Association for Psychological Science 22nd Annual Convention: Boston, MA

Festschrift for Sandra Scarr

The Nature of Nurture

Robert Plomin
King’s College London
Nicole Harlaar
King’s College London

One of the many of Sandra Scarr’s pioneering efforts in research was her 1983 developmental theory with Kathleen McCartney of genotype-environment (GE) correlation. GE correlation literally refers to the correlation between genetic propensities and experiences, the hyphen in the phrase nature-nurture. There are three types of GE correlation: passive, evocative, and active. The passive type occurs because children passively inherit from their parents family environments that are correlated with their genetic propensities. The evocative type happens because individuals evoke reactions from other people on the basis of their genetic propensities. The active type occurs because individuals select, modify, construct, or reconstruct in memory experiences that are correlated with their genetic propensities. Scarr and McCartney’s developmental theory of GE correlation proposed a shift during childhood from passive to active GE correlations as children experience environments outside the family and begin to play a more active role in the selection and construction of their experiences. We examine the extent to which quantitative genetic research such as twin and adoption studies have supported this theory. We suggest that molecular genetic studies of DNA will greatly advance research on GE correlation and provide clear-cut tests of Scarr and McCartney’s theory of the developmental processes by which genotypes become phenotypes.



2010 Program Committee
Tyler S. Lorig, Washington and Lee University (Chair); Nalini Ambady, Tufts University; Abigail Baird, Vassar College; Sian Beilock, University of Chicago; Daniel Klein, Stony Brook University, The State University of New York; Richard Lewis, Pomona College; Kris Preacher, University of Kansas; Deidra Schleicher, Purdue University; Timothy Strauman, Duke University; Tracy Zinn, James Madison University