The Environment Seems Simple: Debunking the Myth

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Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1994, Vol 39(1), 56–57. Reviews the book, The Nature of Nurture by Theodore D. Wachs (1992). The Nature of Nurture continues a precedent set by Urie Bronfenbrenner in his 1979 book, The Ecology of Human Development, emphasizing the importance and complexity of environmental influences on human development. Wachs reminds readers that the environment only seems simple, deceptively so, and that we think we know more about it than we really do. He debunks this myth, arguing persuasively and documenting in detail that the environment is a dynamic, multilevel system whose effects are mediated both by various facets of the system itself as well as by certain characteristics of the individual. Moreover, he translates this complexity into tenets that are easily understood. In his book, Wachs outlines three phases of environmental research. Phase one focused on establishing that differences in the environment did indeed affect human behavioral development, phase two identified specific environmental variables that might influence development as “main effects.” In phase three, the current phase according to Wachs, researchers address more complex questions about environmental effects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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