The Influence of Social Learning on the Learning Process

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In the present world, the competition for limited resources such as land and food has increased more than ever before. Due to the increasing level of competition, the existing species have been evolving to new ones which have the necessary competitive skills. in connection to this, Charles Darwin stipulated that species are deemed to change over time, and this results to variations, which can be noticed through observing organisms which belong to the same family. Precisely, the difference between the current generation and the ancestors can only be noticed over time, since change in traits tends to be gradual in such a way that it cannot be easily be noticed between the current and the last immediate generation. In addition, in every group of organisms, social learning, which forms the culture always occurs through observation and imitation.  This paper pays high attention to the description of natural selection, how social learning influences the learning process, as well as the differences between natural selection and social learning.

Key concepts and principles related to natural selection

According to Charles Darwin`s concept of natural selection, there are a number of aspects which contributes to the occurrence of natural selection. For example, Darwin observed that for natural selection to take place, traits from one species are heritable from one generation to another. Precisely, in living organisms, various genotypic and phenotypic characteristics are inheritable or can be passed from the parent to the offspring. In addition, Darwin observed that the overproduction (more offspring being produced that what the environment can support. Precisely, species produce more offspring since they do contemplate that not all will manage to survive. The high level of production of offspring is the major contributing factor for the high level of competition for limited resources (Smith & Winterhalder, 2017, 47-51). The level of competition for the limited resources continues to increase each new generation since more offspring are produced. Additionally, Darwin also observed that in any generation, the offspring produced are slightly different from one another in terms of their traits such as size, shape and color, and most of these traits are heritable.

Despite the fact that in every generation there is massive overproduction of species or super fecundity, majority of the produced offspring do not survive to the level of producing offspring of their own. Majority of the produced offspring succumb to infections, starving, while others are eaten by predators. According to Darwin, the massive discrepancy between the produced offspring and the number of those which manage to survive is explained through the struggle for existence. The struggle is not only brought about by animals who belong to the same species but also species which share the same ecological requirements. The struggle for existence contributes to the survival for the fittest, which arises in such a way the offspring which manage to survive to the level of producing the next generation has unique surviving traits, which are then transferred to the next generation. In the long run, the present offspring appears to be slightly different from the initial ancestors, and this is the major contribution to the variation between organism belong to the same species. The survival tactics are gain as a result in the scramble for the limited environmental resources such as food and the space. During the explanation of the natural selection theory, Darwin gave an example of the long-necked giraffes. Precisely, initially, giraffes used to have short necks and relied on grass as their main source of food. They could easily access grass on the ground without straining so much. Apparently, as numerous species which also relied on grass continued to be produced, the competition for grass increased, to such an extent that most of the grass feeding animals were starving to death. As the level of competition for grass continued to increase, the short-necked giraffes started to feed on short shrubs in order to offset the prevailing competition (in order to survive), and this became their adaptation. In the long run, the neck of the giraffes continued to lengthen as the level of competition for grass continued to increase, to such an extent that they can access leaves on trees, and this is how long-necked giraffes came to be. This phenotypic trait or an adaptation was then transferred to the next generation of giraffes, and this is why all the giraffes in the contemporary world have long necks. In addition, the aspect of adaption is also among the major principles of natural selection. Adaptation entails a situation where a given species develops a survival adaptation, which enables it to overcome or tolerate some environmental pressures. A good example is the development of ling necks among giraffes in order to overcome the stiff competition for grass that exists between them and the other herbivorous animals.

Description of the influence social learning has on the learning process

The social learning theory advocates that new behaviors can be acquired through observing and imitating others in the environment. This theory stipulates that the learning process is a cognitive process that happens in a social context, and can be developed purely through direct instruction or through observation. Even in the absence of direct reinforcement or motor reproduction. Addition, learning also occurs through a process referred to as vicarious reinforcement, which entails observation of punishments or rewards. For example, if a child is promised to behave in a given manner and is promised a reward after that, he or she is deemed to do so. If this is continuously done, he or she is likely to develop a behavior since he will learn to do it even when no reward is given (Illeris, 2018). Similarly, if the same child is subjected to some form of punishment with the aim of discouraging him or her from propagating some behaviors, he or she will internalize the trend and it becomes part of him or her. For example, according to Jean Piaget`s theory of cognitive development, parents and teachers tends to monitor the cognitive development of children by setting good examples to them as well as guiding them on what is socially acceptable and what is socially unacceptable (Carey, Zaitchik and Bascandziev, 2015, 38-47). During the pre-operational stage, children manifest the development of the cognitive development by taking the viewpoints of their seniors.

Similarly, in the natural selection theory, organisms attain social learning by interacting with others. The manner in which the older members act is also manifested by the newly born members as well, since the latter observe and imitate the former. For example, young antelopes are born without knowing the importance of running. They actually don’t know that they have the potential of running very fast. However, after interacting with the other antelopes, they learn that the latter swiftly runs whenever a prey like cheater or lion happens to come on sight. Moreover, social learning is one of the most effective mode of learning that organisms can learn without being forced or coaxed by others (Marsick & Watkins, 2015, 56). Actually, even if one may be reluctant to learn, he or she cannot manage to stay against he social learning, since he or she must interact with others in one way or the other. Social learning helps in organisms which belongs to the same family to behave in a similar way, to such an extent that one can mange to differentiate organisms based on how they behave.

Ways in which natural selection differs from social behavior

There are myriad of differences between natural selection and social learning. For example, for natural selection, the entire process is genetic in nature since the natural traits are in the gene make up of a particular species. For example, the aspect of giraffes being tall is more of genetic than a being learnt on the environment. On the other hand, social learning is a phenotypic characteristic which is not in any way related to the genes of a species. Preciously, there is no any given time that a social learnt trait can be incorporated into the genetic make up of a given species. In addition, the mode of transmission between natural selection and social learning is different. For example, for natural selection, the mode of transmission is through biological models such as reproduction, and the major players in this process are the parental organisms. This means that for natural selection to take place, the parents of an offspring determine the composition of traits that the offspring will have. For example, if the male and female giraffes are long necked, chances are very high that during their reproduction process, the two members will produce an offspring that will have a long neck as well. on the other hand, for social learning to occur, it is not a must for the parents to be the major contributors, since the most immediate members that an offspring happens to interact with may as well facilitate social learning. For example, for young antelopes to learn on how to run, it is not a must for them to run from their parents, but they can observe or imitate what the other members of the group are doing. Moreover, the processes and duration for the occurrence of natural selection and social learning are also different. For example, natural selection takes years for a particular change of trait (natural variation) to be noticed. For example, one must closely examine the family lineage in order to notice the difference between the current family member with his or her ancestors. If for instance one wants to notice natural variation in my family lineage, he or she must closely examine me, my parents, my grandparents and so on. Additionally, natural selection occurs in various forms such as mutations, continental drift, migration, and evolution.

In contrast, it only takes a limited time for social learning to be achieved. For example, for it only take minutes for a newborn antelope to learn how to run. Additionally, social learning takes place through observation or imitation. In addition, the occurrence of natural selection may result to negative traits or positive traits. For example, when mutations happen to occur, the genetic organization, sequencing, or make-up is affected, and this may result to enhanced risk for the development of genetic conditions. For example, in human beings, the occurrence of sickle-celled anemia is as a result of an inherited abnormal hemoglobin (the protein which conveys oxygen within the red blood cells), and it is inherited from the parents and passed from one generation to the other (Ribeil et al., 2017, pp.848-855). Other conditions which occur as a result of genetic mutations are not limited to the cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease and polycystic kidney disease. However, the occurrence of social learning entails an adaptation that aims at enhancing the survival or an organism. For example, the aspect of cheetahs being able to run at a high speed is an adaptation which enables it to run after their predators for food.


It is, therefore, evident, that natural selection takes place in a gradual process to such an extent that it is challenging for an individual to notice the difference in terms of change between an offspring and its parents. Frecisely, for an individual to notice the difference between an offspring and its parents. in addition, there are a number of principles which are involved in the process of natural selection, including variations as well as the ability to inherit traits. Moreover, social learning influences the learning process in a number of ways, including the aspect of learning some behaviors through observation and imitation. In addition, it is worth noting that social learning may occur even without being forced or coaxed to learn, especially due to the fact that an organism must associate with others in the environment in one way or the other. Moreover, natural selection and social learning should not be confused since they have a myriad of differences, including the fact that natural selection may result to unhealthy behaviors while social learning aims for the betterment of an organism, in terms of an adaptation to survive.


Illeris, K., 2018. A comprehensive understanding of human learning. In Contemporary Theories of Learning (pp. 1-14). Routledge.

Marsick, V. and Watkins, K., 2015. Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace (Routledge Revivals). Routledge.

Ribeil, J.A., Hacein-Bey-Abina, S., Payen, E., Magnani, A., Semeraro, M., Magrin, E., Caccavelli, L., Neven, B., Bourget, P., El Nemer, W. and Bartolucci, P., 2017. Gene therapy in a patient with sickle cell disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 376(9), pp.848-855.

Smith, E.A. and Winterhalder, B., 2017. Natural selection and decision-making: Some fundamental principles. In Evolutionary ecology and human behavior (pp. 25-60). Routledge.

Carey, S., Zaitchik, D. and Bascandziev, I., 2015. Theories of development: In dialog with Jean Piaget. Developmental Review, 38, pp.36-54.

October 05, 2023

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