In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Definitions of Instincts 2. Types of Instincts 3. Characteristics 4. Methods 5. Instincts and Reflex Action 6. Instincts and Education.
- Definitions of Instincts
- Types of Instincts
- Characteristics of Instincts
- Methods of Instincts Training
- Instincts and Reflex Action
- Instincts and Education
1. Definitions of Instincts:
Dr. Peckham and Mrs. Peckham have stated that the term ‘instinct’ comprehends all those complex activities which are performed, without any prior experience, by all members of the same sex and species in exactly the same manner. When speaking of the instincts of animals, we refer to those special qualities which are endowed upon them by their creator. These instincts are completely free from education, observation or experience, and they motivate the individual to perform certain activities, which are intended to enhance the welfare of the individual and the preservation of his species, in precisely the same manner.
According to Ginsberg, instinctive behaviour is symbolic of that more or less complex act or chain of activities, which adapts those beneficial and definite objectives of the race which are determined by heredity and which are unaffected by the prior experience of the individual creature.
Another scholar has chosen to speak of instincts very simply as the innate or inborn mental impressions of living creatures.
Elucidating the meaning of instincts, the famous psychologists Mc Dougall has said that an instinct is an internal psycho-physical nature which impels its owner to sensually experience and pay attention to a particular class of objects, and to feel a definite kind of emotional excitation when this class of objects is perceived through the senses.
Woodworth R.S. – An instinct is an unlearned activity.
Vallentine – An instinct is an innate to act in a certain fulfilling some biological purpose.
James Drever – Instinct is in its original sense animal impulse hence a general term for natural or congenial impulse.
Beside, in relationship, it also determines a particular kind of behaviour, or at least an internal motivation towards that specific mode of behaviour. The foregoing explanation make it perfectly clear that every living being, be it human or animal, possesses some innate tendencies which influence its behaviour; these tendencies are called instincts. It is this view which has inspired some scholars to define instincts as irrational motivation. Putting it briefly, instincts can be called the natural actions of living creatures.
2. Types of Instincts:
Instincts are innate mental impressions which have a spontaneous effect upon the behaviour of the individual. In order to understand fully the operation of instincts, it is essential to arrive at a proper understanding of the types of instincts. Psychologists have been studying and analysing them from time to time, and on the basis of this observation and analysis, scholars have classified them and thus thrown light on the kinds of minds found in human beings.
Scholars have clarified their ideas about instincts as outlined below:
After many long years of study, the famous psychologist James classified them into 32 kinds which, according to him, have a profound impact upon the individual’s behaviour. Thorndike has classified instincts more simply into two classes- individual and social. In his theory, the individual instincts include obtaining food, protecting oneself, searching for shelter, etc., whereas the social instincts include reproduction, communal living, etc. On these two bases, he has further classified instincts into 100 types, but then he reduced the number of categories to 40. Bernard in his ‘A Study of Social Psychology’ classified instincts into 100 kinds.
James Drever, in his work ‘Instinct in Man’ classified human instincts into two classes or kinds:
According to Drever, the appetitive instincts are those which have their origin in pleasant or painful experiences and in which the desired purpose is associated exclusively with this pleasure or pain. The reactive instincts (familiar or known situations) manifest themselves in reaction to particular objects, and the purposes implicit in them are associated with the situations or objects to which the individual reactions.
Drever’s classification can be illustrated thus:
Kilpatrick classified instincts into five classes, as follows:
1. Self-preservative instinct.
2. Reproductive instinct.
3. Gregarious instinct.
4. Adaptive instinct.
5. Regulative instinct.
Defining instincts as unlearned motives Woodworth R.S. proposes a three-fold classification as follows:
1. Response to Organic Needs:
Thirst, Hunger, Shrinking from injury, fatigue, sleep escape.
2. Response to Other Persons:
Gregariousness, mating, parental instincts, aggression.
3. Non-Specific or Play Instincts:
Locomotion, Vocationalization, Laughter, Manipulation, Self-assertion, Submission, Social motive, etc.
A reflex is a reaction that involved a minimum neurons and muscles. The stimulus is specific and the reaction is prompt and definite. The reflex is not readily modifiable. Warren lists about 70 reflexes. He groups them into various categories, according to possibility of modification. Atleast modifiable he lists such reflexes as pupillary reflex, hand withdrawal from heat, trembling and the like. Somewhat more subject to inhibition and reinforcement are such reactions as winking, sneezing, salvation, blusling, and so on. Still more subject to concept by the control nervous system are coughing, gasping, weeping, scowling, and wincing.
These simple reflexes are not of great importance for the proper functioning of the body.
The most convincingly scientific classification of instincts has been provided by Mc Dougall.
In his renowned works “Social Psychology” and “Outlines of Psychology”, he has divided instincts into two categories:
(i) Instincts, and
(ii) Innate or general tendencies.
He made this distinction on the ground that while some specific emotion is found associated with innate or general tendencies.
The following table provides Mc Dougall’s view of instincts and the emotions associated with each one:
Mc Dougall holds that these instincts are subject to the influence of intelligence, which accounts for the infinite diversity found in their manifestation in the length and breadth of human society. He has further explained that apart from laughter, all these instincts are found to be common in men as well as animals.
3. Characteristics of Instincts:
Rudolf Pinter writes about instincts—Instincts are more complicated than reflexes. There is no sharp dividing line between the reflex and instincts. An instinct, according to some psychologists, involves a series of reflex activities. One reflex furnishes the stimulus to the next. The connection depend upon the inherited structure of the organism are subject to modification only within certain limits instincts are original tendencies to action, depending upon the specific nature of the environment as to how the reaction will be carried out. A normal healthy infant will vocalize, but just what form his vocalization will take and what language it will develop into depends upon the nature of the environment surrounding him.
As soon as a person is born, his mind tends in a particular direction, and even without receiving and education, the child begins performing certain activities, such as sucking milk from his mother’s breast. Similarly, certain other activities such as raising the hand to strike at someone in anger, or running away in fear, opening the eyes wide in surprise, etc., appear to be perfectly spontaneous or natural. Spontaneous activities of this kind, being put into operation by innate or inborn mental impressions, are referred to an instinct.
These possess the following noticeable features:
The first major characteristic of instincts is their universality, that is, they are found uniformly in every creature belonging to a particular species. It never happens that while one person is born with certain instincts, another is born without them. The quantity or extent of their growth and development may differ from one individual to another, but they manifest themselves in every member. For instance, every living creature experiences hunger and thirst, and has also to struggle against natural forces in its effort to remain alive. Thus instincts manifest natural motivation universally.
Instincts are invariably innate, never acquired. What this means is that an individual never has to learn or acquire instinctual behaviour, it is a mode or pattern of behaviour he performs spontaneously. However, they are capable of limited modification through education and experience. For instance, a bird begins to fly as soon as it is fledged, the young one of a ducks begins to swim as soon as it is launched in water, and a human child begins to suck his mother’s milk as soon as it is born. These various modes of behaviour are the outcome of the instincts peculiar to the species in which they are born.
As a general rule, instinctual behaviour possesses perfection from the moment of birth, but it does not mean that the individual cannot modify it as the result of his fresh experiences. Traditional psychologists were convinced that instinctual behaviour is incapable of modification, but modern psychologists have established that, under the influence of environment, experience and education, instinctual behaviour does under-go modification to some extent, arid that it is on this basis that the individual grows and develops. For instance, a pet dog can be trained to beg politely for food, instead of leaping for it like a wild animal. In fact, human beings possess a remarkably inventive capacity to modify even their instinctual behaviour according to circumstances, and it is this which has brought about the evolution of human culture.
Traditional psychologists held the view that the creature was not aware of the purpose of a particular instinct, and that instincts were mechanical and purposeless in their operation. But, this view has now been discarded because every form of instinctual behaviour has a specific purpose, and it is this purpose which makes the creature indulges in certain efforts. In making her nest, the bird has the definite purpose of protecting her young ones. In the same manner, a similar purpose motivates the bee to build its complex hive, the spider its cobweb and man his house.
5. Perfection at First Performance:
A very distinctive feature of instinctual behaviour is the perfection in its performance. In fact, even in the very first performance immediately after birth, the act related to a particular instinct is performed faultlessly. For instance, a child begins sucking milk from his mother’s breast within a few hours of his birth and without any training whatsoever. However, inspite of this initial perfection, the form of behaviour does undergo gradual modification.
6. Complete Mental Action:
The operation of an instinctual act involves all the three aspects or facets of mentally activity—cognitive, emotional and dynamic. For instance, when a child runs on seeing a dog, it is being impelled by all three kind of activities because it has knowledge of the situation, it feels he emotion of fear and then it performs the act of escaping from the apprehended danger.
7. Absence of Multiple Manifestations:
Another note-worthy facet of instinctual behaviour is that all the instincts do not become manifest at birth itself. The child does exhibit his instinct of sucking milk at birth, but other forms of instinctual behaviour, such as acquisition of object, imitation, playing with other children, etc., are manifested later on in specific situations and on particular occasions.
8. Gradual Decline in Intensity:
The life cycle of instincts is determined. If an instinct is not employed after it has emerged, it atrophies and disappears. For instance, if the calf is not allowed to suck milk from the cow’s udders for a few days, it forgets the act of sucking. In the same way, such instincts as curiosity and acquisitiveness exhibit their intensity for a short period and then gradually disappear.
This explains the fact that many activities such as singing, horse riding, cycling, etc., are learnt by a child with complete facility, but if they are not learnt in childhood, they cannot be acquired conveniently and easily at a later stage in life. The reason for this is, the instinct on the basis of which they were to be learnt has already lost its intensity. Thorndike’s view is that instincts never die or wither away, but they become ineffective through disuse.
9. Impact of Experience:
The actual performance of an instinctual act is naturally affected by past experience. The individual’s manner of performing, or allowing a natural instinct to express itself, changes as a consequence of experience. If we instinctively feel fear of a particular kind of tree in the dark, we approach it with care even afterwards. Similarly, if a child burns his hand in his eagerness to drink milk, he will tend to wait for his milk to become cool enough, whenever he is offered milk afterwards.
These important features of instincts make it abundantly clear that instincts motivate human nature and its basic modes of activity and also fulfill man’s basic needs and desires. The characteristics pointed out above are found in the instincts of creatures of every species, with the sole difference that while man has the capacity to modify and control his instinctual behaviour, animals do not, or if they do, it is relatively much less.
Man’s instincts are as innate as those of animals, but they cannot be completely dissociated from reason, experience and education. Animal’s instincts develop on the basis of maturity, but human instincts are influenced both by normal maturation and learning also. This is the sole difference between animal and human instincts which is worthy to note.
4. Methods of Instincts Training:
Instincts are innate and thus their sociability in behaviour comes by them. Gradually and slowly instinctive behaviour may be modified. In the words of Grace, instincts are run material for character formation. Teacher must pay attention on instincts.
Following methods can be used for modification of behaviour:
Suppression of the internal behaviour is called repression. Abnormal behaviour of the instincts is suppressed by the individual. Every individual develops his style regarding when to laugh, how to eat and how to behave with others.
Inhibition means to check or delayed the action of instincts so that the current of the instinctive behaviour may be converted in another side. Anger, thirst, hunger, sex etc., redirected in another behaviour and is resulted in shape of new behaviour.
Through redirection, the way of instincts is diverted in another direction. Through this method, the objective or the individual is determined.
According to Mc Dougall, sublimation is a process through which instinctive power may be used in highly skilled work. Sex may be sublimated into art, music, verse composing, drawing, sculpture, etc.
5. Instincts and Reflex Action:
In certain respects, reflex actions appear very similar to instincts, so much so that it becomes difficult to distinguish them. In fact, behavioural psychologists are of the view that many chained or ordered reflex actions are called instincts. The confusion is encouraged further by the fact that, like instincts, reflex actions are also endowed by nature, apart from the fact that both instincts and reflex actions help to ensure the survival of the creature.
This similarity encouraged Herbert Spencer to opine that instincts are complex reflex actions. However, despite this apparent similarity between instincts and reflex actions, there are fundamental differences between them, as has been clarified in detail by Mc Dougall in his work, “Outline of Psychology”.
According to him, instincts and reflex actions differ from each other in the following respects:
1. A reflex action is not self-automated or activated, it comes into play only when some stimulus excites. For instance, we immediately withdraw out hand if it touches anything unbearably hot or cold. It contrast, an instinct is activated by itself, although the manifest activity of the instinct too requires the presence of a stimulus. Nevertheless, the stimulus activating an instinct is of a different kind. Apart from this the functioning of an instinct includes an element of intelligence.
2. The activities inspired by an instinct aim at a specific goal of which the creature itself is aware, and the activities continue till the goal is achieved. On the other hand, a reflex action is a mechanical activity, the goal of which is not consciously known to the creature.
3. The functioning or operation of an instinct is variable but the operation of a reflex action is invariable, it always leads to the same activity.
4. The activities inspired by instincts are modified and improved by practice and there is probability of taking advantage of past experience. The activity inspired by reflex action does not improve, modify or change.
5. In a reflex action, there is no consciousness of its operation, because it is known only after it has occurred, whereas in the case of instincts, the mind is always aware of it because instincts are controlled by a subtle part of the mind.
6. A reflex action is a purely physical reaction whereas instinctual behaviour is a composite of many chains of activities, just as many small, gradual activities lead to the formation of a complete beehive.
7. The behaviour motivated by instincts leads to pleasurable as well as painful experiences, and as a result, the activity providing pleasure is adopted while the painful one is rejected. This principle applies to the entire range of instinctual behaviour in men as well as in animals. Reflex actions do not give rise to pleasure and pain, and they occur exclusively for the fulfillment of physical needs and self-defence.
8. According to Mc Dougall, in the operation of instincts, there are cognitive, motor and emotional activities, that is, all the three kinds of mental activities, but this does not happen in the case of reflex actions. The latter are purely physiological and localized activities, because the reaction remains confined to that part of the body in which the stimulus is received. For instance, a sensation in the nose leads us to sneeze, but the other parts of the body remain unaffected.
Although many thinkers insist on identifying reflex actions and instincts, the foregoing explanation makes it clear that the two have some resemblances, but they are not identical. Prof. Stout and Mc Dougall have forcefully reiterated that the two are clearly distinguished from each other.
6. Instincts and Education:
The teacher can do significant work in the sphere of education if he possesses adequate knowledge of instincts and instinctual behaviour, because he comes to realise that instincts determine human behaviour. He also learns that cultured behaviour or socially acceptable behaviour can be developed in the individual through the refinement, transformation and reinforcement of instinctual behaviour. Many abnormal patterns of behaviour manifested by children can be rendered normal with the help of this knowledge.
In his educative activities, the teacher can make use of the knowledge of instincts in the following ways:
It is the obvious duty of the teacher to make use of the instincts of children and thus develop proper patterns of behaviour in them.
The period of development of various instincts is temporary, and if the teacher develops the ability to observe the emergence of particular instincts at particular periods in different children, he can refine and modify their behaviour and direct it into acceptable channels.
A child should be educated through the recapitulation of the orderly development of the human race throughout its history, a view propounded by Herbert Spencer. In his view, the order in which a child should be given knowledge is the same as the one in which he received the knowledge.
4. Formation of Character:
Proper training of instincts leads to the formation of character. Hence, the teacher should direct his attention towards educating children to control and refine their instinctual behaviour so as to form their character.
5. Development of Interest:
If instincts are accepted as the basis of education and development, it will become possible to develop the interest and control the attention of children.
Through the proper development of instinctual behaviour, the teacher can develop many desirable and productive attitudes in children. Besides, the development of proper attitudes itself leads to the refinement and sublimation of instincts.
7. Curricular Activities Based on Instincts:
Psychologists are of the view that the activities suggested in a curriculum should have their basis in instinct, because this will develop the child’s interest in those activities.
8. Creative Work:
A child is born with the instinct to create or construct. Proper development of this instinct can arouse in the child an ambition for greatness.
Rudolf Pintner Writes, ‘The original tendencies of man determine the general background of human civilization. Man is gregarious. He feels satisfaction in working with other. He obtains protection by living with others, hence his tribes and clans, his villages and cities, his armies and navies. His long period of immaturity gives ample time for many learnings, hence his elaborate system of schools. If man were a solitary animal with a brief childhood of a year or so, undoubtedly a different type of civilization would have arisen.
Instincts are the innate tendencies of individual when general his behaviour. Besides it, reflex action is also a basic factor of auto-behaviour. Mc Dougall worked a lot an instincts. Many other psychologists also worked in this field.
Universality, innateness, adaptability, purposiveness, perfection at first performance, complete mental action etc., are the characteristics of instincts.
Escape, Combat, Repulsion, Parental, Appeal, Sex, Curiosity, Submissions, Self-assertion, Gregariousness Food seeking, Acquisitiveness, Constructiveness and laughter are the main instincts.
A teacher can get the benefit of instinct in the classroom teaching in modifying the behaviour.