Hardwired Versus Softwired (Brain)

Neurologically, What Do Hard-wired and Soft-wired Mean?

In pop-science, in reference to the brain, you’ll hear the terms “hardwired” and “softwired”, hardwired means genetically programed and softwired means learned.[1][2]

What are the Differences Between Hard-wired and Soft-wired?

“Hardwired” and “softwired” are analogies for nature and nurture. Hardwired means “born with” and softwired means “learned from experience.”

Our brains are constantly rewiring based on thoughts and stimulus (neuroplasticity), this is referring to soft-wiring. Things like instincts, reflexes, or behaviors we are “born with” are hardwired behaviors.

Both terms originate in the applied sciences (like computing and engineering), and neither is a technical term in the biological or social sciences.

Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably in popular science in place of more complicated terms (typically “hardwired” is the most commonly used), so always refer to the context of the article you are reading for specific meanings.

This video asks, “are we hardwired for empathy?”, meaning, “are we born empathic?” We could also ask, “can we softwire ourselves for empathy?” (We answer those questions in detail here and here).

Are We Hard-Wired for Greed or Empathy?.

See: What does the word “hard wired” mean in scientific terms?

Article Citations
  1. Brain Mechanisms of Behaviour in Lower Vertebrates
  2. The Relationship Between Hardwired and Softwired Biological Systems

Author: Thomas DeMichele

Thomas DeMichele is the content creator behind ObamaCareFacts.com, FactMyth.com, CryptocurrencyFacts.com, and other DogMediaSolutions.com and Massive Dog properties. He also contributes to MakerDAO and other cryptocurrency-based projects. Tom's focus in all...

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