Innate and Learned Behaviour

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There are two types of behaviour: innate and learned. On one hand Nativists believe that a child’s behaviour is innate. Innate behaviour is defined as natural and instinctive. Swallowing, coughing and blinking are considered fixed and unchanging. These reflexes are involuntary responses to specific stimulation. The body naturally incorporates these reflexes to help the baby survive, for example without the ability to cough when food is stuck in the windpipe, the baby would choke. And without the ability to suck and swallow, the baby would be unable to feed. However Cohen’s research in 1967 showed that babies who were unsettled and crying for a feed were quicker at recognising the nipple and feeding. In effect this could be labelled as a learned behaviour. One Mother, with whom I spoke found that her first child took eight weeks to latch on properly, whereas her second baby knew instantly what to do. This is where the Rooting Reflex comes in, by touching the corner of a newborns mouth and pulling your finger gently toward their cheek, the baby will most likey turn his/her entire head towards the encouraged side and try to suck your finger. However some unco-operative babies are unwilling to show their reflexes at the time they are stimulated On the other hand Empiricists believe that a child’s behaviour is influenced by their experiences and their surroundings. Jean Piaget found that “children learn by actively constructing knowledge through hands-on experience”. A baby using the toilet/potty and talking are examples of learned behaviour. One Mother I spoke to described how she would sometimes listen to her older son telling off his younger sister in a tone of voice that was very much like that of his Father. However should a child pick up on bad habits, such as swearing, then these are easily remedied by the parents. Because a behaviour is classed as “learned” it can be changed, but not always simply Another Mother told that her son decided one day that he...
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