The Wikipedia article about adaptation states:

Adaptation differs from flexibility, acclimatization, and learning.

What is a more general term than adaptation? For example, is there an umbrella term for adaptation and learning (and optionally other phenomena)?

Edit: Some examples of possible definitions of terms that I'm looking for:

  • mechanisms that change/improve fitness over time [over lifetime (learning) or generations (adaptation)] by matching the environment
  • how the phenotype changes [over lifetime (learning) or over generations (adaptation)] to match the environment
  • properties of anything that is alive that change [for example in the gene pool (adaptation) or in the brain (learning)] to improve chances of survival
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do you want a word in English or scientific/biological terminology? If the former, adaptation is fine. If the latter, I see little biological reason to group those terms since they are fundamentally different, and in the right context 'adapt'/'adaptation' can be applied to the other concepts: the article you link is only talking about adaptation as an evolutionary term (as is clear in the Wiki heading) - Wikipedia notes these other scientific uses also at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptation_(disambiguation) $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 25, 2019 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I'm looking for a word that is scientific/biological terminology or at least wouldn't contradict scientific/biological terminology. The umbrella term can for example have the meaning "properties of a population that change [for example in the gene pool (adaptation) or in the brain (learning)] to improve chances of survival". $\endgroup$
    – root
    Jan 25, 2019 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ Adaptation would be the term for changes in the population. Flexibility, acclimatization, and learning are all ways that individuals change. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 25, 2019 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ @root It is a good question +1. That being said asking for an umbrella term for adaptation and learning is a bit like asking for an umbrella term for airplane and candy bar. I am going a little extreme but the point is there is not much interest for having a term for these two very different concepts. You can maybe go by with something like "how well the phenotype match the environment" or why not maybe just use the concept of "fitness". $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Jan 25, 2019 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause A population consists of individuals. Flexibility, acclimatization, and learning affect individuals, so they affect the population. That's what I meant. If you prefer: "properties of anything that is alive that change [for example in the gene pool (adaptation) or in the brain (learning)] to improve chances of survival". Or see my next comment. $\endgroup$
    – root
    Jan 26, 2019 at 7:52

2 Answers 2


Adjustment = a small alteration or movement made to achieve a desired fit, appearance, or result; the process of adapting or becoming used to a new situation (Google Dictionary).

Adjustment is a very general term; it doesn't mean anything specific in biology or other sciences and it can cover all the terms you've mentioned: adaptation, acclimatization and even learning.

If you check in Thesaurus.com, you can see that synonyms for adjustment include acclimation, acclimatization, modification and improvement, and that one of the synonyms for adaptation is adjustment.


Factors or variable

Variable is probably your best bet, since it literally can cover anything that varies or can vary.

Factors can also be used but has specific meaning when dealing with experimental design so it may not be as good, on the other hand it is used less outside that so if you preface its usage with a description it is less likely to get confusing.


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