Free WillnatureSocial Theory

Nature Vs Nurture: The Sociology of Human Behaviour


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The Nature vs Nurture debate is one widely covered in the Social Sciences and Philosophy. The premise of the Nature vs Nurture debate is as to whether Nature (biology, instinct) or Nurture (socialisation, social structures etc) is the force behind behind human behaviour. Free will, or at least some freedom of action, is pre-supposed in the Criminal Justice System. Where offenders are held responsible for their actions. Otherwise sending individuals on long stretches in prison would be seen as immoral.

Sociology as a discipline tends to seem as though it subscribes to the nurture side of the Nature vs Nurture debate. With a large amount of research primarily within the realm of Society. But that doesn’t put the subject into direct opposition to Biology, with its scientific research on human anatomy (nature). The field of Sociobiology is based on the assumption that Social behaviour has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behaviour within that contexts.

What is Human Behaviour?

Sociologists study group life and the social forces that affect human behaviour. A central goal is to gain insight into how our lives are influenced by the social relationships around us. Since all behaviour is social behaviour, Sociology is a very broad field of study. Sociology focuses on understanding the social and cultural aspects of human behaviour at the local, national, and global levels (Radford University, 2018).

Nature – Explanations of Human Behaviour

The most prominent nature explanation of human behaviour is that humans, as animals act according to their primal instincts. This view is held by many biologists and some branches of psychology e.g. evolutionary psychology. Physical evolution can be seen in fossils dating back thousands of years. We’re taller than earlier groups of sapiens who lived and other groups such as Neanderthals who we bred with on some scale. But physical evolution doesn’t necessarily mean that human behaviour is hardwired.

Neuropsychology, paleobiology, evolutionary psychology all hold that humans today are all ingrained with hunter gather mentalities. An instinct to fight furiously when threatened, for instance, and a drove to trade information and share secrets (Nicholson, 1998). Our hunter-gather mentality is also said to have some affect on why men like to see women in red lipstick (Cabka, 2005).

Hereditary illnesses, passed from a parent to a child can also change behaviour. These include; Sickle Cell Anaemia & Cystic Fibrosis. Nurture side of the Nature vs Nurture debate coming up.

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Nurture – Explanations of Human Behaviour

The Nurture side of the Nature vs Nurture debate explains human behaviour by examining socialisation, environment, and relationships. Moving away from Biology and Evolution. When a girl child is born, her family will usually socialise her to be feminised. They will grow her hair, clothe her in dresses, buy dolls, all conforming their child to the feminine ideal before the child has any idea of what gender is. This is referred to as gender socialisation.

It is also valuable to examine an individuals social environment when considering their behaviour. Expressions of Nationalism may become prevalent at times of war than times of peace.

Sociologists believe social environments, interactions, and structures shape human behaviour. Family types, family structures, subcultures, media, government, wealth, and inequality all mold an individuals personality which ultimately drives their behaviour.

Why do Sociologists believe in Nurture?

Sociologists study people all over the world and are of the consensus that people tend to behave differently. They can even find difference amongst groups when they divide by class, race, ethnicity.

Evidence supporting the Nurture Debate

  1. The Bobo Doll experiment conducted by Albert Bandura in 1961 and 1963. Showed that when a child viewed aggressive behaviour they were more likely to express aggressive behaviour in the future. This is used as evidence of learnt behaviour and the hypodermic syringe model.
  2. Malcolm Gladwell found having a higher IQ is only utilised under the right conditions
  3. Research into child delinquency has shown some youth experiment with crime whilst others persist in crime. The social environment, their relationships and family often play a role.
  4. Children are often socialised to play a gender and in some cases reprimanded to stay I place e.g. ‘boys don’t cry’.
  5. Human’s exercise large levels of control in social settings hoping to avoid embarrassment and social ridicule. People tend not to burp, fart, or excrement around people. Whilst maintaining to breath and function.
  6. We imprison individuals on the basis that they have free will and can be held responsible for their crimes. Not because they’re acting on some biological impulse. Circumstances, child abuse, poverty, mental health are all taken into consideration in the court room.

What do you think? This debate could go on forever. The Sociologists say Nurture (on the whole).

By Shaneka Knight

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Facebook: Shaneka Knight


Cabka, O. (2005). Lipstick had long evolution to become the everyday thing women use today. Pravda Report. Retrieved from [Accessed 23rd of October 2018].

Nicholson, N. (1998). How Hardwired Is Human Behaviour? Harvard Business Review, July-August 1998. [online]. Retrieved [Accessed 23rd of October 2018].

Radford University. (2018). About Sociology. Retrieved from [Accessed 23rd of October 2018].

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