Innate & Learned Behavior

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  • 0:01 Behavior
  • 0:41 Innate Behavior
  • 1:27 Learned Behavior
  • 2:21 More Examples
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

We all respond to different situations with some type of behavior. Some of these are innate and others are learned. This lesson will help differentiate between the two.


Behavior is simply something you do in response to a situation. It can be determined by genetics, the environment, your own experience, or a combination of these factors. This lesson will focus on two types of behaviors: innate behavior and learned behavior. How do you react when you are hungry? You probably find something to eat. How do you react when you want to answer a teacher's question at school? You probably raise your hand and wait to be called on. These are both examples of behavior. One is innate and the other is learned. Let's look more closely at what makes a behavior innate and what makes a behavior learned.

Innate Behavior

Behavior that you are born with is innate behavior. It is part of your genetic makeup. Since it is coded in your DNA, you don't have to learn it. You might refer to innate behavior as instinct. Innate behaviors include things like the need to sleep or an adrenaline response to danger. Getting something to eat when you are hungry is also an innate behavior. You didn't have to be taught to do any of these things.

All animals, including humans, have innate behaviors. Typically, these behaviors are related to basic needs such as finding food or producing offspring, and they are genetically encoded. Innate behaviors exist because they are necessary in some way for survival and have evolved through the process of natural selection. In other words, the behaviors most beneficial to a species' success are the ones passed on to future generations.

Learned Behavior

Some behaviors have to be taught before you do them. These are learned behaviors. You aren't born knowing how to respond in a classroom when a teacher asks a question. Raising your hand and waiting to be called on is something you learn from your interaction with the world. Learned behaviors include things like speaking in a specific language (for example, English or Spanish) or how you should eat in a restaurant. If you weren't taught these things through your environment and experiences, you would not know how to do them.

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