A behavior is a way in which an animal or person acts in response to a situation or stimulus. Behaviors are the ways animals interact with other animals or with their environment. Animals and people will carry out behaviors alone or with other animals or people. For every behavior an animal displays, there is a reason for the behavior. For example, birds build nests because it is where they will live and raise their young. Dogs sit or roll over because they will usually expect a treat or a pat on their heads. People blink to moisten or protect their eyes. Spiders build webs to catch their prey and for protection.
Some behaviors animals may be learned, and other behaviors are a part of the animal at birth, and they do not need to learn them. They are born with already knowing how to perform certain behaviors. There are two types of behaviors: innate behaviors and learned behaviors.
Innate behaviors are those that an animal already has at its birth. The more intelligent an animal is, the fewer innate behaviors it will have. For example, a human is the most intelligent animal on Earth, so humans have the least number of innate behaviors. Most human behaviors are learned behaviors.
In fact, the only innate behaviors in humans are reflex behaviors. They are very simple actions and are involuntary and rapid responses to a cue or stimulus. A stimulus is something that causes a reaction, response, or behavior.
Of course, other animals have many more innate behaviors than humans. They occur naturally in all the animals of a given species. For example, all dogs know how to dig holes. A dog can dig a hole the first time it tries. The dog does not have to practice. Innate behaviors are sometimes called instincts and are predictable. Innate behaviors are passed on from generation to generation but may change depending on what the animal must do for survival. If the animal does not adapt and change to the environment it will die off.
If an animal is not born with a behavior, such as an instinct or reflex, then it must be a learned behavior. Learned behaviors are developed because of experience, conditioning, and learning. The behaviors come about due to an animal's interaction with the environment or it is taught to the animal.
A learned behavior is the opposite of an innate behavior. Sometimes it may seem animals, and people, are born with some of the learned behaviors, but they are not. For example, people are not born with the ability to talk, even though it seems to come easy once a young child begins speaking. The baby had to learn how to talk. If a child was born in the middle of the wilderness without being exposed to other people, the baby would only grunt and make sounds like other animals.
There are simple and more complex learned behaviors. Simple learned behaviors include habituation and imprinting and are modified by previous experiences. Habituation is simply a behavior that becomes a habit, or scientifically, it takes place when an animal stops responding to a stimulus or cue after repeated exposure. Imprinting is a specific type of learning occurring at a certain age or life stage during the animal's development.
An example of habituation is when an animal learns a behavior that later becomes a habit. An imprinting example is a behavior used by ducks or geese. When ducklings hatch, they will imprint on the first adult animal they see, which is usually the mother. The ducklings begin to follow the mother around and imitate her.
In summary, animal behavior is innate, a born behavior that does not need to be learned; or learned, a behavior that takes practice or conditioning to repeatedly perform.
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