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The Biological Implausibility of the Nature–Nurture Dichotomy and What It Means for the Study of Infancy


should be sent to David J. Lewkowicz, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, FL 33431. E-mail:


Since the time of the Greeks, philosophers and scientists have wondered about the origins of structure and function. Plato proposed that the origins of structure and function lie in the organism’s nature whereas Aristotle proposed that they lie in its nurture. This nature–nurture dichotomy and the emphasis on the origins question has had a powerful effect on our thinking about development right into modern times. Despite this, empirical findings from various branches of developmental science have made a compelling case that the nature–nurture dichotomy is biologically implausible and, thus, that a search for developmental origins must be replaced by research into developmental processes. This change in focus recognizes that development is an immensely complex, dynamic, embedded, interdependent, and probabilistic process and, therefore, renders simplistic questions such as whether a particular behavioral capacity is innate or acquired scientifically uninteresting.