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 cinsav
Joined: 6/10/2009
Msg: 1
InstinctsPage 2 of 2    (1, 2)
A conversation I had late last night prompted a memory of a discussion from my undergrad sociology course – on a topic that I had later heard again in one of my biology courses (an undergrad course as well). The topic centered around the question of whether or not human being have instincts.

We’ve all heard the phrase “he/she has good instincts” or “my instincts lead me to believe…”

My question to you is whether or not you believe the human animal has instincts or is driven by drives and reflexes?

An instinct by definition:



<div class='quote'>Instinct is the inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior. The fixed action patterns are unlearned and inherited. The stimuli can be variable due to imprinting in a sensitive period or also genetically fixed. ...

I’d go further by adding that definition that such a behavior is commonly displayed by all members of a particular species. For example: when male lions take over a pride the instinctively kill the cubs of the previous pride leader. The behavior is seen with all lions, not just some here and or there. The same with peacocks and their ritualistic mating dances, for another example.

I can’t think of a single human behavior that is displayed, commonly, by all members of our species in response to a particular stimuli or genetic prompt.

Some might argue we are armed with an instinct to survive – well – if I place a piece of raw meat in front of a starving carnivore, they’re devour that meat without hesitation. I place a steak in front of a starving human they have the will power to abstain from taking a single bite – even if death is at their proverbial doorstep.

A reflex for those that don’t know is a learned response to stimuli. You raising your hand to block a wadded piece of paper being thrown at you is an example. A drive is merely an urge demanding gratification (sexual, hunger, thirst, etc).

When you think about infants – who cry when hungry – is this an instinctive response hunger, or is hunger the drive and crying the reflex?

Or perhaps we are born with primal instinct (such as an infant’s cries to hunger) that are surpressed throughout the aging process and replaced as we grow more cognizant of our environment.

What do you think?
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 2
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History
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 3:42:22 AM
From what I've seen, the vast majority of habits we have, are not things we are born with, but seem to be learned at one stage or another.
However, the vast majority of habits we have, seem to have become so practiced, that they seem to us as if they are instinct.
Thus, I would regard 99% of human behaviour as being the result of learned reflexes, or learned instincts, or whatever you want to call it.

RE Msg: 2 by greg14229:
When an infant crawls toward a ledge, he will, in general, never crawl over it. The baby's instincts tell him he cant keep going because he would fall....and fall is bad.
I'm not so sure that's true. I've seen babies test gravity, as if they didn't know that things fall from a height. If babies are born with an instinct not to crawl over a ledge, then I would not assume that is necessarily the reason. There could be other reasons, like the way some chicks will keep in line-of-sight of their mother.
 cinsav
Joined: 6/10/2009
Msg: 3
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 6:42:03 AM

A starving human being will eat things that they would not normally eat:starving humans have been known to drink urine,eat fecal material,insects,grass ,dirt,"foods "that they never would have dreamed of before being put into a situation of starvation.


That in itself makes it not an instinct but a drive. The drive of hunger. Humans can literally starve themselves to death, if they chose.

I don't believe a true instinct can be denied - meaning the animal that is displaying the behavior doesn't have the choice to reject or abstain from said behavior.
 yna6
Joined: 1/21/2007
Msg: 4
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 7:29:12 AM
Perhaps protecting your child? Perhaps not....seems at least some people don't do that. One woman stuck her baby between the police and the guy they were about to taser....luckily the cop didn't fire. Busted the mom though for child endangerment.
Let's see...instinct....human...."flight or fight" reaction? That could be instinctive...and we are being forced, by law...to use flight rather than fight. therefore those laws go right against what would be "instinctive" by mankind.
If mankind has "no" instincts (left within them) then perhaps that is something that also separates mankind from the lower animals.
Perhaps protecting the body. You don't think about it really...just swipe the arm up when somehting comes at your face. But a child may not. How many of "Americas Funniest Videos" involve some kid getting a ball in the face or some such thing?
 AwP
Joined: 12/31/2006
Msg: 5
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History
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 7:42:58 AM
I think part of what makes humans human, is the ability to overpower instinct with intellect. Humans will usually have the same instinctual urges when placed in certain situations, but they can resist the urges. Even a member of PETA would want to eat the steak if they were starving, they'd resist (maybe, there's a bunch of hypocrites in there), but the urge is still there.
 Ahoytheredave
Joined: 8/29/2006
Msg: 6
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Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 8:50:54 AM
The complexity of instincts follows the complexity of the species. Say the instinct for birds to build nests of complex materials while a mud dauber makes simple mud. Human instincts are more subtle and complex. Women, particularly pregnant women tend to nest and men tend to hunt. It colors many of our behaviors. As much as our ego wants to deny instinctive behavior, it's far more important than we give it credit. We can rationalize any behavior and claim its driven by intellect or social training when we would do it without rationalization or training. In reality, the herd instinct drives even this debate. In small children, the instincts are more obvious in their play. Give a boy a doll and he will turn it into a weapon or at least play out some hunter/warrior game. Girls will stage social events and prepare the nest.
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 7
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History
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 1:56:55 PM
RE Msg: 12 by greg14229:

When an infant crawls toward a ledge, he will, in general, never crawl over it. The baby's instincts tell him he cant keep going because he would fall....and fall is bad.
it is true. Its been a known fact in child psychology since the mid 19th century.
I'm sure that a baby doesn't crawl over a ledge, as an observed fact. I'm just not sure that it's because his instincts tell him that he would fall, because that would be a hypothesised reasoning of the baby's mind, something we would be guessing at.

It might be that we cannot think of any other reason. But then, most physicists of the 19th Century could not have imagined a universe in which the speed of light was a constant. Doesn't make it false.
 cinsav
Joined: 6/10/2009
Msg: 8
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 4:11:18 PM
Explain suicide then.

Explain women who drown their children and blame it on some mysterious African-American man.

I think what we are forgetting is that an instinct is a common behavoir. ALL peacocks display the same ritualistic behavoir when mating... I can't think of a single human behavor that is constant given a particular situation.

If I threaten someone with a knife - he might fight, he might flee, he might try to talk me out it, he might cower down, he might..... This is different from an animal who when governed by pure instinct will react the very same way when exposed to certain stimuli or in response to a predispositioned trigger (mating season).
 EdwardPartSix
Joined: 4/6/2007
Msg: 9
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 6:51:48 PM

That in itself makes it not an instinct but a drive. The drive of hunger. Humans can literally starve themselves to death, if they chose.

I don't believe a true instinct can be denied - meaning the animal that is displaying the behavior doesn't have the choice to reject or abstain from said behavior.


Perhaps. But 99.9999999 percent of people choose to eat, and thus it is likely that eating is an instinctual behavior.
 cinsav
Joined: 6/10/2009
Msg: 10
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 7:42:08 PM

Perhaps. But 99.9999999 percent of people choose to eat, and thus it is likely that eating is an instinctual behavior.


The key word in your post is choice.

We can choose to practice a behavior - when talking instincts - animals cannot.

That's the point I'm trying to make - now I am not saying I agree wholeheartedly that humans lack instincts - I am simply aruging against it for the sake of discussion.

An instinct cannot be denied. An aminal cannot make the choice to forego that which the instinct is compelling it to do. When salmon swim back to their place of hatching - they don't think to themselves "hell, that's too far, I'm staying put here...." The instinct kicks in, the behavior resulting from the instinct is that the fish swims "home" no thought behind it - it does it because it is instinctive.

Drives and reflexes CAN be denied.

You see the difference?
 EdwardPartSix
Joined: 4/6/2007
Msg: 11
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 8:20:18 PM
Sure, but we don't know that all salmon swim back up the river. In fact, it is a safe bet that more salmon don't attempt to make it upriver than those humans who choose not to eat. Furthermore, I would totally disagree that most people can choose not to eat. How may hunger strikes end in starvation? Not many.
 x_file
Joined: 6/25/2006
Msg: 12
Instincts
Posted: 7/8/2009 9:41:04 PM

My question to you is whether or not you believe the human animal has instincts or is driven by drives and reflexes?


What's the difference between "drives and reflexes" and "instincts"?

What shall we call this behavior? :

1) A new born baby suckling on his mothers breast. How does a baby know to do this when it received no training of any kind?

2) A baby crying when hungry, thirty, cold, etc.



Instinct is the inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior. The fixed action patterns are unlearned and inherited. The stimuli can be variable due to imprinting in a sensitive period or also genetically fixed.


It's not a bad definition. But we often have another meaning for the word "instinct". Sometimes by "instinct" we mean "the faculty/part in us which is better at making proper judgments/decisions than logic or common sense".

In other words, instinct is seen as a "superior type of judgment", "a true compass", or "faithful guide". That why we often say "Follow you instincts" - in which it's implied that your instincts are better than common-sense and logic.


I can’t think of a single human behavior that is displayed, commonly, by all members of our species in response to a particular stimuli or genetic prompt.


Smiling. It's almost an universal gesture. The stimuli is another human being - a loved one.

The desire to form relationship is another such behavior. The stimuli is beauty/love.

Also, I think most people will remove their hand from a hot surface.

Granted, by no means the above apply to all members of our species, but the majority, probably 90%+, do behave as one would expect.



When you think about infants – who cry when hungry – is this an instinctive response hunger, or is hunger the drive and crying the reflex?


LOL! Your question is basically asking the something as my first question.



What do you think?


Suppose, for a second, you are responsible for circulating your blood - and by that I mean that you circulate your blood, you are the one who does it, even if you consciously don't know how you do it. Is this an instinct or a reflex or simply the way things are?

Suppose we try to apply the word "instinct" to other things. Lets ask, "Does the Sun shine because of an instinct"?

How about, "Does the Sun shine because of a reflex"? If one thinks of a "reflex" as "cause-effect or stimuli-response", one may answer, "Yes".

I think "drives", "reflexes" and "instincts" and other related things point to something more basic - the thing and it's nature, "What it is". To put in a form of a question, "Does a cat have an instinct to catch mice, or catching mice is simply in the nature of a cat."?
 cinsav
Joined: 6/10/2009
Msg: 13
Instincts
Posted: 7/9/2009 12:52:24 AM
Sure thing!


While many people believe that lemmings commit mass suicide when they migrate, this is not the case. Driven by strong biological urges, they will migrate in large groupings when population density becomes too great. Lemmings can and do swim and may choose to cross a body of water in search of a new habitat.[7] On occasion, and particularly in the case of the Norway lemmings in Scandinavia, large migrating groups will reach a cliff overlooking the ocean. They will stop until the urge to press on causes them to jump off the cliff and start swimming, sometimes to exhaustion and death. Lemmings are also often pushed into the sea as more and more lemmings arrive at the shore.[8]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemming

Their biological urge (one they can't resist) pushes them to take the plunge. Humans make a conscious choice to pull the trigger.
 cinsav
Joined: 6/10/2009
Msg: 14
Instincts
Posted: 7/9/2009 1:11:56 AM
Your arguement about a starving human is flawed because the instinct to eat the food is still there


It is NOT an instinct to eat. Eating is the resulting behavior from the drive of hunger. If it were an instinct you would NOT be able to stop yourself from eating. You would have no control over your motor skills. Your hand would grab the food and carry it to your mouth - whether you wanted it to or not. Gandhi showed (as just one example) that humans can deny themselves food in the face of sever hunger.

You can't resist an instinct. You can resist a drive. That's the crux of the argument. The difference between the two: instinct and drive/reflex is that one can be denied while the other cannot.

Again, I am not sold one way or the other. I find it interesting and a good coversation topic - but no one has yet offered any solid proof to the existance of true instincts in humans... other than with certain behaviors seen in infants. It is true that infants (probably all infants) cry when hungry. The hunger isn't an instinct - but the resulting behavior (crying) could very well be. Thus, perhaps we are born with some instincts that are eventually surpressed as our level of cognition and awareness increases?
 EdwardPartSix
Joined: 4/6/2007
Msg: 15
Instincts
Posted: 7/9/2009 1:11:32 PM

It is NOT an instinct to eat. Eating is the resulting behavior from the drive of hunger. If it were an instinct you would NOT be able to stop yourself from eating. You would have no control over your motor skills. Your hand would grab the food and carry it to your mouth - whether you wanted it to or not. Gandhi showed (as just one example) that humans can deny themselves food in the face of sever hunger.


Coversely, there are many morbidly obese people in the world. Why do they keep overeating, when there is no rational reason for it? The easiest answer is that they are driven by an irresistable impulse to eat, which would fit your definition of instinct.
 membrane
Joined: 8/12/2008
Msg: 16
Instincts
Posted: 7/9/2009 8:50:32 PM
no, humans dont have instinct... i was gonna argue agianst the other side, but hrew some thought, i have desided... no, we do not... well, let me think some more...

"" imprinting in a sensitive period or also genetically fixed""


hhm, i always thought i was just genetic, but now that i think about it, like bird migrating, sure they most all do it, but its not genetic when i think about it, its learned... if you keep ducks or geese from thier first migration, the will not go in the furture, the become local year rounders, or a bee returing to its hive, it rembers the way, not genetics... the method of rembering is genetic, but not the actual act... it rembers 3 ways, sight threw shape and colour... smell of the pheromones, and electromegnetic fequencies, i work under powerlines and i see strangly bearly see any wasps bees or bumble bees under the lines, you will see them 50 meters of the side of the wright away, but never under... the electromenetic frequncies from the lines mess with thier sence of direction... mind you im on transmission lines... 240, 500 kvs lines.. were talking alot of hurtz...

but back to the point, i have desided, no we dont have instincs... because we are for to complex, we wouldent undertsand the impulce, we might fight it, or ignor it... its not like getting hungery, nor is it like a angry temper tantrum... i believe instincs are such a basic thought prosess, that it would take a basic mind to interprate and act on them, but then again... like your point of the loins killing the babys inorder to mate the female, well maybe it is leanred.... maybe the lion knows that the femal will not let him mate cause she is allready caring for offspring, because it is observed that a mothering lion will not mate, but a lion without offspring will mate allmost willingly..... maybe its cultural, maybe lions have basic sosietys, maybe all animals do... maybe life is smarter than we give it credit for.... maybe, genetically fixed memories do not exsist... but i do believe is eps, some sort of place in wich the mind can tap into, a place that holds all the knolage... maybe we allready know our desisions and just now need to understand why we desided that... a destany created by no higher power than yourself, a rule that applys to all living life, from ambeaba to man...
 yna6
Joined: 1/21/2007
Msg: 17
Instincts
Posted: 7/11/2009 1:13:21 PM
Having watched many a new born animal head automatically for a boob makes me wonder. they can't know it is there...yet they do...and know that they have to get their mouths around it. Even a human baby...but they need some help getting there!
Instinct? I think so. Until later when it can make the choice as to eat or not....because not eating can lead to ill health or death. Most people will eat. Even each other if they have to. So we have a "survival instinct" which can be defeated when we are too wounded or tired to fight any longer.
That "choice" of surviving or not is therefore totally in question.
Illness, both physical and mental, can take its toll on a person...thereby overcoming the "survival instinct" This could well explain "suicide" and such things.
therefore...we DO have instincts....but our health is what governs the outcome of them.
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