In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Definition of Instincts 2. Nature of Instincts 3. Purposes 4. Theories 5. Classification 6. Modification.
Definition of Instincts:
The word ‘instinct’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Instinctus’, meaning to instigate to motivate’. Subsequently, it was used in the sense of any natural endowment which enabled a living organism to respond in a certain way without experience and learning. It has been generally observed that there are some innate dispositions (or engram-complexes, using the psychological terminology) behind some modes of behaviour which are displayed even from the very birth, and which have not been learnt. A bird prepares a nest; a wasp collects honey, an infant cries for milk, a child runs away from a bull in fear, adolescents are attracted toward the opposite sex, etc.
A number of definitions have been presented by various psychologists:
1. Lloyd Morgan Defines:
Instinctive behaviour involves:
(i) The performance of complex trains of activity engaging the whole organism, while as.
(ii) These activities are of biological value to the species.
(iii) Are similarly performed by all the members of species, and
(iv) Do not have to be learned.
2. R.S. Woodworth:
R.S. Woodworth defines instincts as ‘Unlearned Motives’.
3. It is McDougall:
It is McDougall who has given a detailed explanation of instincts and their functions.
An instinct is an innate or inherited mental structure which determines its possessor to perform certain specific actions in certain situations: It is a natural impulse by which animals are guided apparently independent of reason or experience.
1. McDougall gives a better account of instinct in the following definition:
(i) An instinct is an inherited or innate psychological disposition,
(ii) Which determines its possessor to perceive and to pay attention to objects or ideas of certain class,
(iii) To experience an emotional excitement of a particular quality upon perceiving such an object and
(iv) To act in regard to it in a particular manner or at least, to experience and an impulse to such action.
Let us analyse this definition:
(1) In the first place, an instinct is an innate disposition.
(2) Secondly in the presence of this instinct the person perceives certain specific objects.
(3) Thirdly, an instinct arouses a feeling, an excitement.
(4) Fourthly, the instinct stimulates the person to act in a particular way.
Briefly speaking, instinct is an innate tendency, which gives rise to a trinity of behaviour (cognitive i.e., perceiving the object, affective i.e., feeling in a particular way, and conative i.e., acting in a particular way). When a child sees a bull coming towards him the inborn animal instinct of escape works instantaneously. Firstly he perceives the object, secondly, he experiences an emotion of fear, and thirdly he tries to run away.
Seeing the bull is cognitive experience, being afraid is affective and running away is conative. The instinct displayed in this situation is so spontaneous and natural, that we cannot believe that somebody and instructed the child to act that way.
Nature of Instincts:
1. Instinct is a psycho-physical disposition:
Instinct involves both mind and body. Instinctive behaviour is physical as well as mental.
2. Instinct is a natural innate tendency:
It is an inherited or innate engram- complex or disposition, which determines its possessor to behave in certain specific ways. It is not acquired or learned behaviour.
3. Instinct is purposive:
As instinct fulfills the biological aim of life, and plays an important role in the evolution of life. Each previous generation, in the process of continuation of its specie hands over to the next generation some tendencies with the purpose of survival and preservation. Instincts fulfill the purpose of life.
4. Instinctive behaviour is permanent:
It is established in each living organism and cannot be abolished.
5. Instincts are universal:
Instincts are present in some measure and scope even in the lower living organism. These are even present in higher animals, and in all the human beings. Hence these are universal. The only variations are as regard their prominence at particular level of development or in particular persons.
In some persons, some instincts are more prominent and in others, other instincts are prominent. All the instincts do not come into force simultaneously at the time of birth. Sex instinct remains dormant till puberty. Herd instinct is displayed not before the age of three.
Purposes of Instincts:
Instincts are purposive.
The purposes are broadly three:
(i) Self- preservation,
(ii) Race-preservation, and
(iii) Social living.
The living organism, first of all takes notice of and makes response to those objects of the environment which are likely to affect the well-being of the individual. So the first purpose of instinct is to safeguard the interests of life, to save life from any danger and to overcome the obstacles in adjustment to the environment.
An animal seeks food, lives in herds to get protection from an enemy’s aggression, escapes at the slightest hint of danger, constructs a nest (in the case of birds) to protect life from the inclements of weather, shows pugnacity towards his enemy and is curious to know the special situations in the environment so as to adapt conveniently.
Secondly, the purpose of instinctive behaviour is to preserve one’s species. The sex instinct has no other justification but the perpetuation of the race. It is again reinforced by parental instinct so that the born infants are protected and nourished.
Thirdly, instincts have a social purpose also, besides the above mentioned two biological purposes. Even the lower animals live in herds and display gregarious instinct. Ants and bees always live in groups. Sheep and goats never live in isolation. This instinct is likewise displayed in children when they form gangs. Man is, on the whole, a social animal. He longs for company, wherein he displays a number of instincts such as self assertion.
Theories of Instincts:
1. McDougall‘s Hormic Theory:
McDougall explains that an essential a tribute of the mental structure of any living organism is activity. This activity is fundamental property of life, and is given various names e.g., ‘Elan Vital’ (will to live), life urge, vital principle and ‘libido’. Sir Percy Nunn termed it as ‘Horme’. McDougal discovers the Hormic Principle in the behaviour of plants, animals and men. This Horme works below the level of distinct awareness. Our blood circulates, we breathe, we resist disease, we digest food. All these are hormic activities.
Horme is the source of life-activity, operating at all levels of life, in individual sense, as well as in racial sense. In the upward march of evolution bifurcation of the original horme takes place, and we have two major instincts self- preservation and race-preservation. Even the lowest of the living organism, say an amoeba, displays the remarkable double tendency.
At a higher level of evolution of life, a third instinct – the gregarious instinct, comes into play. Metaphorically speaking, we have three branches of the tree-trunk of horme, two of them are important, and the third is somewhat smaller. In the course of evolution the Hormic tree develops and grows and sends out more and more branches in the form of diverse instincts.
In the first instance, McDougal discovered three major instincts (self-preservation, race-preservation and herd instinct). Later on he found seven, and lately he discovered as many as fourteen stemming out from the original three instincts. Thus all the instincts arise from one great principle – Horme. This theory is called Hormic theory. American psychologists have since long discarded this theory. They have replaced instincts by drives, urges, needs or motives.
2. Freudian Theory:
Freud made independent study of the human motives, through his investigations and treatment of neurotics. He discovered that the predominant instinct in man is the sex instinct. Freud’s Sex’ has a very wide connotation.
Next he finds the ego instinct, which includes feeding, defection, assertion and fear. A third basic instinct mentioned by Freud, but not accepted by contemporary psychologists is the death instinct. Death instinct, according to him creates hostility between men and groups, and rebellion against authority within and outside the family.
Freud’s disciple Adler gave greater prominence to the ego instinct, rather than sex instinct. Sex is the fundamental of all human activity, but while Freud gives it the first place, Adler gives it only the second place.
Classification of Instincts:
Instincts have been classified in diverse ways:
1. Some psychologists mention the two primary instincts – self-preservation and race-preservation.
2. Freud mentions ego, sex and death instinct.
3. Kilpatrick mentions five:
(5) Following Ideal.
4. Drever mentions two instincts:
(1) Appetitive, and
5. Thorndike mentions two types – individual and social.
6. Woodworth calls instincts unlearned motives.
He mentions the following unlearned motives:
(1) Organic needs such as hunger, thirst, rest and sleep,
(2) The sex motive,
(3) The mother love or maternal motive,
(4) The escape motive,
(5) The fighting behaviour,
(8) Social motive, and
(9) Overcoming resistance or mastery motive.
7. McDougal mentions 13 instincts which are common to all animals (including man) and one more instinct of laughter which is peculiar to man only. According to him each instinct has a counterpart emotion. Fourteen instincts have fourteen corresponding emotions.
The list of instincts and emotions is given below:
8. Indian Psychologists have mentioned ten Bhavas as the springs of human action. The Bhavas correspond directly to some of the emotions mentioned above.
A list of Bhavas is given below:
The four emotions which have not been represented in the Indian list are:
(ii) Feeling of ownership,
(iii) Creativeness, and
The above ten are the more or less permanent emotions (called Sthayi Bhavas), but there are many more auxiliary emotions and the total number comes to thirty three. All this shows that there is much common in the list of McDougal and that of Indian specialists of yore. Even the list given by McDougal is in no case final. Nor is this type of classification perfect or the last word to be said on the subject.
Modification of Instincts:
Although the instincts are permanent feature in the behaviour and personality of an individual, these are capable of being modified.
The modification is possible through the following methods:
(5) Sublimation, and
Is Modification Possible?
When we compare the instincts of animals with those of men, or of primitive tribes with those of civilized communities of today, we come to the conclusion that instincts are modifiable. A dog bites in anger, a child also may bite, but a grown up person will seldom display his anger in that manner. A bull is aggressive physically, an uncivilized person also will display his anger through physical aggression, but a civilized person will be aggressive through polished methods.
He may lodge a protest, he may give notice or he may file a writ in court of law. A lion satisfies his gusto by eating raw flesh, a primitive man also ate raw flesh but a modern man has dainty dishes and follows special table manners. With the rise in civilization, there is a modification in the instinctive behaviour. An animal exhibits instincts at a lower plane; a man at a higher plane. Among men also, the more civilized a person the more refined and polished will be his instinctive behaviour.
Practical observation vouchsafes the fact that some situations cause modification in instincts. Conditioning can take place in some situation. A bird may not be afraid of a hunter at the first sight. But when the hunter uses his gun, the bird takes flight in fear. Next time she is afraid of the hunter even in the absence of the gun.
The bird is now conditioned at the sight of the hunter. A child is afraid of a frog. But when he is made to catch a frog himself, his initial fear goes away. A child is in the habit of quarrelling. When punished again and again, he does not indulge in quarrel. An adolescent sees vulgar pictures for the first time.
He feels attracted towards obscene postures of film-stars. He derives pleasure out of it. He will frequent such pictures for greater arousal of sex instinct. Thus the instincts can be modified in the sense that a particular instinct will dominate over other or will become more powerful, or will act at a lower or higher plane, or have diverse ways of fulfilling the same.
The difference between the instinctive behaviour of animals and of men lies chiefly in the use of intelligence. The animals are not guided by intelligence while a man is. To some extent some insects are also guided by intelligence, but the degree of intelligence is very low. The lower animals can respond instinctively to one object only, without any variation, but the instincts of man are plastic and flexible.
It is because of the plasticity and adaptability of the instincts that man receives education. Man is not a slave of his instincts. He modifies these, purifies these from their crude form and applies these for higher ends, shaping an individual character of his own quite distinct and elevated from that of the animals. ‘These instincts are, nevertheless, the bricks out of which the individual character is fashioned.’ In words of Ross, “the instincts are the raw material of character, and throughout his task the educator must deal with them.”
In what way can instincts be modified to shape character, will be discussed below:
1. Repression of Instincts:
Instincts cannot be destroyed but these can be repressed. Some teachers who were rigid disciplinarians banned laughter in the class-rooms. Teachers in Gurukuls curbed the sex instinct of adolescents. A strict control was affected. Modern psychologists conclude that repression is disastrous.
The flow of instinctive stream may be checked by constructing a dam against it, but at some time or the other the current will overflow the dam. The pent-up energies of the children cannot remain suppressed for a long time. Their instincts must find direct or indirect outlet. Hence repression is impossible and dangerous.
Another way of modification is inhibition, or imposing restriction or providing opposition. Restriction can be imposed by providing a environment wherein no stimulus for excitement is possible. Talking or laughing in the classroom can be inhibited by banning the same. If no opportunity is given to instinct pugnacity or anger, and no quarrel arises at home or in the school, the two instincts will grow weaker by lack of practice and absence of manifestation. Sex instinct can be cooled down by fear or anger, i.e., by providing opposite instinct. Indian experts in poetics have given a list of opposite emotions.
Self- assertion is the opposite of submission, repulsion is the opposite of sex, anger is the opposite of distress etc. If the opposite instinct is brought into play, the original one is weakened. But all the same the instinct cannot die by any of the two methods of inhibition (viz. restriction and opposition).
An instinctive behaviour may be substituted by another. A boy satisfies his instinct of acquisition by collecting pencils stolen from the satchels of other pupils. If he is prompted to collect stamps or match-boxes or fossils or photos, these acts will be good substitutes for the stealing. He will be able to satisfy his acquisitive instinct. Indoor game can be a substitute for outdoor game. Scouting satisfy the gregarious instinct, and it can be a substitute for gang-formation.
Loving a pet dog can be substitute for a childless mother. Listening to cricket commentary may be a good substitute for play of a sportsman who has become invalid. Fear of examination is good substitute for fear of goblins. In all these cases the instinct is satisfied but through a new situation which can replace the original situation. The new situation may be highly advantageous. Substitution can work in a limited manner. There can be no substitute for some instinct e.g., the sex instinct.
In this case an instinct is redirected or directed to a new path. The instinct of acquisition can be utilised in collecting books and other material. Thus the modification can be brought about only in the manifestation. The instinct of pugnacity is usually manifest in quarrelling with others. It can be redirected in combating enemies and saving weaker people from injustice. A monitor in the class displays his anger at those who commit noise. Redirection also has a limited scope. Again, it can solve the problem for a moment, but it is not a permanent solution.
The word sublimation is derived from the Latin word ‘Sublimatio’ which means to elevate or ‘to lift up’. The word was first used by Freud in connection with elevating the sex instinct to aesthetic creation. Sublimation was thus a sort of substitution or redirection of the sex instinct by a manifestation at an elevated plane.
An unmarried person can find fulfillment of his sex instinct by engaging himself in art, painting, music, dance and all such aesthetic creation. Instead of working at the sensual plane, he will work at a higher plane of intellectual appreciation of beauty. Freud used this term in connection with sex instinct, but now it is used for a wider meaning, encompassing under it is fold all the instincts and emotions.
So sublimation is diverting the instinctive energy into a substitute that is better approved socially. In words of Ross, “Sublimation is the word used to describe the process of redirecting an instinct from its primitive biological goal to one that is socially and individually uplifting.” W. M. Ryburn has defined it as “action along the line of instinct, using the particular type of energy coming along the particular channel of the instinct but with the action directed towards a higher end.”
McDougal has suggested two types of sublimation:
(i) Intellectual sublimation, and
(ii) Moral sublimation.
The former involves only a change of means, the goal remaining the same. We now take refined diet instead of raw meat.
In the case of moral sublimation, even the goal is changed. This is peculiar to human beings alone. In this case instinct is redirected into better channel of behaviour, and the energy behind it is utilized in socially useful activities. A childless widow may manifest her maternal instinct through working in a nursery, school or an orphanage. A boy may sublimate his instinct of curiosity in scientific hobbies.
3. Sublimation and Education:
The whole task of education is to sublimate the gross and raw instincts of the child. The teacher will be putting the cart before the horse if he suppresses the instincts of the child. He should enable the child to proceed along the current and not against the current. Otherwise if the instinct is suppressed, it will find indirect expression in undesirable ways. Hence the need for sublimation.
4. Method of sublimating:
Sublimation can be done by maintaining a large number of co-curricular activities like games, dramatics, library reading, debating, declamations, hobbies etc. This will provide a healthy outlet to students for their expanding interest.
5. Sublimation of specific instincts:
(i) Curiosity may be sublimated from the impulse to pry into useless and undesirable objects to an enthusiasm for wonders of science. In words of Ross, “all science begins in wonder, and the whole fabric of modern science is a monument of sublimated curiosity.” The child from the very beginning should be motivated to find out more and more about his environment and other useful things of interest. His power of observation and reasoning should be developed in order to achieve sublimation of this instinct.
(ii) Pugnacity can be directed towards games. The combat instinct can be sublimated to playing a match with the opposite team and defeating the same. A similar campaign or crusade can be lead against illiteracy, disease and ignorance.
(iii) Escape can be sublimated from fear to personal self to a fear of doing anything that may be harmful to the group, the community and the nation to which he belongs.
(iv) Heard instinct can be sublimated into a training for teamwork and cooperative projects. Scouting, girl-guiding and community activities are the best-means of sublimation of the gregarious instinct.
(v) Acquisition can be sublimated by directing the child to the collection of educationally valuable things such as pictures, stamps, coins and different kinds of specimens. In late childhood, the child may collect flowers, insects, feathers, leaves, nature-study books and albums. Such a hobby will not only satisfy the acquisition instinct, but also safeguard against stealing, and also educate the child through the acquisition of valuable information about his environment, geographical facts and scientific facts about plants, insects and animals.
(vi) Self-assertion can be sublimated by affording opportunities to the child to prove his worth in any of the activities e.g., games, athletics, debates, dramatics, studies etc. Due appreciation may be given for good dress, good manners, good dramatisation, good singing and good organisation of activities. Monitors, organisers and captains, house-captains may be appointed to satisfy their self-display. Every child tries to assert himself or show himself off. Girl students may display their fashions. The object is to attract the notice of others.
(vii) Submission, which is the opposite of self-assertion, can be sublimated in making the child well-disciplined, obedient and orderly. The only difficulty is that the teacher might create reaction in the minds of the students if he is not sympathetic towards them besides being a disciplinarian. Again if this instinct is not properly handled and directed, it may lend to inferiority complex.
(viii) Sex-instinct can be sublimated into creative work of any kind especially in the find of aesthetics and fine arts, such as art, painting, embroidery, music, dramaturgy, dancing, composing poetry. In this connection, we should bear in mind that sublimation of sex instinct has a limited scope.
We cannot make every child a genius to produce excellent things of art. At some stage or the other sex-instinct must find gratification. But at the adolescent stage, proper education and a net-work of artistic activities will go a long way about utilising the libido of the adolescent in fruitful tasks which are socially useful.
6. Role of the Teacher:
The teacher should understand the crudeness of the child instincts and try to sublimate these. He could not repress his instincts because that will cause complexes and mental conflicts. The repressed instincts may appear in un-desirable forms and hinder the growth of the child. The teacher should organise a network of activities to provide ample opportunities for the sublimation of the instincts. He should know the exact manner of modifying each instinct, and plan accordingly.