All human behavior is learned

Human beings are essentially blank slates that are shaped by their environment. We have numerous societal mechanisms that exist because of this belief in the power of learned behavior.

Role of parenting: we place a great deal of importance on the role of mothers and fathers in the raising of children. We believe, for instance, that children raised without fathers will be hindered by their lack of a male role model. And parents who have continual run-ins with the law risk having government authorities take their children from them. The latter action is typically taken because society believes that irresponsible parents don’t provide the proper learning environment for their children.

Importance of education: Most advanced societies invest heavily in the education of their young. They typically provide 10 or more years of free education. And in countries such as the United States, going on to college after finishing high school has become the norm rather than the exception. This investment in education is undertaken because it is seen as a way for young people to acquire knowledge and skills..

In India primary education is free. A nominal fee is charged in high school and in universities. The education system is very effective yet subsidized

Job training: For individuals who don’t go on to college, most will pursue job-training programs to develop specific work-related skills. They will take courses to become proficient as auto mechanics, medical assistants, and the like. Similarly, people who seek to become skilled trade workers will pursue apprenticeships as carpenters, electricians, or pipe fitters. In addition, business firms invest billions of dollars each year in training and education to keep current employees’ skills up to date.

Manipulating of rewards: Complex compensation programs are designed by organizations to reward employees fairly for their performance at work. But these programs are also designed with the intention to motivate employees. They are designed to encourage employees to engage in behaviors that management desires and to extinguish behaviors that management wants to discourage. Salary levels, for instance, typically reward employee loyalty, encourage the learning of new skills, and motivate individuals to assume greater responsibilities in the organization

The above mechanisms all exist and flourish because organizations and society believe that people can learn and change their behavior.

Although people can learn and can be influenced by their environment, far too little attention has been paid to the role that evolution has played in shaping human behavior. Evolutionary psychology tells us that we are born with ingrained traits, honed and adapted over millions of years that shape and limit our behavior

All living creatures are “designed” by specific combinations of genes. As a result of natural selection, characteristics that help a species survive, tend to endure and get passed on to future generations. Many of the characteristics that helped early Homo sapiens survive live on today and influence the way we behave. Here are a few examples

Emotions: Stone Age people, at the mercy of wild predators and natural disasters, learned to trust their instincts. Those with the best instincts survived. Today, emotions remain the first screen to all information we receive. We know we are supposed to act rationally but our emotions can never be fully suppressed

Risk avoidance: Ancient hunter-gatherers who survived weren’t big risk takers. They were cautious. Today, when we are comfortable with the status quo, we typically see any change as risky and, thus, tend to resist it.

Stereotyping: To prosper in a clean society, early man had to quickly “size-up” who he could trust and who he couldn’t. Those who could do this quickly were more likely to survive. Today, like our ancestors, we naturally stereotype people based on very small pieces of evidence, mainly their looks and a few readily apparent behaviors

Male competitiveness: Male in early human societies frequently had to engage in games or battles in which there were clear winners and losers. Winners attained high status, were viewed as more attractive mates and were more likely to reproduce. The ingrained male desire to do public battle and display virility and competence persists today.