Q. would be unable to feed. However Cohen’s

Q. would be unable to feed. However Cohen’s

Q. In your own words, detail the ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments with regard to innate and learned behaviour. A. The ‘nature versus nurture’ debate is a subject much discussed in the subject of psychology.

It concerns an individual’s ‘innate’ qualities versus that of ‘learned’ experiences. The behaviour which people are born with is called innate behaviour, as opposed to learned behaviour, which is gained through experience. Nativists believe this behaviour to be natural & instinctive. Reflexes are innate behaviour, and infants are born with several.Some of these include swallowing, coughing and blinking. These reflexes are to enable the baby to protect itself, and are simple and quick responses which our bodies do automatically.

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For example, when food is in the wind pipe, the response would be to cough, to prevent choking. Or when you get a puff of air to the eye, you will automatically blink to protect the lens. These physiological reflexes will stay with a person for their lifetime.

Instincts are more complex, inborn behavioural patterns, that can be modified very little, if at all.For example, Sea turtles newly hatched on a beach, will automatically move toward the ocean. They have no prior experience of this, therefore it’s performed instinctively. Spiders building a web and captive birds knowing how to fly without being ‘taught’ are all examples of this.

On the other side of the debate are the Empiricists. They believe infant behaviours must be Learned. A learned behaviour in not instinctive, but must be taught or acquired through learning, influenced by their experiences in their environment.A baby using the potty and talking are examples of learned behaviour. As opposed to reflex, these behaviours are unfixed and can be changed. Most behaviours have instinctive and learned components and so the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate will continue to have grey areas surrounding it. For example without the innate ability to suck and swallow, a baby would be unable to feed.

However Cohen’s research in 1967 showed that babies who were crying for a feed and unsettled were quicker at recognising the nipple and feeding.So in effect this could be labelled as a learned behaviour. An infant learning to walk could be considered a learned experience, however one of the ‘primitive’ reflexes a child is born with, may lay claim to walking being an innate behaviour. ‘The stepping reflex’, is when a newborn child is held to standing & feet are gentle dragged on table.

The child will make step like movement. American Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) argued that humans no longer have ‘instincts’, as we have the ability to override them in certain situations.He felt that the definition of ‘instinct’ is often imprecise, and really amounts to strong drives. An instinct, for Maslow, cannot be overridden, and therefore while it may have applied to humans in the past it no longer does. As we can see there are very few clear cut examples for calling behaviour either innate or learned, so studies based on simple ‘nature versus nurture’ debates, should no longer be used.

Behavioural development is influenced by both the environment and genes.

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