Nature or nurture?

[…] the genetic lottery may determine the cards in your deck, but experience deals the hand you can play.
Thomas Lewis, A General Theory of Love

Psychology is concerned with the extent to which particular aspects of our behaviour are a product of either ‘inherited’ or ‘acquired/learned’ characteristics.

Nature is seen as our pre-wiring and influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors, whilst Nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception e.g. the product of exposure, experience and learning on an individual. The nature-nurture debate is concerned with the relative contribution that both influences make to human behaviour. (MORE)

nature nurture psychology

I’m not convinced that it really is a debate of opposites or that coming down on one side necessarily precludes the other. Surely the environment we grow up in, the genetic blueprint passed down to us; the life experiences of our parents and grandparents, our friendships and love; our schooling; our relative wealth or poverty; our luck, our judgement, our turning at a particular point in the road; all have an abiding effect on the formation of our attitudes, passions, sense of belong and sense of self?

You inherit your environment just as much as your genes.
Johnny Rich, The Human Script

It was the postcard below, a recent addition to my collection of vintage postcards of ‘The Matlocks’, that prompted such thinking.

A view of Commonwood and St. John’s Road in Matlock Dale. A postcard from the first decade of the 20th C. published by C. Colledge, Stationer, Matlock

Someone recently described this postcard as a fairytale image, the cottages and castle, the wild woods and winding road reminding them of a Brothers Grimm illustration.

The place is in fact very real…


I was born in the cottage circled. I’ve a picture of my dad proudly standing in the porch, a beaming first-time house owner.

An Edwardian view of Matlock Dale. The High Tor Hotel nestles in woodland above what is now the A6. A slender suspension bridge can be seen spanning the rivver connecting the main road with woodland walks to High Tor, the bridge has long since been removed, as hav the low-level buildings at riverside…

The cottage looks down onto this view… towards the bluff limestone outcrop of High Tor and the R. Derwent snaking along Matlock Dale towards Matlock Bath.

Did this landscape affect me? Did it seed a particular aesthetic, sensibility or mindset?

Well, perhaps it did, given a lifelong fascination with water, with woodlands and with landscape in general. A fascination too with a sense of place and an increasing fixation with our roots, our sense of belonging must all have started somewhere. If it wasn’t something learned on my mother’s lap or something explored at school or college… perhaps it was here, in viewing a landscape such as this, growing up in it, knowing it, playing in it that a passion for a tentative aesthetic of place was born?

Waters edge, the R. Derwent in the gorge…


A postcard as a Constable painting? The suitably named Artists’ Corner…

A child is born with the potential ability to learn Chinese or Swahili, play a kazoo, climb a tree, make a strudel or a birdhouse, take pleasure in finding the coordinates of a star. Genetic inheritance determines a child’s abilities and weaknesses. But those who raise a child call forth from that matrix the traits and talents they consider important.
Emilie Buchwald



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