Instinct: A study in social psychology

Chapter 1: Introduction: Problem and Method

Luther Lee Bernard

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This is an investigation of the relative importance of instinct and habit — of the inheritance and the environmental factors — in the development of social institutions and social control. It has been undertaken with the assumption that the proper determination of this question has very great significance for the development of both a sound social theory and an effective social policy. There are those who hold a contrary view. The relatively uncritical, those whose concern with the problem of character training and social action is immediately practical rather than rigorously scientific, often respond to this question with the statement, " What difference does it make, anyway; it amounts to the same thing in the long run." With their attention upon immediate results they fail to discern the cumulative differences of method of producing social change involved in the environmental and hereditary procedures which modify final results. We might, in a measure at least, disregard the objections of the uncritical who exert little or no positive determination upon long time social policy. But we are scarcely justified in ignoring the statements of those whose concern it is to work with scientific method and establish the norms with which we are to measure and mold social programs and social controls.

Professor Dunlap declares: "At the present time, I can see no way of distinguishing usefully between instinct and habit. All reactions are definite responses to definite stimulus

(4) patterns, and the exact character of the response is determined in every case by the inherited constitution of the organism and the stimulus pattern. All reactions are instinctive: all are acquired. If we consider instinct, we find it to be the form and method of habit-formation: if we consider habit, we find it to be the way in which instinct exhibits itself. Practically, we use the term instinctive reaction to designate any reaction whose antecedents we do not care, at the time, to inquire into; by acquired reaction on the other hand, we mean those reactions for whose antecedents we intend to give some account. But let us beware of founding a psychology, social, general, or individual, on such a distinction." [1] I cannot agree with this view, but find the interpretation of Herrick more satisfactory. He distinguishes three types of activity, the inherited, the mixed or modifiable action patterns, and acquired automatisms or habits.[2] He says, "Most of our common activities include all three of these types of behavior in varying proportions, and accordingly they frequently have not been distinguished. The first and third types are especially liable to confusion, for both are manifested as stereotyped, non-intelligent behavior. They can sometimes be separated only by a study of their origins; nevertheless this distinction is of great importance, especially to educators."[3] It is true that if we consider the structure of the action pattern only, disregarding for the time being its origin, we cannot easily distinguish instinct from habit, for both are, in their pure form, automatic stimulus-response processes, beginning in definite, well correlated or adapted stimuli, both ending in definite responses.[4] If we were able to locate the inner connecting neurons with reference to part of the brain or cord through which they pass we

(5) might have some light thrown on the question, since the habit processes usually pass through higher centers than those made use of by the instincts.[5] But the only sure way of making a distinction is to determine whether the action patterns were determined in the chromosomes or whether they were adjusted in response to the pressures of environment. And this we are not as yet, in many cases at least, able to do. The nervous pathways, or so-called instincts, using this term to represent the more complex inherited activity patterns as distinguished from simple reflexes, have not yet been localized in the brain .[6] And the same may be said of the habits, although certain areas of type activity are known.[7]

It is frequently held that instincts or inherited action patterns do not appear originally in definite form, ready for the task of mediating adjustments of the organism to its environment, but that all instincts must be educated by learning.[8] It may be possible to admit this contention, at least in the main. But such an argument does not establish the identity of instinct and habit. It is rather a denial of the existence of instinct, or at least of definite inherited complex action patterns. Such an admission would establish at once the primacy of environment and habit in the determination of individual character and of social adjustments and institutions. The assumption of this study is that instincts and habits are defined in terms of their neural structure rather than of their value to the organism or society, and that they are to be distinguished from each other by determining their respective origins.[9] It may be allowable also to speak of the mere metabolic instability

(6) which urges the organism to action [10] as instinctive, but we can characterize the stimulus response processes, which develop and serve as specific channels or mechanisms for the discharge of this metabolic energy in adjustment to the environment, as definite instincts only when these processes are inherited. Such discharge patterns or mechanisms are habits if they have been built up in response to the resistance of, or in response to the opportunity afforded by, the environment for this discharge.

Thus, it is easier to arrive at a criterion for distinguishing an instinct from a habit than it is to apply it. We have noted the fact that as yet we have not the technique for determining the identity of an instinct by tracing the growth of its neural structure either phylogenetically or ontogenetically. In practice we use the somewhat crude method of observing whether the activity is in existence at birth or appears later without the preliminary signs of learning. These are by no means accurate methods for the determination of instincts. We are more fortunate in using the crude observation method in the positive determination of habits. For, where we observe the activity integrating itself in response to stimuli, as a method of adjusting the organism to its environment, we may safely assume that the resulting action pattern or psycho-physical mechanism is at least in part acquired, although we cannot easily determine the extent to which it is built upon inherited bases.[2] The secondary method of tracing activities back

(7) through lower animal forms, to discover if there are corresponding definite and apparently unlearned action patterns in these primitive types, offers much valuable collateral evidence in distinguishing between instinct and habit. But clearly, for the present at least, the most fruitful source of distinction comes from the study of environmental pressures at work, with a view to observing just how the action patterns arise. Because the environment is open constantly to observation and its action is capable of analysis and measurement, while we cannot yet reach the inner tissues and structures of the nervous system in action, we may expect a much more intensive study of environment in the future with this object of definition in view.

It is precisely because Professor Dunlap is thinking of the action pattern merely in terms of structure, instead of in terms of origins, or, as he says, in terms of its antecedents, that he is unable to find a working distinction between instinct and habit. Long ago we learned that we do not content ourselves with the anatomy or cross section view of any subject or organ or organization. We are primarily interested in what the thing does, although a study of the anatomy or structure may be of the greatest value in solving this problem of function. Function and origins are inseparable in our thinking. We do not study things in isolation, as entities, so much as we study them as parts functioning in a developing system. We have progressed from a world of static logic and metaphysics to one of dynamics, where we speak of evolution instead of creation, of conduct rather than of being, of behavior in the place of mind or soul. We now define a fact largely in terms of its function in the process before us. We examine it, not alone in terms of its structure or organization, but we study its origin and its application and we consider that we do not comprehend the one until we have discovered the other. Professor Dunlap admits that when we look at an action from the standpoint of

(8) its antecedents we call it an acquired reaction. This sounds very much as if he believed that all complex activities are acquired, that is, that all action patterns as they function in practice are the result of adaptation to environmental pressures which determine the final form of the mechanism for energy release.[12] In the last analysis, for the human adult at least, this is probably approximately true. But it does not lessen the value of the distinction between acquired and inherited reactions. It merely emphasizes the preponderant importance of environment, especially, in the modern industrialized and cultural world, of the psycho-social environment, in molding character and institutions. And, likewise, it points the moral for the study of environmental pressures as a means to understanding the nature of our institutions and as a method for the control and intelligent direction of their growth. The discovery of the method of habit formation and integration will uncover the technique of institutional organization and control. The two are respectively the individual and collective aspects of the same facts.


The uncritical assumption that instinct dominates the formation of habits and determines the character of institutions [13] is due to the dominance of the biological viewpoint in modern mental and social science. The spectacular and transforming discoveries of Darwin and his contemporaries and successors, including Huxley and Hooker, and Weismann, Mendel and DeVries, as well as of the large body of more recent biologists with their advanced and accurate methods

(9) of research, are responsible for this dominance. Their brilliant work, bringing as it did and does the accuracy and insight of scientific method to bear upon problems nearer that of human destiny and control than the earlier work in physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology had done, captured the imaginations of men and gave the views of the biologists a prestige which it is difficult to overestimate. Only the rise of an accurate and extensive method in the field of the mental and social sciences in this day, bringing the application of scientific procedure still nearer home to man's dominant survival interests, has been able to rival the work of the biologists in strength of appeal to human interest. But even here, in the sciences dealing with man's behavior and collective organization, the biological method and principles have been dominant in directing technique and conclusions. This is partly due to the fact that man is himself an animal and is therefore subject to the laws of biology. But it is also in large measure owing to the fact that in our struggle to achieve generalizations and for economy of procedure in a new science _ we carry over by analogy the conclusions of one science into another. Just as we have an almost irresistible tendency to reason by analogy, so also do we tend to build up sciences by analogy with other sciences previously established.[14]

A companion factor in establishing the dominance of the theory of instinct determination in the mental and social sciences has been the narrowed viewpoint of the biologists who have provided the social theorists with their biological data. Almost exclusively their studies have dealt with types lower in the animal scale than the vertebrates, and for the most part they have confined their attention to the most primitive forms of life. Consequently they have unduly simplified their problem when they come to draw conclusions

(10) applicable to man. As a matter of technique their procedure has been wise, considering what, as biologists, they wished primarily to do. In no other way than by studying the lowest and simplest forms of animal life could they work out the elementary biophysical and biochemical processes that are basic to animal organization and behavior. But, while man may be presumed to be subject to the same physical and chemical laws of growth and action, his organization is much more complex and variable. The adaptations which he is compelled to make to his environment are much more numerous, rapid and complicated. His effective environment is itself infinitely more extensive than that of the lowest organisms, for it is dominated by the psycho-social environment which does not exist for the lower organisms, except indirectly through the mediation of man. Consequently, the category of instinct, which serves very well for purposes of describing the activities of lower organisms, proves to be entirely inadequate for an account of human social behavior. Only habit and constantly and easily modified acquired reactions can serve his complicated and voluminous adjustment needs. Man's behavior must be flexible in the extreme, while the behavior of lower organisms can be classified according to much simpler and unilateral types. That is why man possesses what we call a mind, which, interpreted from the standpoint of the behaviorist, is a highly complicated and sensitive machine adapted to registering even the faintest and most remote phases of environmental pressures and to adapting the organism to them. The growth of civilization has added greatly to the complexity and sensitivity of this mechanism by giving it a much larger structural complexity and interchangeability of parts. It can do its work only on the basis of acquired reactions. The instinctive mechanism is too stiff and unadjustable. Consequently, the later stages of the growth of mind and mentality in the animal kingdom

(11) have, neurologically speaking, been away from the rigidity of fixed instinct or inherited neural connections, toward a flexible type of synapse with highly complicated dendritic and axonal connections,[15] and toward an acquired adjustment content dominated by interchangeable symbols [16] psychologically speaking.

It is just these facts which the biologists have failed adequately to appreciate. Impressed with the reflex and tropistic character of the behavior of lower organisms they have assumed the same explanation of the behavior of higher organisms, including man, to hold true. Doubtless reflex and tropism are basic to human activity, just as they are to the behavior of sub-human types. But the greater synaptic flexibility and habit-forming power of man render it possible for him to build his behavior patterns very extensively upon this foundation, with the result that the instinctive element in action is largely lost in the larger volume of superimposed acquired behavior content.[17] The biologists have failed to recognize the fact, because they have known very little in detail about the content of the psycho-social environment.[18] The paucity of their respect for sociology has been equaled only by the smallness of their knowledge of what it has to offer in the way of an environmental analysis. Their approval of psychology has been limited primarily to its biological aspects. justly repelled by the abundance of metaphysical elements in the mental and social sciences, which have survived longer here than in the field of biology, they have been too ready to question the possibility of any positive scientific light coming from them, especially from the environmental side. The naïve partisanship of the biologists for the

(12) instinct interpretation in psychology and for the eugenic program in sociology has sometimes been pathetic. It reveals equally an appalling ignorance of the facts of sociology and social psychology on the one hand, and a profound dogmatism and cocksureness about a matter (instinct or inheritance determination of human social and moral traits) which has no better foundation in theory to support it than a crude analogy. In this analogical assumption the biologists have been guilty of a method of violating the canons or tests of scientific truth for which they have strongly condemned the sociologists.

Not only have the biologists been guilty of the unpardonable sin—a sort of sin they will not condone in the sociologists—of reasoning by analogy in attributing, without detailed investigation, to the complex, flexible, habit-forming human nervous structure the same instinctive organization which they have actually found in the lower organisms; but one suspects that they have allowed their unconscious prejudices to distort their scientific perspective. Not being Freudians and not finding any evidence of the Freudian conflict-neurosis among the lower organisms (Freud says only man develops the type of mental conflict which produces neurosis, consequently only man suffers from neuroses [19]), they perhaps are not sufficiently aware of the way in which a mere association of words, calling up an unpleasant or rejected idea, may remain unanalyzed and stand for an argument. The particular subconscious confusion which it seems not unfair to attribute to the biologists in this connection is the subconscious tendency to identify the concept of the influence of the environment upon the somatic organism, especially in the matter of neural dispositions and ideas, with the old and discredited doctrine of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. The distinction is clear enough if one devotes a very

(13) small amount of thought to it; but the phraseology has some points of superficial resemblance. The word environment itself has attached to it a high degree of dynamic quality, or contra-suggestibility, especially in the mind of the biologist, where it is almost symbolic of the theory of the inheritance of acquired characters. This fact alone would serve in many cases—especially in those cases where there were few analytical and positive data regarding the nature of the environment and environmental pressures and their mode of operation upon the organism—to arouse the subconscious prejudices of the biologist and cause him to reject any further consideration of the claims of the environmentalists.

Also, the influence of the psycho-social environmental pressures is primarily and directly upon the mental—both conscious and subconscious—organization of the organism. The immediate and direct results of institutional and other psychosocial pressures operating upon the organism are not usually visible to the eye, because they are ordinarily mental rather than physical. These hidden psychic responses of the organism to the psycho-social environment have something of an air of mystery about them. They come silently and imperceptibly. Superficially they are more like the inheritance traits than the gross or visible acquired surface traits; for they too are internal and their method of development is not subject to sensory perception or to processes of inference based immediately upon sense perceptions. Psychologists are just beginning to study, in a specific and quantitative way, correlations between psycho-social environmental pressures and the acquisition of mental, moral and social traits. Except for some rather vague and general statements regarding suggestion, imitation, and reasoning, which have not been definitely connected up with a theory of environmental pressures, little has yet been done in the way of uncovering the technique by which the neural organization responds with action and idea patterns

(14) to the pressures of the environment.[20] Even in the minds of trained scientists, especially outside of their immediate specialties, judgments and attitudes are determined largely with little or no rational analysis, and primarily on the basis of preconception or subconscious mental organization and suggestion. Hence the analogy of the internal character of the mental responses with the chromosome-determined inheritance characters—an analogy largely symbolized by the word internal,—in contrast with the gross externality of obviously acquired physical somatic traits, would serve to settle the classification of the mental, moral and social traits in the minds of most biologists. For most biologists—and for the psychologists and sociologists taking their cue from the biologists— these traits still remain in the category of the instinctive. However, it is only a matter of justice to say that an ever increasing number of biologists are analyzing their human data more carefully and are coming to recognize that what we call mental and social phenomena are of a higher degree of complexity and of flexibility of organization than those which we ordinarily call biological.[21] Few biologists would now make use of the methods of reasoning employed by C. B. Davenport, which led him to include human social and moral traits as well as the physical or biological under the category of inherited unit characters.[22] The orthodox biologists and their followers among the psychologists and sociologists have not yet advanced sufficiently from the methods of analogical reasoning

(15) to those of careful analysis of more fundamental relationships to discover a more marked underlying similarity between mental, moral and social (internal somatic) traits of consciousness and other (external) acquired somatic characteristics than between the former and the chromosome-determined traits of inheritance. A knowledge of the environment and its methods of control as well as of the mechanics of the egg is necessary to make this transition of perspective.

Without any intention of being presumptuous, it may be said that the intolerance for the environmental view exhibited by the biologists has been due in part, at least indirectly, to the lack of assimilation of the current theory of inheritance from which some of them have suffered. The early education of many of the biologists now writing was not in the theories of inheritance now generally accepted. The Mendelian theory did not become common property until after 1900. The prevailing views on the mechanics of inheritance before and even after that date were much confused and decidedly indefinite. Without the precise knowledge of the mechanics of chromosome determination and egg maturation and of Mendelian ratios, the older biologists confused the period of inheritance determination with the whole of the prenatal period. Inheritance seemed to be limited only by the period of residence in the maternal womb.[23] Even after they had come, under the

(16) influence of Weismann, to reject the doctrine of inheritance of acquired characteristics, they failed to make a clear distinction between inheritance traits and those traits acquired from the prenatal and the preconceptual environments.[24]

The difficulty lies in the fact that the data of biology have increased too rapidly for the biologists to adapt their previously formed underlying theories and attitudes to them. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the human mind to readjust itself constantly and completely to new data and theories. This readjustment may take place where there is a definite focusing of attention, but it cannot easily occur at the periphery of attention. The outlying or non-focal ideas and theories are left with their old interpretations until they are corrected by use or by being made focal in consciousness connected with some definite problem. The inevitable result of this partial and sketchy readjustment or revision of old ideas and interpretations to meet the implications of new theories is that the thinker unconsciously slips into error and finds himself giving utterance to some discredited theory. This happens even when he really possesses the requisite data for the revision of his theories and in one sense knows the newer interpretation. That is, he knows the facts which should enable him to make the revision, but for some reason he has not yet been able to complete the process of reinterpretation in this particular field.[25] This is not an exceptional phenomenon, characteristic alone of the biologists. It is one of the

(17) commonest experiences in the lives of all people, but it is especially attributable to those who have to deal with a great many new data which call for constant revision of old ideas and theories based on old data to make them conform to the new. Without doubt this factor of the incomplete readjustment of the pre-Mendelian conceptions of the biologists to the new data of students of inheritance, and of environmental pressures, as well, serves to account for much of the confusion in the biologists' minds regarding what is and what is not inherited. It seems especially difficult to explain in any other way their conspicuous disregard of those prenatally and preconceptually acquired traits coming through the cytoplasm rather than through the chromosomes.[26] The chromosome determination operates only at the point of fertilization and cannot operate at any other point or period. On the other hand the prenatal environment is influential throughout the whole period of nine months between fertilization and birth, and environment may be said to operate in a limited way, by induction as it were, even before fertilization. It is this distinction which has not yet become so persistently present in the thinking of the biologists as to steer them adequately clear of errors of interpretation.

The proper approach to the estimation of the relative importance of inheritance and environmental transmission in the building up of the character of the human individual is through embryology, psychology and sociology, rather than through general biology. A knowledge of the mechanics of the development of the ascidians or of artificial parthenogenesis, however thorough it may be, is not an adequate preparation for a judgement respecting the origin of human traits. Such a wide as that lying between the human young and the behavior

(18) of the lower organisms, such as that here mentioned, can be crossed only on the uncertain bridge of analogy. The students of human embryology are much more friendly to the theory of the acquired origin of human traits,[27] because they deal with the prenatal development of the organism and its environment in operation. However, only the minor portions of the human acquired traits come before birth, and these are biological rather than mental, moral and social. The really important source of acquired human traits is the postnatal psycho-social environment. Here arise those psychic qualiities which exert a predominant influence in adapting the individual to his environment; those qualities which are even immediately most concerned in creating and transforming his environment .[28]


The present study, relying on the assumed importance of the distinction between acquired and inherited traits, habit and instinct, will undertake a careful definition of the concept of inheritance on the mental side. The concept of instinct will be considered from the various angles of approach which are open, and an attempt will be made to determine the nature and functions of instincts in relation to individual conduct and the social organization. An attempt will be made by the process of elimination to discover the limitations of the instinct concept as an explanatory device, and the functioning of the instincts will be studied by means of the positive tests of application to concrete problems of interpretation.

Following a detailed analysis of the concept of instinct and some study of the functioning of instincts in social organization, an analysis of the process of habit formation would normally be presented. This is a field much less adequately worked

(19) than the preceding one, the analysis of the concept of instinct. In the dozen years since the writer first began to collect data regarding instinct and habit the attitude of the psychologists and biologists with regard to instinct has largely been reversed. While at the beginning of this period no voice was to be discovered in protest against the McDougall type of interpretation, which was then dominant, in recent years numerous papers and some books have appeared controverting the older and metaphysical instinct conception. But this work has on the whole, been critical rather than positive and constructively revisionary. It is now time to present a theory of habit formation which should materially assist in finding a substitute for the now largely discredited theory of instinct dominance in character formation.

A third line of investigation, aiming at testing the significance of instinct for character building and social control would be primarily sociological rather than psychological. The proof of the utility of the distinction between instinct and habit must be found in the relative values of the two concepts as explanatory devices. This relative utility can be tested only by using the two concepts in the interpretation of some social institution. For a variety of reasons the family might well be selected for this purpose. The history of the family is perhaps as clearly determined as that of any other social institution reaching back into great antiquity. Also it is a fairly simple institution, consisting of a limited number of function ing members, whose relationships to each other are fairly well defined by biological and environmental necessity. Furthermore, it is known to have passed through reasonably definite stages of development which have a fair degree of similarity for different peoples in the same stages of social and economic development, and under the same environmental conditions. This material of the family may, therefore, be handled with some degree of precision. It should afford a fairly adequate

(20) test of the truth of the rival claims of heredity and environment at a time when the history of social institutions is as yet too inadequately developed to render the test equally successful with respect to any one of them.

Owing to limitations of time for making this study and of space for publication, only the first of these three lines of investigation has been carried to completion in the present work. Properly each of the three divisions should have a separate volume devoted to its exposition, if the most conclusive results are to be secured.

§ IV

In the study here presented a definite and logical line of development has been followed. Chapter I states the problem and sets forth the method. This chapter also establishes the fact that there is an urgent problem to be investigated. The second chapter states in a preliminary way the opposing points of view of the instinctivists and the environmentalists. Chapter III traces the development of the nervous system phylogenetically with the purpose of showing that the higher brain organization, which is the seat of directive, intelligence, and which possibly was developed to serve the lower or instinctive centers of the autonomic system in realizing; their functions or ends, has come in the more advanced human epoch to be under the dominance of man's psychosocial environment, which we call civilization. Thus instinct has been replaced by convention and science in the control of character development and individual adjustment. Chapter IV represents an attempt to establish a definition of instinct sanctioned by the most authoritative contributions to the subject as a point of departure for the remainder of the book. The author's purpose here has been to forestall the possible charge that he has set up his own unsanctioned definition of instinct in order to knock it down with pointless arguments.

(21) The orthodox character of the definition of instinct adopted should command all the more respect for the criticism herein advanced of those expositions of the functioning of instinct in society by writers who violate their own accepted definitions. The two following chapters give an account of the origin and growth of the psycho-social environment as the projection of that very intelligence which originally served the impulses of the lower nervous and bodily organizations. It is the history of the Frankenstein which overcame its creator.

The three subsequent chapters constitute an exposition of the current employment of the concept instinct and contain the major portion of the concrete results of the investigation. The purpose here is to show both the great variety of usage and the almost universal lack of critical standards. This could be demonstrated vividly only by means of an extended analysis of the literature employing the concept instinct. Chapter X explains how the present uncritical and irrational employment of the concept came into existence and was handed down to us as one of our intellectual traditions. The following chapter shows that instincts cannot be conceived as existing apart from the structural organization of biological heredity. Failure to recognize this fact has been responsible for much of the erroneous usage from which social psychology now suffers. The next chapter brings into relief the environmental factors in ontogeny for the purpose of setting them in contrast to the inheritance factors with which they are so commonly confused. The limitations of instinctive control of the development processes cannot be adequately appreciated until the nature of environment is understood. The four following chapters (XIII-XVI) inclusive, are devoted to an analysis of certain typical so-called instincts of complex character on the basis of the criteria established in preceding chapters. The net result is to demonstrate the untenability of the concept of instinct which these types imply. The seven-

(22) -teenth chapter examines certain residual misconceptions regarding the nature of the instincts which were not adequately treated in earlier chapters. Two additional chapters on the emotions and sentiments (Chapters XVIII and XIX) have as their object to show that emotion and the affective life in general are not exclusively instinctive in character, as is now generally assumed by the prevailing social psychology. Here, as in other aspects of the mental life, the acquired elements are dominant and directive. The final chapter summarizes the argument of the book as a whole and restates its conclusions.


It is the belief of the writer, intensified by some twelve years of intermittent attention to the subject and by observation of the phenomena of instinct and habit, that an adequate control of social progress and of social and individual welfare lies mainly through the analysis and organization of the environment instead of through the control of heredity, although the latter is also important. So far the major employment of the concept of instinct by the psychologists, educationists, and sociologists has been mainly negative rather than positive. These thinkers have gone but little beyond a hypothetical definition of the limitations to individual development and social progress under the instinct dominance of individual character formation. There has been some theorizing with regard to the possibilities of the combination and utilization of native or instinct tendencies in action and the Freudians have had much to say about the evil of baulking or repressing instincts, and something about the possibilities of the sublimation of instinctive trends. All of these discussions might be expected ultimately to bear some fruit in the organization of social controls and social and ethical standards, provided we could determine the true nature of the instincts. As yet we are hopelessly at sea as to what the instincts are, and no other

(23) group of thinkers is quite so hopelessly without line or compass in this respect as are the educationists and the Freudians themselves. [29]

The more positive and fruitful method of utilizing the instincts for purposes of rational and progressive social control might, perhaps, appear to many to lie in the direction of a rational and purposive breeding of instinctive tendencies. This, however, must necessarily be a very slow process, even if it were technologically feasible. If instincts can be bred at all—at least instincts of any considerable utility to man in his more advanced struggle for the control of civilization—the length of time required to render this method of social improvement effective would be almost prohibitive. Even under the most favorable conditions for the propagation of new or valuable instinctive attitudes—that is, if no prejudices existed against the untrammelled breeding of human beings for desired traits; if the traditional family relationships, marriage, jealousy, domestic property ties and the like did not existit would require hundreds or even thousands of generations to spread abroad throughout the earth by means of inheritance those traits most desired. In the absence of some system of elimination of those who possessed undesirable traits or of the prevention of the transmission of their traits through reproduction, the period of time required for the selection 'of a perfect race through control by inheritance, even where the valuable traits were able to compete successfully for survival in natural as distinguished from social or controlled struggle, would be almost infinite. In other words, the only way in which the inheritance or eugenic method could be rendered ultimatelv effective as a means to peopling the earth with a desirable type possessing the proper instincts would be through an environmental or euthenic control of the proc-

(24) -ess which would make such a breeding or eugenic control possible.. Thus, eugenics cannot be made to operate successfully, even where it is possible to make use of the technique, without the aid and support of the euthenic or environmental method of social control. The eugenic or inheritance method of race improvement is not self-directive and self-executing.[30]

The environmental method of social improvement and control operates much more rapidly. It is capable of being used in lateral as well as in longitudinal transmission. Those traits which can be transmitted by means of teaching or other environmental pressures or technique can, if the desire is sufficient and if the organization is adequate, be spread over the whole world in a few generations at most. There are no impassable inherent biological or physical barriers to such transmission. Consequently, if it be found that the environment, especially the psycho-social environment, is the chief source from which new and valuable traits to be used in social improvement and social progress must come, the problem of the sociologist and of the social legislator and educator (in the broadest as well as in the narrowest sense) will be greatly simplified. The method of social advance and of social control in the future will be determined by a close analytical study of the environment, and by the application of the principles discovered to the control of the social situation. If it should appear from our study that the forms and organization, and even the functioning, of the institutions have in the past uniformly borne a close relationship to the physical, biological, socionomic and psycho-social environments in which these institutions are cast, the implication should be fairly clear that the chief constructive task of social science to-day is the discovery of the methods or technique by means of which this correlation between environment and institutions is maintained. This sort of study of environment,

(25) especially in the second and third phases here outlined, should be able to make a significant contribution in this direction. In the second method of investigation referred to above the analysis should cover the psychic transformations within the individual which are essential to the readjustment of institutions. For institutions are the abstractions of the organized functioning of individuals and not things apart from individuals. The third method should present a typical analysis of the coöperative and differential adjustments of individuals to a predominantly common environment with the intent of discovering the principles by means of which these coöperative and coadaptive adjustments are made.


  1. Knight Dunlap, "The Identity of Instinct and Habit," Journal of Philosophy, 19: 94 (2/16/'22).
  2. An Introduction to Neurology (2d ed.), 335.
  3. Ibid., 336.
  4. Compare R. S. Woodworth, Psychology, 328.
  5. Herrick, op. cit., 122, 252 and Stewart Paton, Human Behavior, 165; WE. Hocking, Human Nature and Its Remaking, 154, note.
  6. Woodworth, Psychology, 293.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., 111. See also Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, and C. A. Ellwood, Sociology in its Psychological Aspects, 204 ff.
  9. See Bernard, "Misuse of Instinct in the Social Sciences," Psy. Rev. 28:96-119; J. B. Watson, Behavior, 184-5.
  10. H. S. Jennings, Behavior of Lower Organisms, 284, 286-7; L. J. Henderson, The Fitness of the Environment.
  11. Watson suggests that habits may be found to consist of organizations of congenital reflexes, but organized in a different way. He says, " We do not hesitate to define habit as we do instinct—as a complex system of reflexes which function in a serial order when the organism is confronted by certain stimuli, provided we add the clause which marks off habit from instinct, viz., that in habit the order and pattern are acquired during the life of the individual animal. After habits are perfected they function in all particulars as do instincts." Behavior, 184-5.Compare Woodworth, op. cit., 328.
  12. This appears to be the view of Professor Hocking (op. cit,, 1151 ff,) ; also of Professor Dewey (op. cit., 107).
  13. This viewpoint is emphasized by McDougall, Introduction to Social Psychology (8th Ed.), 44, 176 ff. Compare also Paton, Human Behavior, 165, 193, 338; Herrick, An Introduction to Neurology, 82; Kempf, The Autonomic Functions and the Personality; and the psychoanalysts and the educationists generally.
  14. See E. A. Ross, Foundations of Sociology, chapter on "Social Laws," for a discussion of this fact.
  15. See Herrick, op. cit., 44; Woodworth, op. cit., 416-18.
  16. W. A. White, Mechanisms of Character Formation, 108-116, 313, 318, 333
  17. See Hocking, op. cit., 30, 171 ff.
  18. See Francis B. Sumner, "The Organism and Its Environment," Sci. Mo., 14: 223, 228, for a confirmation of this view.
  19. Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, 358.
  20. The psychologists are beginning to include chapters on this subject in their text books. See, for example, Woodworth, op. cit., ch. 13; Watson, op. cit., chs. 6-8.
  21. An example of this sort of analysis, although somewhat crudely done, is to be found in H. W. Conn's Social Heredity and Social Evolution (1914). Conn's inadequate preparation for this type of analysis is shown by his constant confusion of instinct with habit.
  22. See his Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (1911), especially ch. 3. See also Kellicott, The Human Direction of Social Evolution and the writings of H. H. Goddard, for similar examples of these methods of analysis and inference.
  23. The writer recalls an example of this confusion as late as the year 1913, when, at a discussion club program, a Johns Hopkins Ph. D., in biology, then State Entomologist for one of the southern states, argued from the assumption that all prenatal traits are inherited. However, when the error was called to his attention he acknowledged it. The significant point here is not that he did not know better than to confuse the two (for he did, when he was on his guard), but that in ordinary conversation or thinking the true interpretation was so much in the background that habitually he spoke from an earlier and relatively uncritical standpoint of theory. W. M. Feldman( The Principles of Antenatal and Postnatal Child Physiology, 642), citing Pfaundler (Zeitschr. f. Kinderheilk. 16, 1916), calls attention to the fact of the necessity of computing the age and other measurements of the child from the moment of conception, and not from the moment of birth.
  24. As careful a biologist as S. J. Holmes fails to make this necessary distinction as late as 1921. See his Trend of the Race, 292-3. He speaks of hereditary syphilis on pp. 67, 166 and 307 of this work, although he must know that syphilis cannot be inherited in the Mendelian sense.
  25. An interesting example of this apparent failure to readjust the pattern of thinking to new data is to be found in Professor F. W. Gamble's (University of Birmingham) definition of heredity as "the degree of likeness between parents and their offspring."—The Animal World, 230. Essentially the same error is made by Feldman (op. cit., 11) when he defines heredity as "the resemblance between parents and offspring."
  26. See E. W. MacBride, "The Inheritance of Acquired Characters," Science Progress, XV, 397; Julian S. Huxley, " Some Implications of the Chromosome Theory of Heredity," Science Progress, XVI, 238-9.
  27. See Feldman, op. cit., 110 ff.
  28. See Bernard, "Neuro-Psychic Technique," Psy. Rev., Nov., 1923 (VOL 30, pp. 407-437).
  29. See Bernard, "Instinct and the Psychoanalysts," The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, Jan.-March, 1923.
  30. See Conn, op. cit., ch. II.

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