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Baldwin effect

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The Baldwin effect describes an evolutionary process whereby learned behaviors become, over a variable number of generations, genetically encoded traits in the gene pool of a species, a non-Lamarckian type of inheritance of acquired characteristics. The concept was first proposed by James Mark Baldwin in 1896 (Baldwin 1896), and given a formal evolutionary explication by George Gaylord Simpson in 1953 (Simpson 1953).



  • Simpson GG. (1953) The Baldwin Effect. Evolution 7(2):110-117. | Download PDF from harvard edu.
    • Excerpt: The ability to "acquire" a character has, in itself, a genetical basis. Selection acts (with some exceptions) on the phenotype, so that it is valid to say that selection is actually not on genetical characters but on the ability to acquire character...Seen in a modern context, the Baldwin effect helps to focus attention on a host of problems, especially in developmental (or physiological) genetics, well worthy of further study. It does not, however, seem to require any modification of the opinion that the directive force in adaptation, by the Baldwin effect or in any other particular way, is natural selection.
  • van Speybroek L, Van de Vijver G. (2006) The Baldwin Effect: A Matter of Perspective. Biological Theory 1(2):206-208. A review of Evolution and Learning: The Baldwin Effect Reconsidered, by Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew (eds.) MIT Press, 2003.
    • Excerpt: Far more interesting is that Baldwin did not provide "a clear-cut concept, phenomenon, or mechanism" (p. ix) and that its interpretation largely depends on the theoretical perspective in which it is used. The Baldwin effect thus allows us to (re)investigate the conceptual load of diverse historical and current stances taken with respect to (neo-) Darwinian and Lamarckian evolutionary theory.