It’s very hard to know what Americans think about nature vs. nurture, but I heavily suspect that many or most casually believe that nature is all-important. pic.twitter.com/OLeTrbQDgI
— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) December 12, 2017
There was a discussion on Twitter about the belief in nature vs. nurture among the American populace. The General Social Survey actually has some questions related to this. They are the variables: GENENVO1, GENENVO2, GENENVO3 and GENENVO4.
These all ask the following question about different scenarios:
Character, personality, and many types of behavior are influenced both by the genes people inherit from their parents and by what they learn and experience as they grow up. For each of the following descriptions, we would like you to indicate what percent of the person’s behavior you believe is influenced by the genes they inherit, and what percent is influenced by their learning and experience and other aspects of their environment. The boxes on handcard D1 are arranged so that the first box on the LEFT (which is numbered 1) represents 100% genetic influence (and 0% environment). The next box (numbered 2) represents 95% genes (and 5% environment), and so on. The RIGHTMOST box (numbered 21) represents 100% environmental influence (and no genetic influence). After each description, please type the number of the box that comes closest to your answer. Please use the numbered scale on handcard D1 to indicate, FOR EACH OF THE BEHAVIORS DESCRIBED, what percent of the person’s behavior you think is influenced by the genes they inherit, and what percent is influenced by their learning and experience. After each question, type the number of the box that comes closest to your answer. Remember, the higher the number, the more you think the behavior is influenced by learning and experience; the lower the number, the more you think it is influenced by genes
I decided to convert the 1-21 scale into quartiles. So that instead of 21 categories there were 4, defined as people who think it is 75-100% genes, 50-75%, 25-50% genes, and 0-25% genes (lower numbers equals “more blank slate”). I also decided to control for demography. For sample size reasons I created two ethno-racial categories, black and white, for non-Hispanics. I divided these into those with high school educations or less, or college educations or more. These questions were asked in 2004.
- Americans believe more in nurture than nature.
- Educated Americans believe more in nurture, not nature.
- White Americans believe more in nurture, not nature.
None of this is surprising to me. I was in graduate school studying genetics, and I can tell you that on behavioral stuff most geneticists believe nurture is dominant (with the exception of those who study behavioral stuff).