Do we have Instincts


What is an instinct?  Do we have any instincts? Can we override our instincts?

Is there any relationship between survival and instincts?


  • Yes we do have instincts.
  • Instincts are the realm of sub-conscious mind.
  • Survival is the key for instincts. we stop acting instinctively if survival is threatened.
  • Brain is lazy, so it prepares responses for  a particular stimuli and the species have the same fixed response as long as it does not clash with that of the survival.
  • The definition of survival for humans is more than food and shelter.

According to Wikipedia

  • Instinct is the inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior.
  • Instincts are unlearned, inherited fixed action patterns of responses or reactions to certain kinds of stimuli.
  • Instincts are not based upon prior experience and do not depend on emotion or learning, such as reproduction, and feeding among insects.

If there is any confusion between Instinct and Reflexes –

Difference  between Instincts and reflexes
A reflex action, also known as a reflex, is an involuntary and nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus.
True reflexes can be distinguished from instincts by their seat in the nervous system; reflexes are controlled by spinal or other peripheral ganglion, but instincts are the province of the brain.

To be considered instinctual a behavior must

a) be automatic
b) be irresistible,
c) occur at some point in development,
d) be triggered by some event in the environment,
e) occur in every member of the species,
f) be unmodifiable,
g) govern behavior for which the organism needs no training.

Many socialogists argue that there are no instincts in human beings as these can overridden.They argue that drives such as sex and hunger cannot be considered instincts, as they can be overridden.

  • Instincts are like fixed response to some stimuli. They are inherent and inherited.
  • If organisms have some fixed response to all kind of situations, we cannot see the evolution. So we try to do things differently when the survival is threatened. For instance, some species in water adapting to live over land to escape from their predators.
  • The first response to any stimuli is instinctive. The instincts are the responses of the sub-conscious mind.

Ideas that have strong emotional content almost always reach the subconscious mind, because it is the feeling mind.  Once accepted, these ideas continue to produce the same body reactions over and over again.  In order to eliminate or change chronic negative bodily reactions we must reach the subconscious and change the idea responsible for the reaction. (The sub-conscious mind is the one which resists a change)

  • This is where the memories are stored. Later the Brain analyzes the stimuli and the instinctive response.
  • Brain(conscious mind) is lazy, so it prepares responses for  a particular stimuli and the species have the same fixed response as long as it does not clash with that of the survival.

Instances to substantiate the above points:
If the instinct of a monkey is to walk on 4 legs always whatever the situation, then we would not have had the chimpanzees and apes. When the survival is threatened the species  behave differently which turn into instincts by repetition and are inherited by the offsprings.

Here is one tricky situation. The instinct of a cow is to fear bigger and stronger animals. The instinct of every mother is protecting her child. If  a cow is encountered with both at the same time,
A tiger is attacking its calf, then the cow recieves two stimuli at the same time. It tries to protect the calf while being afraid to go near. It does not leave the scene, just moves back and forth whining.
Here comes the question of identity. If the cow identifies itself with the mother whose duty is to protect its child,  then it attacks the  tiger. If it identifies itself with any other cow, it backs off. We hear some cases in which cow or the she buffalo attacking the tiger. If these attacks become repetitive, then the cow loses fear of the tiger. If  all the cows are the descendants of this cow, then they would all be different now.

Now the human beings have a different definition of survival.
For human beings now,  survival is not just having food to eat, clothes to wear and house to live.
For them SURVIVAL is being successful, reaching our goals, living up to the expectations of our parents and the society.
If this is threatened we try to think differently with our conscious mind.

Open for discussions, please comment…


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