Why Do We Learn?

by Gayane Ghumashyan

June 1, 2021

Lifelong learning is essential to our existence and an indispensable necessity for every career and organization. Any organization that wants to grow and succeed needs to invest in its employees.


The study of human learning continues to develop and expand. Especially noteworthy is how topics such as motivation, technology, and self-regulation are increasingly being addressed by researchers and practitioners. Learning involves acquiring and modifying knowledge, skills, strategies, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. People learn cognitive, linguistic, motor, and social skills, and these can take many forms.

This blog is about how human learning occurs, which factors influence it, and how learning principles apply in various educational contexts. We have gained much knowledge about learning from animal research. But human learning is fundamentally different from animal learning because human learning is more complex, elaborate, rapid, and typically involves language.

People agree that learning is important, but they hold different views on the causes, processes, and consequences of learning. There is no one definition of learning that is universally accepted by theorists, researchers, and practitioners. Although people disagree about the precise nature of learning, the following is a general definition:

Learning is an enduring change in behavior, or in the capacity to behave in a given fashion, which results from practice or other forms of experience.

Let us explore three criteria for learning:

  • One criterion is that learning involves change—in behavior or in the capacity for behavior. People learn when they become capable of doing something differently. At the same time, we must remember that learning is inferential. We do not observe learning directly but rather its products or outcomes. Learning is assessed based on what people say, write, and do. But we also add that learning involves a changed capacity to behave in a given fashion because it is not uncommon for people to learn skills, knowledge, beliefs, or behaviors without demonstrating them at the time learning occurs.


  • A second criterion is that learning endures over time. Learning may not last forever because forgetting occurs. It is debatable how long changes must last to be classified as learned, but most people agree that changes of brief duration (e.g., a few seconds) do not qualify as learning.


  • A third criterion is that learning occurs through experience (e.g., practice, observation of others). This criterion excludes behavioral changes that are primarily determined by heredity, such as maturational changes in children (e.g., crawling, standing). Nonetheless, the distinction between maturation and learning often is not clear-cut. People may be genetically predisposed to act in given ways, but the actual development of the particular behaviors depends on the environment.

For more information on learning, read our blog articles and explore the amazing world of learning and growing. See you!