In humans, behavior is controlled primarily by the endocrine system and the nervous system. Generally, complex nervous systems exhibit a greater capacity to learn new responses and thus more adjustment in behavior. In general, overt behavior may be classified as innate or learnt. Many people use the term “instinctive behavior” as a synonym for innate behavior. Although both termss refer to natural, inborn patterns of behavior. Another category of behaviour which was later on added is complex behaviour which is a blend of innate and learned components.
Innate behaviour Innate behaviour is defined as a relatively complex response pattern which is usually present in both sexes of a given species. These responses are said to have a genetic basis and are essentially unlearned and adaptive. eg. Aggression Learnt behaviour If organisms only had innate behaviour then all the organisms of same species would have had identical behaviour. But that is not the case, is it? This led to the new category of behaviour known as learnt behaviour.
A learned behavior is some type of action or reflex that we learn after deciding to learn. We learn it because we find it beneficial to us. We can learn these behaviors by watching others do them, such as riding a bike or learning to write. But we can not learn an innate behaviour like crying. Learned behaviour can also be conditioned. Complex behaviour “Most overt behavior is neither 100% innate nor 100% learned. Sometimes innate behaviors may be modified (or modulated) through practice and experience.
In locusts, for example, the ability to fly is innate, but an older, experienced individual consumes less energy (per unit time) than a novice flier. This suggests that the older insect has “learned” to fly more efficiently. Similarly, learned behaviors may incorporate or depend upon elements of innate behavior. Indeed, the ability to learn, to associate, or to remember is almost certainly an innate feature of the insect’s nervous system. Schematically, it may be useful to think of a box that represents the boundaries of an animal’s ethogram.
All behavior must occur inside the physiological limits of this box (e. g. a beetle larva does not have wings, therefore it cannot fly). Within the box, a set of innate behaviors can be simplistically represented by straight lines. By following a zigzag route, an insect can use only innate behavior to get from point “A” to point “B”. But a learned behavior, superimposed on this innate grid, might provide a “shortcut” that is more useful or more efficient. As in the locust example above, the innate ability to fly may be refined and improved through experience. — cals. ncsu. edu Whether our behaviour, actions and conduct are determined by nature, the genes given to us by our parents or by nurture, the factors of the environment upon us after birth and through childhood is a debate that has fascinated psychologists throughout history. Starting with Galton’s study of Darwin’s book on evolution and carrying on with other famous Psychologists such as Pavlov, Watson and Skinner, this is an area of study that is both popular and important.
There has been no definitive correct answer to the debate of nature versus nurture and so there are still differing views. Some views have differed in the extreme. For example Galton (1883) suggested “nature prevails enormously over nurture” yet Eysenck (2003) reports John Locke arguing “They (Babies) are born with a mind that is like a blank slate (tabula rasa) and experience records itself in such a way that each individual becomes a unique being. We inherit nothing and all behaviour is acquired as a consequence of experience. John Broadus Watson, an American psychologist also quoted – “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. ” It is a very difficult question to answer because it is almost impossible to ascertain whether someone’s actions are due to genes or environment.
One method used to try and determine whether genes are the most important factor are with identical twin studies. If two monozygotic twins have the same characteristics as each other then it suggests that genes are causing this effect. There are however flaws with this reasoning as twins generally experience the same environment e. g. parents, friends, school etc so it could be argued that the similarities are down to this. A perfect study would be identical twins separated at birth who have experienced completely different environments.
Unfortunately this case study is hard to come by and so no real proof can be gained from this. A correleational study was conducted by Pavlov, a staunch behaviourist who believed that responses can be conditioned. Pavlov gave an example of behaviour being learnt in his study on dogs. In his digestive research on dogs, Pavlov and his assistants would introduce a variety of edible and non-edible items and measure the saliva production that the items produced.
Salivation, he noted, is a reflexive process. It occurs automatically in response to a specific stimulus and is not under conscious control. However, Pavlov noted an interesting occurrence – his canine subjects would begin to salivate whenever an assistant entered the room even in the absence of food and smell. He quickly realized that this salivary response was not due to an automatic, physiological process. Based on his observations, Pavlov suggested that the salivation was a learned response.
The dogs were responding to the sight of the research assistants’ white lab coats, which the animals had come to associate with the presentation of food. Unlike the salivary response to the presentation of food, which is an unconditioned reflex, salivating to the expectation of food is a conditioned reflex. Pavlov then focused on investigating exactly how these conditioned responses are learned or acquired. In a series of experiments, Pavlov set out to provoke a conditioned response to a previously neutral stimulus.
He opted to use food as the unconditioned stimulus, or the stimulus that evokes a response naturally and automatically. The sound of a metronome was chosen to be the neutral stimulus. The dogs would first be exposed to the sound of the ticking metronome, and then the food was immediately presented. After several conditioning trials, Pavlov noted that the dogs began to salivate after hearing the metronome. “A stimulus which was neutral in and of itself had been superimposed upon the action of the inborn alimentary reflex,” Pavlov wrote of the results. We observed that, after several repetitions of the combined stimulation, the sounds of the metronome had acquired the property of stimulating salivary secretion. ” In other words, the previously neutral stimulus (the metronome) had become what is known as a conditioned stimulus that then provoked a conditioned response (salivation). When you look at nature, different species are born in different stages of their readiness to tackle this planet. Mountain goats, once born, take a couple of minutes to get their balance, and the next thing you know, they are skipping around happily!
Fish can swim immediately as well. So, depending on the species, the “apprenticeship” has a different time frame. Now, the longest of all these apprenticeships is served by the human being! When we are born, the only thing we are equipped to do is scream, eat and soil ourselves. What does this mean? The human being has to learn about one of the most complex social structures on the planet, has to master language and the very complicated task of walking, and then comes school and all the other good stuff.
However, at the very beginning, we are basically blank sleights, waiting to be imprinted with all the necessary information we need to survive in todays environment. Another distinguishing feature to our species is the life long learning process we are engaged in. Basically, we never stop learning, even though the learning curve is steepest at the beginning. The fact that we are blank sleights also means that we learn all our bad habits, annoying behaviors, and our psychological illnesses (given, some people are born with birth defects).
To me, this means that things like depression, ADHD, etc are learnt behaviors! Show me a depressed baby…. The good new is that if all this stuff is learnt, we can also unlearn it and teach ourselves better things. We can teach our brain and mind to do exactly what we want them to. This of course not only involves a conscious effort, but also unconscious involvement, as all behaviors, learnings and changes are unconscious (soon, more on that). So, maybe we just have to rediscover the child within to truly set us free to be however we want to be…