Science 3 min read

It Might be Nature Rather Than Nurture After all

Evgeny Atamanenko /

Evgeny Atamanenko /

You know the old nature versus nurture debate.

Success in life, regardless of what success means to you, is predetermined either by your genes or by environmental factors, such as upbringing and social status.

Most average people would say it’s a combination of the two, DNA and external influences, and even experts are split on the topic.

But one leading behavioral genetic theorist claims nurture has no say in the subject matter, or as he writes, “nature always trumps nurture.”

We’re the Sum of our DNA, so What?

Some behavioral geneticists think that personality and intelligence are shaped and influenced by DNA. And they’re collecting more and more evidence that goes into this sense thanks to several studies of twins and adoption.

Robert Plomin is a professor of Behavioural Genetics at King’s College London, and one of the world’s leading psychologists. In fact, he’s ranked number 71 on the list of the most “eminent psychologists of the 20th century“.

In his book, Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are, he argues that genes (nature) matter way more to life prospects than the environment (nurture).

According to Plomin’s claim, education at public schools or private schools is one, and the same since 50 percent of a student’s academic success is already determined by their genetics.

Plomin says that while they know it’s not schooling or parenting, they’re still in the dark as to what accounts for the other 50 percent.

Prof. Plomin and his colleagues are basing their theory on studies that have shown how you can take two twins apart, and even with different upbringing and education, they’d experience the same academic success. They attribute the higher grades at eminent schools like Eton to their selection process and argue that these students would do just as well in the state-run schools.

However, they have yet to pinpoint any particular gene responsible for the task, and if any, “it failed to replicate.” Plomin added:

“… environmental factors were called nurture because the family was thought to be crucial in determining environmentally who we become. Genetic research has shown that this is not the case… Environmental influences are important, accounting for about half of the differences between us, but they are largely unsystematic, unstable, and idiosyncratic—in a word, random.”

And this very quote is one of Plomin’s several thoughts that some psychologists describe as problematic. American psychologist and author, Scott Barry Kaufman noted:

“This is not what the shared environmental findings suggest, and most psychology professors go through great pains to emphasize this to their students in Psychology 101! What the evidence actually suggests is that families don’t generally make siblings more similar to each other, or they only do to a small degree and only for specific traits. And to the degree that they do, those traits tend to diverge when children leave home.”

Read More: New Study Shows Link Between Psychopathy And Creativity

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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