Psychological nativism

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In psychology, nativism is a theory that says that most basic skills are hard-wired in the brain at birth. This theory is the opposite of the theory called the blank slate, or tabula rasa. That said that humans have almost no skills or abilities at birth: they learn these skills over the course of their life. People who believe in nativism (within certain limits) include Jerry Fodor, Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker. These psychologists believe that humans are born with a set of abilities that help them learn other skills, such as speech.

Some mammals do seem to inherit emotional reactions. Monkeys fearing snakes is an example. Most of the behaviour of insects, reptiles and birds is inherited in some detail. Mammals, however, show a greater ability for learning than other kinds of animals.

Charles Darwin, in The expression of emotions in man and animals (1872), showed that the way most emotions were shown was common between human cultures. He said this was inherited and had been the result of evolution. Behaviorism says that man's behaviour is affected by its results (operant conditioning). Behaviourists denied the importance of inherited behaviours, instincts, or an inherited tendency to behave. People who believe in evolutionary psychology think this is wrong. They think human behaviour has deep toots in our evolutionary past.

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