Scientists and theorists alike have been battling for years to receive affirmation of their position on the ancient nurture versus nature debates, especially concerning the issue of intelligence. “Nurturists”, as The Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics calls them, believe that environment determines one’s intelligence, while Hereditarians think genes are the primary factor (“Nature”). Hereditarians claim specific regions of the brain decide an individual’s level of intelligence; and that this fate is inevitable. Many support their claims with twin studies that, though results have varied, more-so show intelligence correlations between the twins adopted into separate families. On the other end, “Nurturists” conclude that education, family behavior, and societal factors contribute a larger input in the determination of a person’s intelligence, over their genes (“Nurtured”).
Though definitions vary, a commonly used term defines intelligence as the following:
“A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems,…learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings” (Nisbett 4).
This broad definition, after many years, continues to lend itself to much debate between the two groups. In the late twentieth-century, most scientists and experts leaned towards the Hereditarian perspective and believed that genes primarily determined one’s intelligence and academic skills (Nisbett 1). Since then, evidence researchers have uncovered evidence that proves that environment can alter the presentation of intelligence as well. Since that discovery, researchers have performed numerous types of experiments, a common format being twin and adoption studies such as the famous study done by Dr. Peter Neubauer with Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein. These studies continue to create as many questions as answers. Though Nurturists believe the theory of intelligence is no longer in question.
Dr. Peter Neubaurer
Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein