In this paper I will be critically discussing the idea that all behaviour is learnt. But first let me introduce you to the precise definition of behaviour.
What is behaviour?
"Behaviour is the aggregate of all the responses made by an organism in any situation. It is the range of actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary. It is influenced by culture, attitudes, emotions, values, ethics, authority, rapport, hypnosis, persuasion, coercion and/or genetics." -wikipedia.org
It can be defined more precisely as an internally directed system of adaptive activities that facilitate survival and reproduction.Any behavior we can observe by watching an animal is overt behavior. In humans, behavior is controlled primarily by the endocrine system and the nervous system. Generally, complex nervous systems exhibit a greater capacity to learn new responses and thus more adjustment in behavior.
In general, overt behavior may be classified as innate or learnt. Many people use the term "instinctive behavior" as a synonym for innate behavior. Although both termss refer to natural, inborn patterns of behavior. Another category of behaviour which was later on added is complex behaviour which is a blend of innate and learned components.
Innate behaviour is defined as a relatively complex response pattern which is usually present in both sexes of a given species. These responses are said to have a genetic basis and are essentially unlearned and adaptive. eg. Aggression
If organisms only had innate behaviour then all the organisms of same species would have had identical behaviour. But that is not the case, is it? This led to the new category of behaviour known as learnt behaviour. A learned behavior is some type of action or reflex that we learn after deciding to learn. We learn it because we find it beneficial to us. We can learn these behaviors by watching others do them, such as riding a bike or learning to write. But we can not learn an innate behaviour like crying. Learned behaviour can also be conditioned.
"Most overt behavior is neither 100% innate nor 100% learned. Sometimes innate behaviors may be modified (or modulated) through practice and experience. In locusts, for example, the ability to fly is innate, but an older, experienced individual consumes less energy (per unit time) than a novice flier. This suggests that the older insect has "learned" to fly more efficiently. Similarly, learned behaviors may incorporate or depend upon elements of innate behavior.
Indeed, the ability to learn, to associate, or to remember is almost certainly an innate feature of the insect's nervous system. Schematically, it may be useful to think of a box that represents the boundaries of an animal's ethogram. All behavior must occur inside the physiological limits of this box (e.g. a beetle larva does not have wings, therefore it cannot fly).
Within the box, a set of innate behaviors can be simplistically represented by straight lines. By following a zigzag route, an insect can use only innate behavior to get from point "A" to point "B". But a learned behavior, superimposed on this innate grid, might provide a "shortcut" that is more useful or more efficient. As in the locust example above, the innate ability to fly may be refined and improved through experience." -- cals.ncsu.edu
Whether our behaviour, actions and conduct are determined by nature, the genes given to us by our parents or by nurture, the factors of the environment upon us after birth and through childhood is a debate...