Nature and Nurture Differences

There are two basic theories used to explain animal behavior, nature and nurture. What exactly are they and how are they different. Are they mutually exclusive or can they be combined? Let’s first define what they are.

Nature refers to the natural instincts of a given species of an animal but is often extended to include individual animals. For example a carnivore eats meat and a herbivore eats plants because that is what their digestive systems are designed to eat. One can force or trick a carnivore to eat plants (much cat-food now contains soybeans) or a herbivore to eat meat (cattle diets often contain blood meal), but in the wild they will not naturally eat these types of food on a regular basis. A dog barks because that is in the nature of dogs.

Nurture refers to the way an individual animal is raised rather than to characteristics of a species. Tigers can be raised not to kill and dogs can be taught not to bark, but this is not the way they live in the wild. Nurture is training and that can mean training out the natural instincts.

Nature is inherent species characteristics that have evolved over time and nurture is the way individual animals are raised. Are they that different? They can be.

The nature is the general view or opinion of what to expect from an animal that is untrained. For instance everyone expects a dog to chase a cat and a cat to chase a mouse and mice should hide. It is in the nature of each of the individual species. But do all dogs naturally have to chase cats and can’t cats be friends with a mouse, even in the wild?

Nurture is the way an animal is trained. It often goes against the nature of the animal and teaches characteristics that are contrary to survival. Lion tamers train their animals to not hunt or hurt prey, to literally lay down with the lamb. nurture can control nature.

Are they mutually exclusive or can one be used to help the other?

Understanding the nature of an animal makes it much easier to train or nurture the animal. Dogs chase rabbits and many animals, they are easy to train for chasing balls. This is a combination of nature and nurture! One is utilizing the other.

In summary, nature usually refers to the way an animal evolved to behave in the wild and is the belief that it explain species characteristics while nurture is the way individuals are raised or trained. They are not exclusive and can be combined!