Baldwin effect

Learned behavior may accelerate the adaptive evolution due to the Baldwin effect and genetic assimilation. This evolutionary creative role of learned behavior was described in the end of 19th century by the psychologist James M. Baldwin, and is thus called the Baldwin effect (Baldwin 1896). The Baldwin effect is often incorrectly identified with the genetic assimilation phenomenon (Waddington 1961), sometimes also called organic selection (Baldwin 1902; Matsuda 1982). Even though the principles of both phenomena were first described by Baldwin over an interval of approximately ten years, they are two complementary, but distinct and autonomous processes (Hall 2001). The Baldwin effect accelerates the evolution of adaptive traits in species capable of learning, increasing the chances of survival of individuals that are able to use a new source or are able to avoid a harmful factor using a learned behavioral pattern, thus creating scope for an evolutionary response to the particular factor by producing a number of various (genetically fixed) adaptations.

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The classical Darwinian theory of evolution can explain the evolution of adaptive traits only in asexual organisms. The frozen plasticity theory is much more general: It can also explain the origin and evolution of adaptive traits in both asexual and sexual organisms Read more