Instinctual vs learned behavior

Skinner's view was that all behavior was learned through the process of reinforcement, whether it was positive or negative. Yet, research completed by Keller and Marian Breland in the early 1960s found that pigs, chickens, hamsters, porpoises, whales, cows, and other animals all demonstrated a tendency toward "instinctive drift." This means that animals tended to substitute instinctive behaviors for behaviors that had been reinforced, even when instinctive behaviors interfered with obtaining food. The animals were quickly conditioned to perform a number of tasks followed by unwanted behaviors. The conclusion is that the animals were reverting to innate behaviors that took precedence over the learned behaviors, even though this delayed receiving food, which supposedly was reinforcing the conditioned behavior. Clearly, in these cases, reinforcement was not as powerful an incentive for the animals as Skinner claimed.

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