How behaviour is learned

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

How behaviour is learned

The more complex an organism is the more capacity it has for being programmed by external factors. A single cell organism can hardly learn anything because all of its functions were previously programmed inside it the moment it was created.

A more complex organism like a dog for example has more capacity for learning things that it wasn't born with. For example no dog knows how to respond to a person calling its name the moments its born.

Because humans are the most complex of all living organisms their capacity for learning and getting programmed by life events is the biggest.

So what does this has to do with understanding human behaviour?
Most people fail to take into consideration the fact that most of human behaviour is learned. This means that no child is born with the desire to show off or to be a loner but its rather the experiences that the child goes through that programs its mind and forces it to act this way.

This means that behaviour is learned as a result of the programming human beings get subjected to in their lives and especially during their early years.

Learned behaviour and the development of lifestyle

The human mind is a like a big computer with an extremely large hard disk. The way that hard disk is filled with information and the type of information that gets inside it determines the behaviour of that human being for the rest of his life.

As the result of the experiences that happen to them in their early years humans develop what psychologist call the lifestyle. (see also How your past affects your present)

The lifestyle of an individual are the set of ultimate goals that this person develops in his early years. Each and every behaviour of that human being stems from that life style and is perfectly aligned with it.

An example of a learned behaviour

Here is an example that will make everything clear:

Joe is a very aggressive person. He always uses power to resolve the conflicts that he encounters in his everyday life. Sometimes aggression becomes a useful behaviour (like when an enemy attacks you) but in most cases trying to solve problems, that can be solved in a diplomatic way, using power results in bad consequences. (see also Why are some people aggressive).

Just like any child Joe's mind was empty the day it was born (apart from the initial built in functions that all human beings are born with).

Joe lived in a house where violence was the preferred choice for resolving conflicts and as a result he developed the belief that power should always be used whenever possible. (see Changing negative core beliefs).

Joe also felt insecure because of believing that his father hates him and as a result he started to believe that all people out there in the world hate him as well.(see How insecure people behave).

In my article How childhood experiences affect adulthood i explained how the relationship of the child with its primary caregivers determines its relationship with the whole world later on.

As as a result of those two major influences Joe developed the lifestyle of:

1) Attacking people first because of believing that they hate him
2) Using aggression to attack them because that's the best way to deal with conflicts

How can behaviour be unlearned

The reason you now understand Joe's mind perfectly is that you learned about the lifestyle he developed in his earlier years.

By understanding your own lifestyle and connecting your current behaviour to it you will be able to get a much deeper understanding of yourself. (see also How to understand your emotions).

The good news is that just like you learned an unwanted behaviour because it used to serve your lifestyle you still can unlearn that behaviour when you manage to change your incorrect life style.

If for example you became a shopping addict because you developed the lifestyle of being showy then you can easily break this habit by removing that bad life style you have developed earlier in your life.

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