Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Learning Theory and the Evolutionary Analogy

By Marion Blute


In this article, past comparisons of learning and evolution as analogous processes are discussed and some inaccuracies and omissions in those discussions are pointed out. The evolutionary analogy is examined for its ability to suggest solutions to five fundamental theoretical issues about learning - superstitions, why a reinforcer has the effect it does, the relationship among various procedures yielding learning, the relevance of the matching law to the problem of what reinforces an avoidance response, and whether behavioral and cognitive views of learning can be reconciled. In each case it is argued that the analogy is instructive

Topics: Behavioral Analysis, Evolution, Neuropsychology, Epistemology
Year: 1979
OAI identifier:
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles


    1. (1952). A behavior system.
    2. (1970). An introduction to population genetics theory.
    3. (1911). Animal intelligence. doi
    4. (1969). Auto-maintenance in the pigeon: Sustained pecking despite contingent non-reinforcement. doi
    5. (1968). Auto-shaping of the pigeon’s key-peck.
    6. (1960). Blind variation and selective retention in creative thought as in other knowledge processes. Psychological Review,
    7. (1973). Classical conditioning. In
    8. (1975). Cognitive psychology: An introduction. In W.K. Estes (Ed.), Handbook of learning and cognitive processes. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
    9. (1978). Commentary: Bindra: A perceptual-motivational view of adaptive behavior.
    10. (1954). Conditioning as an artifact. Psychological Review,
    11. (1927). Conditioning of domestic chicks to visual and auditory stimuli: control of drinking by visual stimuli and control of conditioned fear by sound.
    12. (1973). Constraints on learning.
    13. (1979). Englewood Cliffs,
    14. (1973). Food reinforcement and the organization of behavior in Golden Hamsters. In
    15. (1974). Formal properties of the matching law.
    16. (1966). Fundamentals of learning.
    17. (1970). Genetics of the evolutionary process.
    18. (1977). Handbook of operant behavior.
    19. (1976). How adaptive behavior is produced: A perceptual-motivational alternative to response-reinforcement. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences,
    20. (1975). Learning as adaptation. In W.K. Estes (Ed.), Handbook of learning and cognitive processes. Volume II.
    21. (1960). Learning theory and behavior.
    22. (1962). Mankind evolving.
    23. (1974). Mechanism of long-lasting inhibitionof a bursting pacemaker neuron.
    24. (1970). Neural operations in anthropod ganglia.
    25. (1974). Neuronal principles organizing periodic behavior. In
    26. (1947). On the dual nature of learning -- A re-interpretation of “conditioning” and “problem-solving.” Harvard Educational Review,
    27. (1970). On the law of effect.
    28. (1951). On the parallel between learning and evolution,
    29. (1971). On the tautology of the matching law.
    30. (1973). Origin of behavioral rhythms in insect nervous systems. In
    31. (1966). Philosophy of natural science. doi
    32. (1969). Population genetics. doi
    33. (1943). Principles of behavior.
    34. (1956). Principles of embryology. London; George Allen and Unwin Ltd.,
    35. (1974). Prolonged excitatory and inhibitory synaptic modulation of a bursting pacemaker neuron.
    36. (1970). Psychology and biology. The Canadian Psychologist, doi
    37. Qualitative versus directional cues in two forms of differentiation.
    38. (1971). Quantitative hedonism.
    39. Rate differential reinforcement in monkey manipulation.
    40. (1965). Reinforcement theory. In
    41. (1966). Relation of cue to consequence in avoidance learning. Psychonomic Science,
    42. Relative and absolute strength of response as a function of frequency of reinforcement. doi
    43. (1977). Schedules of reinforcement. doi
    44. (1976). Some behavioral approaches to the study of learning.
    45. (1946). Studies in spatial learning. II Place learning versus response learning. doi
    46. (1971). The ‘superstition’ experiment. Psychological Review,
    47. (1962). The architecture of complexity.
    48. (1972). The avoidance learning problem.
    49. (1975). The comparative analysis of learning.
    50. (1973). The comparative psychology of learning.
    51. (1934). The concept of the habit-family hierarchy and maze learning: Part I. The Psychological Review,
    52. (1973). The concept of the operant in the analysis of behavior. Behaviorism,
    53. The effect of multiple S periods on responding on a fixed-interval schedule.
    54. (1935). The generic nature of the concepts of stimulus and response.
    55. (1914). The history and theory of vitalism.
    56. (1967). The Meaning of Evolution.
    57. (1977). The nature of the reinforcing stimulus.
    58. (1958). The origin of species.
    59. (1974). The philosophy of Karl Popper. Book I. La Salle,
    60. The phylogeny and ontogeny of behavior.
    61. (1935). The psychology of learning. doi
    62. (1977). The structure of scientific theories. doi
    63. (1975). Theories of learning. Fourth edition,
    64. (1976). Toward a law of response strength. Psychological Bulletin,
    65. (1959). Towards empirical behavior laws. Psychological Review,
    66. (1958). Two evolutionary theories I. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, doi
    67. (1972). Variation and selection of behavior. In

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.