Human instincts, balderdash I say.

Instead of hijaking another thread I will start this one.

In this thread, I make a nitpick about a claim that humans have instincts.

What I posted is thus:

Of course, blowero thinks I am chaning the word around, but the truth is behavioral scientists have a specific idea of what an instinct is, as does biologists and I am certain that all fields have a similar definition.

To throw out the idea of some smarty pants coming in here with a defintion and saying see: I realize that in the english language people use instinct to mean something otherwise. I am not claiming otherwise. So dont bring it up. I am talking about the strict scientific definition. What it actually means. (people equate schizophrenia with multiple personalities, and the langague may change to fit with the collective ignorance, but the strict scientific terminology stays the same, same with this case)

Behavioral sciences divide responses into three catagories- reflexive, instinctual and learned.

Humans portray no instincts, and I claim that humans have none. Agree, disagree? Here is the place to do so.

BTW- many people thought some things like language and the desire to reproduce were instinctual, but studies done with childrend termed “feral children” have shown that it is NOT instinctual, as they did not develop it on their own. As for the sexual desires, controled entirely by chemical reactions. For instance, men can have no “desire to reproduce” by cutting off their testes, or in some other way reducing their testosterone levels, hardly “instinct.”

Cites: (would have been sooner, but stupid hamsters used their special instinct powers on my posting powers)

there is more, much more, but let us see if blowero or anybody else that likes to hold on to the outdated idea of “instincts” can debunk these or even defend their own position.

There is a group of deaf children in Nicaragua who have developed a fully functional sign language without instruction.

The ability to acquire language without formal instruction comes awfully close to an instinct, if it isn’t one. True, it only arises in a social setting, but that in and of itself would not disqualify it from being an instict.

I think this fall short of being an actual instinct, but only by a bit. It is clear, though, that the brain is hardwired to facilitate the learning of language to a much greater extent than it is hardwired for any other complex behavior.

I’m not gonna play your silly game, especially if you are going to be this obnoxious about it. Get a life.

Yeah blowero, I am being so obnoxious. I mean, you werent the one that came out of the blue and was all snippy, contributing nothing to the discussion or anything.

As for this particular thread, it isnt’ about you, baby.

Is there a difference between instictive behaviors and instincts? We don’t eat, bathe, or fuck* in manners that fit the definition of instictive behaviors. But does that mean that we don’t have instincts?

*Yeah, dick in pussy. But there are myriad positions and approaches.

Am I really supposed to believe that every mammal species on the planet has instincts except homo sapiens? This sounds like a religious bias to me.

What of our sexual behavior, our preference for symmetrical facial features, the male fascination with the female body, our dislike of disformities and other indicators of disease, etc, etc. We also respond to cute babies and cute baby animals instinctively. All of these behavioral patterns correspond to behaviors found in the animal kingdom.

No instincts? Son, you haven’t observed humans much, have you?

Humans are absolutely bristling with “fight or flight” instincts, just like every other mammal.

(I love to go to the zoo and observe anthropoid behavior patterns – and that doesn’t just mean apes…)


You didn’t read the OP, did you, son? Instictive behavior has a specific definition. Read it, then find a counter example and report it here. It is as simple as that. When you find a counter example, then you can behave smugly.

Oh, gosh, now we’re playing the “definition game,” are we?

Sorry, I’m not into masochism. The word “instinct” already has a perfectly good definition, and humans have many of them.

You can go off into a corner and “define” instincts as "those behaviors humans don’t display,’ and, sure, you’ll be right. Always. And alone.

Meanwhile, those of us who actually observe mammalian behavior are well aware of entire constellations of instincts.


I don’t think you’re completely missing the boat in your argument, unfortunately you’re on the Titanic.:wink: I’m not going to “cite” a lot of information here, because I don’t have time. I’ll provide whatever you want after Christmas.

I agree with this, but you stop short of the full explanation. Much of human behavior is reflexive. Reflex is either a product of instinctual or learned behavior. The simplest way to see how it works is observing a newborn baby from about 0-6 months. Instinct is easiest to see in them because they are lacking much learned behavior. Reflex behavior has to come from some form of learning or it has to be already wired in (instinctual). All healthy newborns have the Morrow reflex, without variation other than it seems to be stronger in some. They didn’t learn it. They have no reasoning yet and if you drop them when they’re asleep (hey, it was an accident!), they won’t wake until the thud. Their brain is in control of this response and they are born with it. A reflex reaction alone can’t exist without some brain activity that defines it. Newborns instinctively respond to different sounds. If you sing a low, sad, song to a newborn, they will pucker up and cry like they are griefstricken. When you stop, they stop. This is not learned. I am talking brand newborn. Thumbsucking takes place in the womb, long before brain function would seem to support it, but I’m not sure on that one, whether it would apply. A newborn rooting around for food is instinctual. They don’t even have to be hungry. Newborns can swim if you toss them in the water, early on. Swimming seems like a pretty big reflex action for there not to be some innate instinct involved. Let’s skip to crawling. Crawling is something that is pre-programed to occur. It is instinct, not learned behavior and occurs with the only variation being age and technique. At the onset of crawling, there is a profound affect on the infants brain and much of the genetic instinct starts to fade. A baby will do crawling patterns regardless of stimuli, with no destination in mind. The impact of crawling creates new connections in the brain and IMHO makes some of the instinctual ones, no longer necessary.

Humans are only just so many degrees removed from the rest of the animal kingdom. Why wouldn’t we have instincts too? Could you define a reflex reaction a little more clearly. Is it independent of logic? Why would it exist? What’s its function?

Communication is instinctual, but language is learned. As for sexual desires, when a guy is walking down the street and for a split second sees that women he’d like to uh…do; many times it is simply a fleeting thought and tied in with the old replenish the earth thing. It doesn’t take a hormonal response to get an instantaneous thought. It doesn’t even take testicles for that, but works out better that way. Women go through a similar process, but of course are more logical about it.:slight_smile: We won’t talk about instinctual competition, because you and blowero already exhibited it. He won.:slight_smile: I could go on and give many more examples, but you’re either going to attempt to look at this another way or you aren’t and those pies aren’t going to bake themselves. My family are animals when it comes to eating.:eek:

Ok, both my Sociology professor and my psychology professor, not to mention the books, and the professors that wrote them must be all wrong, no? Hmm, guess in this case the straight dope must be right. Yeah, I am guessing so, I mean, you all posit some very good examples with lots of cites. Oh, I am smug (I guess saying “this is this way” is smug when I am doing it, but when you all are doing it, you are just stating the facts huh?)

Ok, obviously I ruffled somebodies feathers, and when feathers are ruffled you cant debate like human beings. Whatever. Mods, close this thread since this gang-bang doesn’t want to act like adults.

err, please I mean. :slight_smile:

I didn’t think I was that bad. Sorry.:frowning: Here’s a cite for infant’s ability to swim. If it makes you feel any better, they don’t use the word instinct.

Well, it could be. I’m not really familiar with the literature, but if you actually did a real literature search, I suspect you’d find an array of opinions held by real professors in behavioral science. That doesn’t make any of them right or wrong. Only evidence can speak to that.

But “instinct” is a pretty slippery concept. The definition you quoted really isn’t very precise. What does “relatively complex” mean in exact terms?

And the “without variation” part is actually wrong on its face. It will have some variation, as does any genetic trait. The more important (survival-wise), the less variation you will see in the population. But there will always be variation.

So, maybe it would be good to know what we’re talking about before we go off in all directions debating it.


Ooooh, a great debate about what certain words mean.

I say “freedom” means “nothing left to lose”. Who’s with me?!

I made a valid point; sorry if the way I did it offended you. I didn’t intend for you to take it personally. I think you are way overreacting. Either pit me, or get over it.

That’s why you mentioned my name in your very first 2 posts, eh?:rolleyes:

Just to be clear, the “valid point” I was referring to was this from the Quantum Consciousness thread:

My point was that your argument is merely one of semantics, and I see that quite a few people agree with me. Again, I didn’t intend it as a personal insult, merely as a succint way of illustrating my point.

er, succinct.

Actually the OP did leave me with a question that’s within the bounds of your argument. Is it possible that your argument as to lack of “instinct” is due to biases in the human study of human behavior versus human study of non-human behavior?

In other words, do we understand our own “instinctual” behavior to have specific physical/chemical components simply because we’ve studied it more thoroughly? Is it possible that we’re aware of variations within the human species but just not sensitive enough to notice them in other species - to us, every robin’s nest might look alike, but is that necessarily how they experience it? Do robins just shack up at the nearest nest every night? My male cats don’t appear to have any desire to reproduce following castration - so perhaps “instinct” IS a physical/chemical/mental interaction, and not purely intellectual. Does that mean it doesn’t exist?

Plus I’m not sure it’s fair to say that life isn’t complex and varied for other species - I don’t think all members of other life forms necessarily do behave exactly the same out of “instinct”. How do we know we’ve done a sufficiently exhaustive search to state unequivocally that there is no variety?

And doesn’t evolutionary theory state that some members of a population will try something different, just because that’s the way it is? It’s been quite a few years since I studied any Darwin, but I think that’s what I recollect, although I could be mistaken.