In general usage, the terms innatism and nativism are synonymous as they both refer to notions of preexisting ideas present in the mind. However, more correctly, innatism refers to the philosophy of Plato and Descartes, who assumed that a God or a similar being or process placed innate ideas and principles in the human mind.
Nativism represents an adaptation of this, grounded in the fields of genetics, cognitive psychology, and psycholinguistics. Nativists hold that innate beliefs are in some way genetically programmed to arise in our mind—that innate beliefs are the phenotypes of certain genotypes that all humans share in common.
Nativism is a modern view rooted in innatism. The advocates of nativism are mainly philosophers who also work in the field of cognitive psychology or psycholinguistics: most notably Noam Chomsky and Jerry Fodor (although the latter has adopted a more critical attitude towards nativism in his later writings). The nativist's general objection against empiricism is still the same as was raised by the rationalists; the human mind of a newborn child is not a tabula rasa, but equipped with an inborn structure.
In philosophy and psychology, an innate idea is a concept or item of knowledge which is said to be universal to all humanity—that is, something people are born with rather than something people have learned through experience.