Nature-Nurture Controversy

M. McGue, I. I. Gottesman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


For millennia, scholars, philosophers, and poets have speculated on the origins of individual differences in behavior, and especially the extent to which these differences owe to inborn natural factors (nature) versus life circumstances (nurture). The modern form of the Nature-Nurture debate took shape in the late nineteenth century when Sir Francis Galton, based on his empirical researches, concluded that nature prevails enormously over nurture. However, Galton's interest in eugenics undermined early research into the genetic origins of behavior, which did not reemerge until the latter half of the twentieth century when behavioral geneticists started to publish again their findings from twin and adoption studies. Current consensus is that nature versus nurture represents a false dichotomy and that progress will require the investigation of how both genetic and environmental factors combine to affect the biological systems that underlie behavioral phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBrenner's Encyclopedia of Genetics
Subtitle of host publicationSecond Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9780080961569
ISBN (Print)9780123749840
StatePublished - Feb 27 2013


  • Behavior genetics
  • Endophenotype
  • Environmentalist
  • Epigenetics
  • Eugenics
  • Genome-wide association studies
  • Hereditarian
  • Heritability
  • Monozygotic and dizygotic twins
  • Systems approach


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