Beliefs Regarding Nature Vs. Nurture Affect Achievement

Father and son read outsideThe debate between the roles nature and nurture play in human development and capabilities may never end. Many scientists argue that this debate should be retired altogether, since it’s impossible to neatly separate nature from nurture. A person’s genetically determined appearance, for example, might affect the way people react to him or her, creating a chain reaction that builds upon both nature and nurture. According to a new study, though, the way people answer the nature-nurture question may affect behavior and performance. Simply telling people that nurture matters more than nature encourages them to try harder, the study says.

How the Nature-Nurture Debate Affects Achievement

No matter where you stand on the nature-nurture debate, there’s no doubt that hard work can improve achievement. To test the effects information about the nature-nurture debate has on performance, researchers provided articles to two groups of participants on Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein. One group read an article that argued that the men’s achievements were likely due to genes. The other group learned that a challenging environment, not genetics, led to Einstein and da Vinci’s successes.

Researchers then asked participants to remember what they learned in the article while completing a computer task. Those who had read the article arguing that intelligence was genetic concentrated more closely on their performance. This extra attention, though, didn’t improve their performance after making an error. The group that was told that nurture was more important was more efficient in its responses and more likely to improve performance after initially making an error. In fact, when this group paid more attention to their mistakes, they actually did better.

The study’s authors argue that the second group saw the computer task as a chance to learn from a challenging environment. While the nature-nurture debate may never be fully resolved, the study suggests that beliefs about this debate could affect people’s beliefs about their own intelligence, altering both effort and performance.


  1. Gopnik, A. (2014, January 24). Time to retire the simplicity of nature vs. nurture. Retrieved from
  2. Nature or nurture? It’s all about the message. (2014, September 3). Retrieved from

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  • Shay


    September 8th, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Genetics are only going to get you so far.

    Performance and achievement are two things that do not always go hand in hand. You can be super smart but if you have no initiative you can’t tell me that you will always be more of a success than that person who is a hard worker and has been raised to try and try agin to get to that level of success that they desire.

    It helps to have a great starting point, but I think that it helps even more to have that drive within you that will not let you give up until you see improvement and accomplishment.

  • Sadat M.

    Sadat M.

    September 8th, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Hi Zawn,
    Thanks for these interesting reflections. It’s a fascinating area of debate, perhaps both nature and nurture play a role, and perhaps, as you suggest it is our beliefs about them that are eminent. Bruce Lipton’s research in this area is worth a look, especially for an understanding of how our beliefs shape our genetic unfolding. Wonderful stuff!

  • Britt


    September 9th, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    I am a firm believer in the whole aspect of nurture triumphing over nature. There could be a few things here and there that are innate but I believe that for the most part we are who we are due to our environment and the things that we have been exposed to in our lives. It is not an explanation for everything but I am almost certain that if we relied on genes alone there would not be nearly the success rates that we so often see. For those people there were always people behind them and supporting them and exposing them to all of the potential possibilities that life could bring. It is that kind of encouragement all along that will lead to stronger people in the long run.

  • Matty


    September 14th, 2014 at 5:20 AM

    Well I should do well on any test because I have always thought that it is all about nurture!

    I may not have gotten my smarts from the nature department but I had parents who have always encouraged me and told me that I can do and be anything that I want to be and I believed them.

    I studied hard, worked hard, and now I do pretty well. I think that that is a testament to their encouragement as well as that drive that they established in me from a very early age. I don’t think that it is because they forced me to be this way, but they let me see that I could do more than maybe what I ever thought, and that has encouraged me to do and try more and more. Thanks Mom and Dad!!

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