Factors Influencing Behaviour

Factors Influencing Behaviour

Innate Behaviour

  • Species-specific: Innate behaviours are hard-wired within an animal’s genetic code and are specific to that species. They can be seen in all animals of a species, irrespective of their environment or learning.
  • Fixed action patterns: Innate behaviour usually follows set sequences, known as fixed action patterns (FAPs). They continue till completion once triggered.
  • Trigger stimuli: FAPs are initiated by specific stimuli, often referred to as a ‘sign stimulus’ or ‘trigger.’ For example, a dog might wag its tail when happy.

Environmental Influences

  • Availability of resources: The presence, absence, or distribution of resources - such as food, water, and mates - can impact animal behaviour.
  • Territory and home range: Many species establish a territory or home range to protect their resources. Interactions with intruders can drive various behaviours.
  • Seasonal changes: Changes in light, temperature, and food availability with the varying seasons can influence animal behaviours, especially migratory patterns and hibernation.

Learned Behaviour

  • Experience: Behaviours can be learned and altered based on an animal’s personal experiences, such as training, conditioning, or observation of others.
  • Habituation: Animals often experience decreasing responses to repeated consistent exposures, which is known as habituation. This process reduces unnecessary responses to harmless, frequently occurring stimuli.
  • Imitation: Animals, especially young ones, often learn by reproducing the behaviours they see around them. This is crucial for acquiring survival skills, social behaviours, and food finding techniques.

Social Structure and Behaviour

  • Dominance hierarchies: Many species have a clear social order or hierarchy. This hierarchy can strongly influence many social behaviours, such as feeding order or mate selection.
  • Cooperative behaviours: These involve animals collaborating for shared benefits, such as hunting in packs or rearing offspring communally. This encourages survival and enhances chances of reproduction.

Physiological Influences

  • Hormones: Hormonal state can have a profound influence on an animal’s behaviour. For instance, high levels of the hormone testosterone are often associated with increased aggression.
  • Neurological state: Changes in an animal’s brain or nervous system (due to injury, age, or illness) can lead to changes in behaviour.

Human Influence

  • Domestication and breeding: Over generations, selective breeding for specific traits by humans can greatly affect behaviours. Dogs, for instance, have been bred for specific tasks, affecting their personalities and behaviours.
  • Training: Regular interactions with humans, false conditioning, or training can alter animal behaviour over time.
  • Captivity: Animals in zoos or other captive environments often exhibit behaviours that differ significantly from those in the wild, due to differences in space, socialisation, diet, and breeding practices.