Inherited and Learned Behavior

Watch these videos about dolphins...
This week's video project, watch each of the videos on this page and write 1 paragraph about their behavior and whether it is learned or innate (instinct).

Animals learn by playing
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BBC Earth

Innate Behavior

Innate behavior is genetically programmed. Individuals inherit a suite of behaviors (often called an ethogram) just as they inherit physical traits such as body color and wing venation. In general, innate behaviors will always be:

    1. Heritable -- encoded in DNA and passed from generation to generation
    2. Intrinsic -- present in animals raised in isolation from others
    3. Stereotypic -- performed in the same way each time by each individual
    4. Inflexible -- not modified by development or experience

Dance flies mating. The female
is consuming a nuptial gift.

Do you play a sport?
If you play a sport like soccer, then you realize it takes a lot of work. Remember how you didn't know at all what you were doing when you first started? You had rules to figure out and skills to practice. Playing a sport is an example of a learned behavior.


Learned Behavior

Just about all human behaviors are learned. Learned behavior is behavior that occurs only after experience or practice. Learned behavior has an advantage over innate behavior: it is more flexible.

Learned behavior can be changed if conditions change. For example, you probably know the route from your house to your school. Assume that you moved to a new house in a different place, so you had to take a different route to school. What if following the old route was an innate behavior? You would not be able to adapt. Fortunately, it is a learned behavior. You can learn the new route just as you learned the old one.
Although most animals can learn, animals with greater intelligence are better at learning and have more learned behaviors. Humans are the most intelligent animals. They depend on learned behaviors more than any other species. Other highly intelligent species include apes, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. They include chimpanzees and gorillas. Both are also very good at learning behaviors.
You may have heard of a gorilla named Koko. The psychologist, Dr. Francine Patterson, raised Koko. Dr. Patterson wanted to find out if gorillas could learn human language. Starting when Koko was just one year old, Dr. Patterson taught her to use sign language. Koko learned to use and understand more than 1,000 signs. Koko showed how much gorillas can learn. See A Conversation with Koko at
Think about some of the behaviors you have learned. They might include riding a bicycle, using a computer, and playing a musical instrument or sport. You probably did not learn all of these behaviors in the same way. Perhaps you learned some behaviors on your own, just by practicing. Other behaviors you may have learned from other people. Humans and other animals can learn behaviors in several different ways.
The following methods of learning will be explored below:
  1. Habituation (forming a habit)
  2. Observational learning
  3. Conditioning
  4. Play
  5. Insight learning
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Hidden said...

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Learned Strengths

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