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Nature Versus Nurture
Everyone knows about some of the fundamental questions to life - who are you, what do you want, where did you come from, and where will you go? Those are the "what" questions, but this is the "why". Why did you say that? Why did you do this? Why were you there?

Innate qualities and personal experiences both play an important part in determining or causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits, but this raises the question - which was more 'responsible' for such traits? Were these Abusive Parents abused themselves, and take that out on their own kids, or were they always malicious to begin with? Is the concept of free will (i.e. truly independent thought and truly independent decision-making) valid, or are your decisions brain-made "echoes"? Are your personalities determined more by genes, are they influenced your own experiences, or are they made so that your personality truly is unique?

At any rate, fiction can have a field day with this, and depending on the writer, it can skew to either side of the argument.

Tropes that tend to skew towards "Nature":

Tropes that tend to skew towards "Nurture":


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Elfen Lied, a point is made about whether or not the diclonii really are malicious, or if their cruelty is a byproduct of how they were raised. Lucy appears to be the latter; Mariko appears to be the former. Note that neither side is plausible in the manga.
    • The manga implies that all diclonii are some degree of aggressive toward humans no matter how they're raised.
  • Naruto has Sasuke, Gaara and Naruto; their personalities and mindsets were influenced by their upbringing, but whereas the former two dealt with it badly, the latter was able to pull through because he was luckier than the others, though he convinced Gaara to change his view on life, and hes trying to do the same to Sasuke.
    • There's a lot of In the Blood going around, in that Sasuke's family has a long habit of choosing 'power' over 'strength' that supposedly goes back to the ancient founder of their clan, the elder son of the Sage of the Six Paths. Doujutsu and sociopathy apparently have a causal link, though not an inescapable one.
    • On the other hand, Gaara apparently had a very loving mother and a cold bastard of a father, and to compicate matter was raised by an uncle who was very kind and looked just like his mother. And was also ANBU and accepted the mission of making a hit on the six-year-old boy he'd raised, in order to test his emotional resilience. The zombie of Gaara's father acknowledges this as a flawed methodology.
    • And despite never knowing them, Naruto is just like both his parents.
  • The Akumetsu are several dozen clones made from an extremely evil guy as part of a project to assure his immortality, all separated as infants and raised in may households across Japan, all under the first name Shou and all but one unaware of the others. They are nothing like their original DNA donor, apart from a possibly-related mad indifference to normality. They are, however, so much like one another they very nearly have a Hive Mind within a weeks or even days of banding together.
    • I.e., both sides of this trope are being used and abused with reckless abandon.
    • Note that they did start swapping important memories around pretty early, though not many. To a certain extent they all imprinted on the Shou who inspired the whole Akumetsu project, but even before that they were so alike it's creepy, and honestly that Shou is less like the others than any of them.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist is vague on whether homunculi are naturally malicious or if they're simply not raised well.

Comics
  • Brought up in most depictions of Superman: Superman is Kryptonian, but was raised by kindly old adoptive parents. In older stories, it was usually implied that his superior Kryptonian heritage and abilities were the cause of his strict moral compass, but in latter stories (especially after other, villainous Kryptonians, were introduced), it's outright stated that Superman's upbringing is responsible for creating who he is.
    • During his Darker and Edgier interpretation, Superboy was all about this trope. Superboy is a clone created by human DNA that was altered and/or combined with Superman's DNA (Depending on the Writer). In the earliest years, his "daddy" was Paul Westfield and later, it was retconned to be Lex Luthor instead. Neither of them are very nice people. So, Superboy constantly questioned whether he was destined to become good or evil based on the genes provided by Superman or his human father.
    • In his New 52 incarnation, Superboy starts flat out amoral. The group that cloned him outright questions whether his lack of human empathy is due to being a clone, being half alien, or lacking Superman's overall upbringing. He slowly starts to learn empathy and compassion.
    • The entire plot of Justice League 3000 (which sees the JLA "resurrected" in the 31st century) hinges on this. Superman lacks the guiding hand of the Kents and is thus a Jerk Jock with a massive ego, Batman never suffered the loss of his parents and doesn't even wanna be Batman, Wonder Woman is a violent Blood Knight constantly looking for someone to kill, and so on.

Film
  • The entire plot of Trading Places begins when the Duke brothers place a bet on which is true.
  • Long before Trading Places, two businessmen tested this on The Three Stooges in "Hoi Polloi".
  • In Man of Steel, Zod is a destructive Knight Templar but he was bred and raised to be a soldier through bloodline and genetic manipulation and the workings of Kryptonian society. Clark is descended from Kryptonian scientists, but he had a natural conception and birth and was raised by Kansas farmers. Though the film hints at Clark being geeky as a child, he chooses a different career in life which would have been impossible on Krypton.

Literature
  • Isaac Asimov used this with regards to robots, of all beings, in the short story compilation/narrative I, Robot, by comparing physically and positronically identical robots who developed with different frames of reference (generally resulting in aberrant behavior).
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin is based around the nature/nurture debate — did Kevin grow into a murderer because mummy didn't love him enough, or was he a psychopath from the word "go"? Basically, it weighs up blaming the mother when her child grows into someone diabolical, against the disturbing idea of being born evil.
  • World War features aliens raising humans, and humans raising aliens, in order to see how close they can make each species to their own.
  • Roose Bolton in talking with Theon during A Dance with Dragons openly wonders this about the relationship between his bastard son Ramsay and the first Reek, as Roose doesn't know if Ramsay's depravities were present before he sent Reek to serve him.
    Roose: Did Reek make Ramsay, or did Ramsay make Reek?
  • A recurring theme in Jack London's White Fang is whether the clay one is shaped from or the way in which they are shaped is a more significant part of what makes a man or dog.

Live Action Television
  • Frequently debated in Law & Order, to the point where Dr. Olivet said in one episode that she didn't want to rehash the "nature versus nurture wars", saying that both sides were equally right and wrong.
  • In CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, when engaging in a nature vs nurture debate, when Catherine Willows argued that people were shaped by their experiences as much as by their genetics, Gil Grissom agreed, saying, "Your DNA is what you are, not who you are."
  • The entire point of the experiment with the clones in Orphan Black seems to be to explore this. The clones were placed into different environments and were observed by "monitors" who reported their every move.

Tabletop Games

  • Basically the main conflict (besides the iconic "science versus technology") between the colours Green and Blue in Magic: The Gathering. Green, naturally, favours Nature, believeing in genetic fatalism and predestination. Blue's entire philosophy relies on the concept of tabula rasa, and therefore it sides with nurture.

Video Games
  • Mass Effect: Exactly how much asari with a non-asari parent get from genetics, and how much from upbringing, gets a lot of flip-flopping. The asari claim that mating with non-asari just scrambles the daughter's genes a bit, but the daughter frequently develops traits of the non-asari parent. Matriarch Aethyta had a krogan father and is kind of a Grumpy Old Lady. Another minor asari in the second game had a batarian father and acts rather amoral and mercenary. Then there's Mordin's off-hand remark in his patter song that asari-vorcha offspring have dairy allergies.
  • Metal Gear: A recurring theme in the series, Specifically in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Raiden is contrasted with Solid Snake and his clone brothers. Whereas the Snakes are genetically altered clones of Big Boss, Raiden is a child soldier who was raised by Solidus (one of the Snakes) and then subjected into the S3 Plan, a simulation program meant to train a soldier in Solid Snake's image.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • This was the title of the season one finale of The Spectacular Spider-Man. It concerns the different upbringings between Peter Parker and Eddie Brock.
    Brock: Our parents may have died together, but you had your precious aunt and uncle. We had no one, we've always been alone... until now.
  • Crops up in the episode "Dragon Quest" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, where Spike tries to learn more about being a dragon, but he learns that by nature, dragons are destructive and greedy. He then learns to embrace being raised by ponies as he has not become like them.

Universal Media
Myers-BriggsPsychology TropesNonsense Classification
NarmWe Are Not Alone IndexNazi Hunter

alternative title(s): Nature Vs Nurture
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