Difference Between Instinct and Learned Behavior

Key Difference – Instinct vs Learned Behavior
 

When speaking of behavior, instinct and learned behavior are two types between which a key difference can be highlighted. Instinct also known as innate behavior is an action that occurs immediately on a trigger. On the contrary, learned behavior is an action that the person learns through observation, education or experience. This is the key difference between instinct and learned behavior.  Innate and learned behavior can be seen in human beings as well as in animals. Through this article let us examine this difference further.

What is Instinct?

Instinct is also known as innate behavior. This is a type of behavior in which the individual does not have to be taught how to do something. He or she has the ability to do so from birth itself. Such behavior can be observed in both humans as well as animals. For example, the crying of an infant is an innate behavior. This is not something that is taught. When the infant requires something such as milk, he will cry. In the animal world as well such behavior can be seen. For example, a spider weaving a web is an innate behavior.

Instinct or instinctual behavior is within the genetic makeup of the being. It allows the person or animal to engage in an action that has not been taught before. However, instinct should not be confused with reflexes. Reflexes refer to an immediate response to a particular stimulus. In the animal world, instinct is very important as it allows the species to survive and also reproduce.

Difference Between Instinct and Learned Behavior

What is Learned Behavior?

Now let us focus on learned behavior. Learned behavior is an action that the person learns through observation, education or experience. Unlike instinct that does not have to be taught or practiced, learned behavior has to be taught. This is because the learned behavior is not inherent and has to be perfected. Learned behavior entails different skills that a person learns or improves. This can be perfected through repetition. This can be seen in animals as well as in humans as well.

In psychology, there are two concepts known as classical conditioning and operant conditioning that can be linked to learned behavior. Both highlight that behavior can be learned. This can increase a particular behavior or even decrease it. For example, when a person is rewarded for a particular behavior, it increases. But when the person is punished, the behavior decreases. Imagine a child who is rewarded for taking good grades at the exam. The behavior of studying well increases because it has a positive reaction. However, imagine the child is punished for bad grades. Then the behavior would decrease in order to avoid punishment.

Key Difference - Instinct vs Learned Behavior

What is the difference between Instinct and Learned Behavior?

Definitions of Instinct and Learned Behavior:

Instinct: Instinct is an action that occurs immediately on a trigger.

Learned Behavior: Learned behavior is an action that the person learns through observation, education or experience.

Characteristics of Instinct and Learned Behavior:

Nature:

Instinct: Instinct or innate behavior is inherent.

Learned Behavior: Learned behavior is learnt.

Practice:

Instinct: Instinct does not have to be practiced.

Learned Behavior: Learned behavior has to be practiced.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Araneus Diadematus web By Gnissah – Own work [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

2. Female animal trainer and leopard By Photo Crafts Shop of Denver [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons