Perceptions of nature, nurture and behaviour

Levitt, Mairi (2013) Perceptions of nature, nurture and behaviour. Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 9 (1): 13.

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Trying to separate out nature and nurture as explanations for behaviour, as in classic genetic studies of twins and families, is now said to be both impossible and unproductive. In practice the nature-nurture model persists as a way of framing discussion on the causes of behaviour in genetic research papers, as well as in the media and lay debate. Social and environmental theories of crime have been dominant in criminology and in public policy while biological theories have been seen as outdated and discredited. Recently, research into genetic variations associated with aggressive and antisocial behaviour has received more attention in the media. This paper explores ideas on the role of nature and nurture in violent and antisocial behaviour through interviews and open-ended questionnaires among lay publics. There was general agreement that everybody’s behaviour is influenced to varying degrees by both genetic and environmental factors but deterministic accounts of causation, except in exceptional circumstances, were rejected. Only an emphasis on nature was seen as dangerous in its consequences, for society and for individuals themselves. Whereas academic researchers approach the debate from their disciplinary perspectives which may or may not engage with practical and policy issues, the key issue for the public was what sort of explanations of behaviour will lead to the best outcomes for all concerned.

Item Type:
Journal Article
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Life Sciences, Society and Policy
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© 2013 Levitt; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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13 Dec 2013 09:47
Last Modified:
31 Jan 2024 00:25