The 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.
- Gopnik, A. (2014, January 24). Time to retire the simplicity of nature vs. nurture. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304302704579334954138196792
- Nature or nurture? It’s all about the message. (2014, September 3). Retrieved from http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/nature-or-nurture-its-all-about-the-message/
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