to circumstances and gain knowledge from experience (Kouyoumdjian, 10). The question of whether intelligence is natural from birth or natural throughout the growth stages just never seems to go away, with some people arguing that intelligence is solely dependent on our natural capabilities while others argue that intelligence can be acquired through the process of learning. Hence the question of nature-nurture in the study of psychology arises (Kouyoumdjian, 12). Nature can therefore be termed as one’s ability while nurture can be said to be the opportunities presented to an individual. Our intelligence has been known to be the major determinant of the way we interact with the environment with the level of processing being measured in Intelligent Quotient (IQ).
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The use of the catch phrase nature versus nurture has been known to be a popular version of comparing heredity to environment (Gregory, 32). On the question of nature or innate abilities, it is known that traits like eye color and hair color are determined by a certain coding of the genes. The debate has been taken further with the scientists arguing that individual traits such as intelligence, aggression and even one’s personality are determined by one’s DNA (Gregory, 34-5). Caucasians of predominantly European ancestry are known to score relatively high on the IQ test, while those of black ancestry are known to score 15% lower than the whites. In a typical comparison of two groups which display a significant difference on the test, we can look at the black Americans and American Jews. The blacks are favorites when it comes to occupations requiring low levels of intellectual capacity but high on physical prowess like sports and the opposite is true, that the Jews who display a higher level of intellect venture into fields that require intellectual capability (David, 112). This goes to show that genetics do play a big part in determining one’s level of intelligence. When it comes to the comparison of individuals in a bid to determine whether heritability plays a big role in their intellect capacity, it is important to take into account the environment they live in or grew up on. For example when correlating the IQ’s of twins, it is important to note that monozygotic twins (who grew up in the same environment) would display a degree of variance for a correlation on zygotic (fraternal) twins (David, 115).
Without totally disregarding that the innate abilities of an individual play a role in determining intelligence, the proponents of the nurture theory feel that they really don’t make that much difference and only the opportunities presented by the environments in which we grow up shape our knowledge. It is argued that if the environment totally didn’t play a role, then the identical twins would display exactly the same level of knowledge (Ridley, 103-7). Several experiments have shown that this is not the case. In the case of black Americans who are less involved in lucrative positions requiring intellect, it is argued that the blacks grew up in a gentle tropical environment that wasn’t known for completion hence any need for intellect to keep up the pressures. They blacks were further distanced from seeking intellect after they were taken as slaves and emphasis was put on physical prowess. A further prove of how a people can be shaped by the environment is the way the intellectual Jews were able to survive World War II, and an analysis of the same goes to prove the obvious that with time the Jews have evolved to a super race (Ridley, 108-11).
From the discussion, we can clearly say that it is practically impossible to say that either ability or opportunities solely shape an individual’s intellect. We can also deduce that though partially, the degree by which ones reasoning is affected by either the genes or the environment can be measured. It is also evident that heredity and environment interact in various ways to shape an individual’s behavior though a clear cut line cannot be drawn. Recently there have been suggestions of replacing the “Nature vs. Nurture” phrase with “Nature/Nature” indicating that people have understood the inseparable relationship between the two.
David, Howe. Patterns of Adoption: Nature, Nurture, and Psychosocial Development. London: Wiley Blackwell: 1998
Gregory, Spoh. How Life Really Works Arizona: LWI Press, 2005.David, Howe. Kouyoumdjian, H., Plotnik, R. Introduction to Psychology. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing, 2007.
Ridley, M. Nature Via Nurture : Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.