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The Nature/Nurture debate of intelligence

(48 Posts)
Creole Mon 25-Jul-05 14:36:58

Please help me settle an argument with my colleague.

She seems to believe that one is born with intelligence i.e. it is innate and “if you haven’t got it, you haven’t got it”. I disagree, I believe that everybody is born with some from of intelligence in them and it all depends on the nurturing for it to grow. However, some (a small percentage) do not need the nurturing, they excel in whatever circumstances.

What do you all think?

lunachic Mon 25-Jul-05 14:39:54

i have a vague memory from my psychology studies that it was said to be 80/20 in favour of intellegence being innate ie 80% genetic influence and 20 % environmental influence but

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 14:41:41

I haven't a clue, but then I'm not very bright

piffle Mon 25-Jul-05 14:44:08

Hmmm Looking at my son who was definitely born highly intelligent... I would lean heavily towards nature BUT you can give a child enough one to one in their life and make them more intelligent than they would have been without that intensive teaching - it was done recently on tv.
I guess also you can knock it out of a child born with it too.
Certainly being born with it is no guarantee of success in life though!

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 14:54:49

"Hmmm Looking at my son who was definitely born highly intelligent... I would lean heavily towards nature"

Piffle - that's very modest of you - the nature bit. Did he inherit this from his brainy mum?

(just gently teasing)

happymerryberries Mon 25-Jul-05 14:57:33

Looking at the kids that I teach, and my own I am firmly of the 50:50 school!

They can be born as bright as you like, but if they don't get a reasonable homelife and amount of sensible stimulation they will not reach their full potential.

You can also hot house etc all you like and the child will eventually reach their natural upper limit.

And there are also many ways of being intelegent, sadly we do not celibrate them all equally

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 15:00:55

How do you quantify intelligence?

Hans Eysenck - one of the early developers of IQ / Mensa style tests had his work criticised because his IQ tests were found to be culturally biased (i.e. male western Europeans scored better at them).

My dh is purportedly highly intelligent - Carol Vorderman-esque at maths, gained scholarships etc when school age etc...but frankly some of his thought processes and things he comes out with sound so....ummm...thick sometimes

piffle Mon 25-Jul-05 15:02:48

HMC hee hee
Not meaning to sound braggish at all, it's just the way it happened - I was bright at school and my mum says I was pretty precocious, but as I also stated it does mean you'll go far I certainly didn't make the best use of it.
ds's dad is a very talented muso as well, ds just came out of the mix highly intelligent, simple fact, it was nothing I did really, I know I have worked very hard to encourage him and support him and to let him explore.
I have a dd without that same intelligence and trust me, it is far bloody easier! Infact dd verges on special needs, but by putting the same work into her we are getting her closer and closer to mainstream, so it's do able whichever way you look at it I guess in some cases.

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 15:04:00

No I know you didn't meant to sound braggish - you just made me giggle... (in a nice way)

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 15:06:00

I agree with hmb that there are many types of intelligence, like emotional intelligence for example (which is pretty damn inportant), and 'practical' intelligence (good at problem solving etc) and so on...

happymerryberries Mon 25-Jul-05 15:07:04

Piffle I have one very bright and one 'normal' (as far as you can tell in these things ) Normal can be a lot easier!

I was also bright and wasn't that happy as a result.

SenoraPostrophe Mon 25-Jul-05 15:07:10

most of the recent studies on this show that intelligence (as measured by IQ tests, and a few other measures) is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

happymerryberries Mon 25-Jul-05 15:08:23

hmc, my ds is much more emotionaly intellegent and practically bright that his sister!

At 18 months he showed her how to open the 'fridge, she had never managed it and was 4.5 at the time! And she is the one seen as bright!

piffle Mon 25-Jul-05 15:10:10

exactly, dd 32 mths can sort the washing, collect the mail and sort out the socks
Ds is hapless, disorganised and a messy trial to manage!

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 15:12:40

I have a vested interest in arguing that particular point Hmb because I reckon I'm fairly emotionally intelligent and practically intelligent, but generally get a very average score on IQ tests...(although interesting academically I've done better than average with a Masters degree)

What a sweet mental picture, your 18 month old showing your 4 year old how to open the fridge

happymerryberries Mon 25-Jul-05 15:31:08

And when he did it he had the most angelic look on his face as he first dropped one egg and then another!

I have worked with the most delightful young people who are well ballanced and practicaly adept who beat themselves up because they are not 'intelectual'. Sod that, go get a trade and earn more!

saadia Mon 25-Jul-05 16:31:58

I agree with you Creole.

I remember seeing a prog about geniuses and it showed a class of kids who were underachievers in their school. Some kind of specialist educationalist was brought in to teach them and they really blossomed and exceeded expactations. He taught them in a completely revolutionary way.

At the same time, there were other kids who were highly intelligent, way above average but they did have to work at it.

As others have said, there are different types of intelligence and this sometimes comes to the fore at different times. For example, I always sailed through my exams and my brother struggled but he got a better degree than me.

vickiyumyum Mon 25-Jul-05 16:45:36

as some of the other mumsnetters i have one very bright child (ds1) who is doing very well in school and consistantly is a high acheiver and has been since he wasa toddler. walking at nine months, proper sentences and proper conversations by 19months, reading and writing well before he satrted nursery, exceeded all tests for 2 1/2 year checks etc,. everyone always commenting on how bright he is.

whereas ds2 is 'normal', have spent exactly the same amount of time with hiom as did with ds1 as ds1 was at school in the day, but he is simply 'not as bright' i use this term loosley, and try not to draw comparisons between him and his brother, but other people often comment on the differences.

so i would say that you are born with your intelligence and that the nurture side can only help in developing the skills that you already have.

(dh is extremley bright but because he was never encouraged by his fmaily or his school he settled for mediocrosity (sp?) and only in later life got the balls to do something with his intellignece and get a degree, job etc that reflected his intelligence.

TwinSetAndPearls Mon 25-Jul-05 18:35:39

Froma combination of my studies, my teaching exp and watching my daughter I would say that we are born with a genetic predisposed level of intelligence but this predisposition relies on the nurture for it to be fulfilled.

Even the brightest of geniuses will fail if they are not challenged, supported and stimulated.

Creole Mon 25-Jul-05 18:41:10

Exactly TSP,

I was going to say that you do have some who no matter what happens their intelligence will shine, but these are few and far between.

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 23:19:00

I would go so far to say it is almost entirely nurture...and also intelligence is so subjective in many ways, how on earth are we to assess it.

Janh Mon 25-Jul-05 23:28:35

Basic intelligence must be nature, surely? What is done with it is nurture. Some kids "get" things, some kids don't, however hard people try to teach them.

Intelligence alone is not necessarily a gift, however - common sense and empathy are vital - and it needs to be cultivated or it will wither.

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 23:37:46

"Basic intelligence must be nature, surely" - probably Jan, I'm just being argumentative for the sake of it

Janh Mon 25-Jul-05 23:40:21

handlemecarefully Mon 25-Jul-05 23:40:31

However, I do believe (with no basis of evidence to support this whatsoever ) that it is far less 'genetic'/ nature than people think.

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