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Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture

Author: Paul Hannan

Identify nature and nurture as debated causes for behavior and personality.

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Source: Child; Public Domain: Iceberg Creative Commons Adult Male Public Domain Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain, image by Uwe Kils via wikicommons, image by Michael Ströck via wikicommons

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology, Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on nature versus nurture. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.


Have you ever wondered how a boy like this grows into a man like this? Well, today's lesson, we're going to look at some theories behind how this process happens. So who are we? Well, according to sociologists, there's really two main ways that they like to look at who we are.

The first point is personality. So personality is just the way that an individual is. People act similarly across situations. And they have a consistent pattern, a way of thinking and acting that they continue to do over and over and over. So that's someone's personality. We often think of personality as like someone is an extrovert, an introvert. And that can be part of personality.

And then socialization is the other thing they like to look at when looking at who we are. And socialization is the process by which an individual becomes who they are. And there's really two different parts to that, becoming who they are. One is who they are. And two is what society wants them to be.

Now, there's a fundamental argument about the two different ways that these things are formed. There's nature. And there's nurture.

The first one is nature. So for nature, a man becomes a man or a woman becomes a woman mainly because of DNA and human instinct. So the situation around them, the environment they grew up in, has a very minimal effect on who they are. And it's actually all what their parents, their biological parents gave them through their genes.

On the other hand, it's nurture. Now, nurture would say that the parents still contribute to who an individual is, but it's the environment. So the DNA is not the major thing affecting who people are. It is the environment in which they grow up in.

Now, Sigmund Freud is a famous-- he's actually a famous psychologist. But sociologists use his theories as well. And he saw nature as the primary force behind making a person who they are. And he thought humans actually were always just acting on some innate basic instincts.

And he saw two of these basic instincts. He saw the life instinct and the death instinct. And he saw every single human action would fall into one of these two categories. The life instinct is a need for bonding. So you think about like a baby who really needs to be with their mom or a single person who is really looking for someone to couple with.

And the death instinct, and the death instinct is a need for conflict. So a need to fight over things. And these two instincts actually, as you can tell, kind of oppose each other. And that's how we get who people are, who humans are.

As a part of this theory, he saw the human mind kind of like an iceberg. So on your screen, you see an iceberg right there. The first thing in understanding this iceberg is that above the water is our conscious minds. That's what we're actually aware of when we're thinking. And below the water is our unconscious mind. This is what we're not aware of.

And if you notice, most of the iceberg, like icebergs in real life, is beneath the water. So a lot of what affecting the way we act is something that we don't have access to. And he furthermore divided the actual iceberg, so the actual brain into three different parts. We have the id, the ego, and the super ego.

Now, the id is human's basic drives. And it's all actually about an immediate satisfaction. Some people argue that's why that one of the first words a child learns is no is because they're always seeking immediate gratification. And that is that id drive down there.

Above that, you have the ego. Now, the ego is the balance. So I'm actually going to come back to the ego, and talk about the super ego next. The super ego is the norms of society and cultural values of society.

So part of the way Sigmund Freud argued was that the id is all these natural drives, these pleasure seeking drives. And the super ego is what society wants us to be. So society generally doesn't want us to be just instant gratification, pleasure seeking. It wants us to be nice and considerate and thoughtful. So those two things are always fighting against each other. And the ego, that part that I skipped over originally, is the balance. And it's trying to find a balance between our pleasure seeking drives and the demands of society.

A different form of looking at personality was proposed by John Watson. And John Watson, he was a behavioralist. And he saw nurture as the primary force behind creating who a person is and how they act, so the exact opposite. He thought all human's actions were learned.

If someone is being nice to someone else, it's not that biologically something is going on to make them be nice. It is that someone taught them to be nice, or they watched someone else be nice. He didn't say that biology had no part to play. But he didn't think it was a very strong one.

The takeaway message from today's lesson, first off, personality is who we are. Socialization is how people get that way. Then there's two different arguments on how people get that way. There's the nature argument, which is DNA-based. So it's all biology. And there's the nurture argument, which is all experiences and learning.

Then we learned about two different theories on how people become who they are. The first one is Sigmund Freud's model of personality. And that was based around the life instinct and the death instinct. So the life instinct is the need to be close to people. And the death instinct is the need to be apart from people, the need for conflict. We also learned about John Watson's behavioralism, which is nurture based, as opposed to Sigmund Freud's nature based. In John Watson's behavioralism, the idea is that every single action is learned.

That's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Freud's Model of Personality

Freud argued that personality consisted of three elements: 1) Id - our basic biological impulses; 2) Superego - the internalized cultural norms of society; 3) Ego - the element that balances the id and the superego.


An individual's stable behavioral characteristics such as their ingrained ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.


The lifelong process of learning one's culture and of internalizing the norms and behaviors considered appropriate of adults in society.

Watson's Behaviorism

The idea that all of our ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving are learned behaviors rather than preprogrammed biological propensities.