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Genetic and Social Behavioral Learning Theories

Genetic theory of learning

Learning and behavioral habits in human beings can be influenced by social, environmental and genetic factors. Genetic theory describes how genes help in shaping human behaviors. Human genetic influences are usually complicated and are among many other factors affecting behavior. Although genes on their own can hardly determine or influence human habits or behaviors, an interplay between human genes and the environment is crucial in moulding an individual’s behavior. Vicki’s behavior though largely influenced by social and environmental factors, genetics s played some role. Human behavior can be acquired or passed genetically to a member of a family from another member who had demonstrated similar habits or behavior. From this point of view, there is little evidence on whether Vicki’s general behavior was passed on or acquired from a family member or relative, except for her perception and behavior on sexuality which was genetically and socially influenced by her mother.. Vicki’s case shows that her initiation to alcoholism was as a result of her loneliness. This state could have led to genes in her mind forming neural circuits to counteract the condition of loneliness, which in response could have led drug taking which in the long run caused her addiction to alcohol and other hardcore drugs she engaged in(Jasny, A. et al, 2008).

Vicki’s social behavior can be conserved in her genes’ neural paths which regulated her social cognition behavior like the addiction she had on drugs and her mental perception of women being inferior beings to be used by men sexually. Her thought on women submissiveness to men’s sexual wants should have altered her gene expression in the brain, with effects like low self esteem, addiction to drugs and her general social behavior Jasny argues that when some genes are altered or disrupted, the result can be dissection or impairment of neural circuits that control essential and vital behaviors like positive social relationship with other human beings.

Comparisons between genetic theory and social behavioral learning theory

Both the two learning theories explain that behavior is acquired. Social and environmental factors in ones surrounding influences behavior demonstrated by an individual. Vicki developed an addictive behavior in consumption of drug, a habit she learned from her boyfriend and his associates. Vicki’s sexual submissive behavior acquired from her mother’s words that women should submit to men’s sexual favors was genetically acquired in her brain; hence Vicki grew up with that perception in mind. Conclusion can therefore be made that Vicki’s submissiveness to men’s sexual advances was acquired socially and genetically. Her behavior could also be explained to have been acquired through heredity process, where Vicki could have genetically inherited her behavior from her mother who had the same thought in her mind. Vicki could also have passed the behavior to her child when she allowed one of her customer to engage in sexual activity with her daughter, as she was mentally convinced by her mother that it was a fate of all women (Jasny, A. et al, 2008).

The two theories have a similarity in that there must be an internal or external force or factor responsible for learning to occur. In Vicki’s case, her mother was the force behind her positive cognitive perception on women submission to men’s sexual favors, therefore accepting it as a socially acceptable behavior. Her addiction to drugs was triggered by her boyfriend who was a distributor of drugs. Her loneliness could be the main force influencing to start taking alcohol. Therefore a certain force in the environment is responsible for learning in both genetic and social learning processes (Drisccoll, 1994).

Contrasts between Genetic and Social behavioral learning theories

The main difference between the two theories is that genetic theory is based on Cognitivism, while social behavioral theory is based on behaviorism. Cognitive processes are the main influence on behavior through the thought processes in the brain. Behavioral changes are observed or acquired and internalized in an individuals mind. Brunner et al studied the responsibility of Neurochemicals in the human brain in activation of certain behavioral patterns and noted that such chemicals shaped ones behavior to be either social or antisocial. An example was the serotonin or dopamine which is responsible for a person’s antisocial behavior, like Vicki’s abuse and addiction to drugs. In a cognitive perspective, learning is like something goes on in ones mind which has an information processing system which shapes and modifies an individual’s behavior (Drisscoll, 1994).

Social behavioral theory on the contrary is based on behaviorism, which can be described as all the observable changes and factors in the environment influencing an individual’s behavior. It is mainly focused on repetition of a certain behavioral pattern continuously until the behavior becomes automatic (Glover & Bruning, 1990).

Social behavioral learning theory best explains Vicki’s behavior and life. According to behaviorist point of view, learning should be in terms of what can be observed and measured. As it is in the case of Vicki, most of her behaviors could be observed that she contracted from social and environmental factors around her, which were reinforced by the easy accessibility of the drugs and her perspective towards drug taking. The social environment had a great ‘mediating response’ towards Vicki’s miserable life and antisocial behaviors (Glover & Bruning, 1990).


Both genetics and the environment surrounding an individual play a great role in determining ones behavior and learning processes. However, social behavioral learning theory stands stronger as opposed to genetic theory of learning, as the former is influenced by the many and great forces in the environment while the latter is mostly determined by heredity and status of the mind. In Vicki’s case, the environmental factors majored in determining her addiction behavior to drugs therefore the genetic theory which is best described by genetic predispositions in ones brain, is usually good in predicting and determining ones health, but when it comes to ones behavior as it is determined by an individual’s personality, the environment and other social factors are the main players. Both theories should interplay in Vicki’s case as it emerges clearly above is that genes plays a part in ones behaviors acquired through social behavioral learning theory, as the social and environmental factors surrounding an individual too affects or influences perception to different actions in the brain, which are triggered by genes.


  1. Driscoll, M. P., (1994). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
  2. Glover, J.., & Bruning, R.., (1990). Educational Psychology: Principles and Applications (3rd Ed.). Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Co.
  3. Jasny, A et al (2008). From Genes to Social Behavior. Science, Vol.322 (5903), pg 891.
  4. Skinner, B.F (1953). Science and Human Behavior. New York: Macmillan.

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