NativismThe term Nativism is used in both politics and psychology in two fundamentally different ways.
In this meaning, nativism is a form of American nationalism often identified with xenophobia, anti-Catholic sentiment (anti-papist) and ideas of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant supremacy. It was involved in several anti-Catholic riots in the late 18th century, including the Philadelphia Nativist Riots.
In psychology, nativism is the view that certain skills or abilities are 'native' or hard wired into the brain at birth. This is in contrast to the 'blank slate' or tabula rasa view which states that the brain has little innate ability and almost everything is learnt through interaction with the environment.
Nativism is most associated with the work of Jerry Fodor, Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, who argue that we are born with certain cognitive models (specialised genetically inherited psychological abilities) that allow us to learn and acquire certain skills (such as language). They argue that many such abilities would otherwise be greatly impaired without this genetic pre-environmental contribution (see universal grammar for an example).
Psychologist Annette Karmiloff-Smith has put forward a theory known as the representational redescription or RR model of development which argues against such strict nativism and which proposes that the brain may become modular through experience within certain domains (such as social interaction or visual perception) rather than modules being genetically pre-specified.