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How does behaviour develop?

All behaviors, talents and personality traits are the products of both types of factors, biological and social, hereditary and cultural physiological and environment. The body develops according to a program establish by the genes. The only way that hereditary can influence personality and behavior is through its effects on our bodies. For example having a male or female body certainly influence our behavior and affect the way we are treated by other people.

Behavior does not exist in a vacuum, nor do our thoughts and emotions. Our actions are provoked, informed and guided by events occurring in the environment, and we think about – and have feelings about – what is happening there. 

Studies show that interaction between hereditary and environment factors – between nature and nurture – begin very early in life, environmental stimulation does not begin at birth. Fetuses feel the movement of their mother’s bodies and hear sounds. After they are born, infants receive much environmental stimulation when they are nursed. This stimulation contributes to normal development. Interaction between genes and environment begins to occur early in development and undoubtly throughout the life span. 

Our senses are the means by which we experience the world, everything we learn is directed by sense organs and transmitted to our brains by sensory nerves. Without sensory input a human brain would be utterly useless; it would learn nothing, think no thoughts, have no experiences and control no behaviors.

Behaviors are selected, behaviors that produce favorable consequences are repeated, but those that produce unfavorable consequences tend not to recur. In other words we learn from experience. As conditions change, new behaviors are learned and old ones eliminated.

Many events may cause us to react automatically. Habituation, learning not to respond to an event that occurs repeatedly is the simplest form of learning. It permits us to get more important things done and to remain relatively free from distraction by petty events.

Classical conditioning involves learning about the conditions that predict that an event with some personal significance will occur. Many of our behaviors have been acquired through this learning.

Instrumental conditioning provides a way for a response to be either strengthened or weakened by its consequences. That is, the consequences of a response can either reinforce or punish the response. 

Behaviors are guided by stimuli as well as reinforced or punished by them. Discrimination involves the detection of essential difference between stimuli or between situations so that responding occurs only when appropriate.

A stimulus that increases the probability of a response that precedes it is called a reinforcing stimulus.

Punishment refers to a decrease in the probability of a response caused by the stimulus that follows it. Sometimes the contingency between response and reinforcement no longer exists. In that case continuing to respond would be unproductive. The response will be extinguished.

Normally we learn about the consequences of our own behavior or about stimuli that directly affect us. But we can also learn by a less direct method, observing the behavior of others. We tend to imitate – and feel – the emotional responses of people we observe. We can also learn to modify and combine responses learned in another context to solve problems. 

Human life is characterized by growth and change. Genetically an infant has the potential to develop skills that coincide with the maturation of its nervous system. But in order for this potential to be realized, the infant’s environment must supply the opportunity to test and practice these skills. Infants have certain innate behaviors that help ensure that they receive the proper attention and stimulation from their caregivers at appropriate times. 

The first step in children’s cognitive development is learning that many events are contingent on their own behavior. This understanding occurs gradually and is controlled by the development of the nervous system and by increasingly complex interactions with the environment. Because babies are totally dependant upon their parents, the development of attachment between parent and infant is crucial to the infant’s survival. A baby has the innate ability to shape and reinforce the behavior of the parent.

Physical development as male or female is only one aspect of sexual development, social development is also important. A person’s sexual identity is an important part of his or her self-concept. Sex role are a collection of behaviors and rules related to these behaviors.

Moral behavior is behavior that conforms to a generally accepted set of rules. We may accept that fact that morality is extremely useful to human society.

Changes that accompany sexual maturation have a profound effect on young people’s behavior and self-concept. They become more sensitive about their appearance. During adolescence a person’s behavior and social role change dramatically. It is the transitional stage between childhood and adulthood.

Up to the time of young adulthood, human development can reasonable be described as a series of stages, a regular sequence of change that occur in most members of our species. However development in adulthood is much more variable and few generalizations will apply.


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