What Is the Difference Between Innate and Learned Behavior?

Innate behavior is instinctual and genetic, while learned behavior is behavior that must be directly taught or learned from experience. Both types of behavior are present in the majority of animal species, including humans.

Innate behavior is not taught, and the individual is born with the knowledge. This means that even if an individual is raised away from others and in isolation, it still exhibits these behaviors. These behaviors work the same in each individual. Some examples of innate behavior are reflexes, mating rituals and certain reactions to stimuli, such as insects flying toward light. Relatively simple animals, such as insects, rely mostly on innate behavior.

Learned behavior requires external stimulus for the individual to perform the behavior. Learning to ignore things, such as a regular loud sound, or reacting to a specific stimulus in a way that is different from the innate reaction are both examples of learned behavior. Classical conditioning is learned behavior that teaches the individual to connect two previously unrelated stimuli. It is not possible to inherit learned behavior, and it must be passed on to other individuals by teaching the behavior. Learned behavior can be modified to suit new conditions. Humans rely more heavily on learned behavior than on innate behavior.