Instinct: A study in social psychology

Chapter 7: Current Usage of Term Instinct

Luther Lee Bernard

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There is scarcely any concept employed in the social sciences about which there is so much diversity of usage and uncertainty of meaning as there is concerning the term instinct. The social sciences are at many points lacking in a definite terminology, since they have developed out of popular interest and are still largely determined by popular opinion and usage. There is, however, a strong realization of the need of greater definiteness in the employment of the concepts out of which the literary structures of these sciences are built. This search for definiteness has not left the term instinct untouched. The discussion of this term has in recent years been considerable. McDougall's Introduction to Social Psychology in particular, and many other books of more recent date, represent attempts to bring order out of a chaotic field, attempts which have been only moderately successful. So numerous are the variations in the meaning of this term, as used by those discussing social relationships and origins, that it is difficult to classify them accurately. A considerable analysis of the literature dealing with social themes, however, suggests that the several fairly well-defined usages may be grouped under the following four general headings:— (1) a general and indefinite employment of the term instinct, not necessarily descriptive of a concrete act at all; (2) all cases covering automatic and habitual actions of any sort; (3) those more or less automatic stimulus-response activity processes which are supposedly inherited; and (q.) acts which are definitely inherited and which may be properly termed instinc-

(123) -tive. These usages may fittingly be described under the following categories and illustrated accordingly from the numerous examples at hand.

The least scientific employment of the term instinct is that of the litterateurs. It falls into two classes, generally speaking. The first does not represent any attempt at scientific usage at all. It is merely a literary device. Instances of this literary employment of the term are to be found in such passages as "chariot instinct with spirit" (Milton) and "genius instinct with music" (Wordsworth). Although such an unscientific use of the term is usually confined to the litterateurs untrained in the scientific terminology of psychology, there are not wanting similar instances among those with some reputation in the sociological field. Benjamin Kidd has given us the following example: "We behold the whole drama of progress in life becoming instinct, as it were, with a meaning which remains continually projected beyond the content of the present."[1] Many citations of this peculiarly and psychologically almost meaningless use of the term might be collected from a multitude of sources, but the following examples will serve sufficiently to illustrate the matter: "All was instinct with the ravaged . . . sadness of a spot handed over to excavation, and where only men of learning could wax enthusiastic,"[2] "instinct with contempt," [3] "Italy of yesterday . . . instinct with a dying grace," [4] "instinct with the breath of heaven,"[5] "instinct with joyous life,"[6] "instinct with heredity,"[7] "the body-mind organism instinct with the

(124) single impulse to assert or realize actually what it is potentially,"[8] "instinct with suggestion," [9] "instinct with perfume," [10] "instinct with an indescribable prestige," [11] "the Athenian world instinct with its own mission,"[12] "our world instinct with its mission of industrial and political development," [13] "A treaty instinct with a different spirit,"[14] instinct with the spirit of hate,[15] instinct with the spirit of the pastoral.[16] It will be observed that most of these examples are taken from rather serious works on political or social subjects. This fact shows that even this least scientific type of the employment of instinct is indulged in by the kind of writers who should be most careful about their terminology. The obvious criticism of this application of the term is that it does not make instincts synonymous with specific activities. Instincts are in reality ; specific adjustments, acts which can be clearly defined. They are not merely vague qualities of activity or perception, such as the examples above cited would tend to make them seem. Instincts are neurological facts, that is, definite stimulus- response processes. As such and only as such are they known to the scientist as distinguished from the litterateur and the dilettante and uncritical thinker.

A second literary and highly indefinite employment of the term is to be found in the tendency of many novelists and dramatists to speak of "his instinct" or "her instinct" to do almost any type of act towards which the characters in their books have a strong impulse or for which they have well-developed habits. Meredith speaks of "His instinct to

( 125) act"[17] in a general sense. He also tells us that "His instinct had caught a new view from these facts."[18] Perhaps a little more definite are "His instincts, the magic slaves of love." [19] Galsworthy makes of this mysterious "his instinct" a sort of guardian genius, perhaps a good deal like Socrates' daimon, which told the canny old philosopher what to do. Galsworthy says, "His instinct told him that what the agent had said was true."[20] Again, "His instinct told him that this taciturnity was the very thing." [21]

All types of writers indulge in useless redundancies about instinct, speaking, for example, of inherited instincts[22] or instincts,[23] hereditary instinct,[24] hereditary instincts,[25] natural instinct,[26] natural instincts,[27] native instinct, [28] native instincts,[29] and the like. Also there is an apparently indiscriminate reference to fundamental instincts, infallible instincts, ineradicable instincts, fixed instincts; to primary, secondary, rudimentary, purposeless, rooted, simple, complex, strong, weak, general, special, specific, subconscious, unreasoning, senseless, irrational, crude, fancy, subtle, sane, ruthless,

( 126) primitive, ancient, legitimate, false, loyal, lower, higher, good, bad, healthy, greater, lesser, atavistic, blind, careless, debased, deep, dim, dogged, conflicting, cooperating, elemental, evanescent, favorite, etc., instincts, almost without end or definite meaning. [30]

One of the most interesting groups of so-called instincts is that which I have listed as "Indefinite and Peculiar." These range all the way in content from mere adjective characterizations of instincts, not otherwise named, such as admirable instinct, all-dominant instincts, ancient instinct, and others listed in the preceding paragraph, to those which are more definitely localizable and characteristic, such as instinct— feelings, instinct expression, feminine instinct, animal instinct, or even "Peter the Great's instinct," [31] "Lucy's pure instinct,"[32] "their (the Italians') natural instinct,"[33] "an instinct multiform, yet corporate, as of a whole people in arms,"[34] instinct of multiform activities,[35] purposeless instinct,[36] worn-out instinct,[37] "An instinct that one would have thought only a woman could have for women," [38] and in this passage, "Peter was himself the instinct of Russia enlightened and made conscious." [39] The Nation speaks of "a rooted instinct in men to admire what is better and more beautiful than themselves." [40] Equally indefinite, so far as the structural pattern

( 127) is concerned, is the following: "An instinct . . . insisting on the strict enforcement of this law (against vivisection)."[41] Kidd does not explain how such an instinct, having as its object a very recent practice, came into existence. Doubtless his conception of instinct would not recognize the necessity of such an explanation. G. Stanley Hall informs us that "Youth has an instinct which is wholesome for viewing moral situations as a whole,"[42] but leaves us to speculate as to what it is. An "instinct which scorns a mean act" is very similar to the preceding, while "a wild instinct of justice"[43] might be considered to be slightly contradictory in meaning. Max Beerbohm tells us of a man who had an instinct to hide himself from the queen he had not died for.[44] Another writer thinks there is an instinct to be satisfied by seeing others comfortable and happy,[45] although most of us would regard this as a highly trained habit complex or acquired attitude. Another writer speaks of "the thoroughly English instinct that what a man cannot earn, or get for himself, he does not deserve."[46] The same author gives us another example equally good: "A profound instinct arms them (the English) against intelligence, which they recognize as the greatest foe to action."[47] The following example— "Instinct for picking them (scraps of thought) out at sight from a mass of rubbish"[48] — must be modern as well as rare. Certainly it is somewhat mixed. The following examples obviously represent habits of thinking and judgment based upon much and varied experience. One of these is from Nietzsche: "The instinct which divines that truth might be attained too soon, before man has become

(128) strong enough, hard enough, artist enough."[49] Mark Twain and C. D. Warner are responsible for the statement that "He had the instinct to know that this was not the extrication she dreamed of, and that she must find by her own experience what her heart really wanted." [50] John Galsworthy says that "an instinct, partly constitutional, partly the result, as in thousands of his class, of the continual handling and watching of affairs, prompting him to judge conduct by results rather than by principle,"[51] is largely acquired, which contradicts a basic element in the definition of instinct. Journalistic enterprise is responsible for "the primal instinct of every female creature to battle for the male she feels is hers."[52] Such examples of the misuse of the term instinct are very numerous in literature and might be multiplied many-fold.[53] It is quite evident that the supposed instincts here mentioned or described do not correspond to definite action patterns uniformly recurring in the race. They cannot be other than habit complexes, either internal or overt, or both in combination.

Among the most chaotic and least scientific of these usages is the custom of employing the term to cover almost any sort of vague or undefined psychical process or method, whether instinctive or merely habitual. Thus Münsterberg, uses the word "instinctively" apparently in the sense of "unconsciously " in the following passage: "The words of foreign origin are instinctively replaced by words of German root."[54] Ellwood expressly makes the two words identical in distinguishing conscious from unconscious cooperation: "We should

( 129) be substantially correct if we defined society as any group of individuals who either unconsciously (instinctively) or consciously (reflectively) coöperate."[55] A similar use of "instinctively" occurs in a work by Keller, with regard to the acts of a state: "For Rome instinctively created for herself those bonds of empire . . . ,"[56] thus attributing instinct to a state, when obviously it is possible only for individuals to have instincts. A similar peculiar use of the term instinct, attributing it to the state, occurs in the following passage from Small: "In general, the despotic state, true to its subjugating instincts, uses every means to make its original form permanent."[57] In another instance, Keller makes "instinctively" equivalent to "with conscientious consistency" in speaking of Spanish policy in America.[58] In the accompanying quotation "instinctively" seems to be equivalent to "with conviction ": "Instinctively, then, there is a demand for a good heredity, bodily and mental."[59] It is difficult to ascertain whether "instinctively" is equivalent to "vaguely," "clearly," "definitely," or "unconsciously" in the following passage: "He (the physician) could not pass by the new science of mind without instinctively feeling that his medical diagnosis and therapy could be furthered in many directions by the experimental method."[60] The same may be said of the following passage also: "Instinctively they seem to have felt their needs, better education, and a stronger economic position within the empire."[61] In the three following examples "to feel instinctively" is used as equivalent to "to recognize subconsciously": ". . . he (Plato) must have had an in

(130) -stinctive feeling that when the State undertook the work of match-making it would be wise for male administrators not only to consult, but also on occasion to obey, the most intelligent representatives of the class possessing hereditary aptitudes for the arts of match-making and breeding "[62] and "In a vast and complex society that which is instinctively felt to be ` actual ' may in fact be very abstract ";[63] also, "Human nature might be said to feel a similiar assurance instinctively, i. e., that rational justification will automatically follow upon the expression of the most purely emotional impulses."[64] In the same vague way Reinsch described the way "we instinctively look beyond the boundaries of the national state" when nations are not self-sufficing.[65] Mangold tells us that "many of the scenes presented in such shows . . . so inflame the imagination of the child that he often instinctively purposes to re-enact similar scenes,"[66] and Sir George Nicholls gives us this passage: "(the king) calling upon the people to follow him as their leader, which, after a little wavering, they instinctively did."[67] Repeatedly A. V. Dicey makes instinct equivalent to feeling, emotion and sentiment, notwithstanding the fact that these may be acquired as well as inherited. For example, he says, "Here we touch upon the apotheosis of instinct. That reaction of the nineteenth against the eighteenth century, the influence whereof streamed in upon John Mill and his contemporaries, and thus deeply affected the generation which came under their teaching, was by no feature characterized more distinctly than by the new importance attached to the emotional as contrasted with the rational side of human nature. This reliance on appeal to

(131) feeling or instinct would have appeared to Bentham," etc.[68] In the following passage from Cooley, judgment is attributed to instinct. He says that there is, for the most part instinctively, "a tendency to judge every new influence . . . by its relation to the whole achieved or in contemplation, and to call it good or ill according to whether it does or does not make for a congruous development."[69] In the following passage instinctive thinking is implied: "In a situation of genuine peril there is an instinctive tendency to think more clearly and dismiss emotion."[70] Instances of the loose use of instinct of this type might be multiplied indefinitely.[71]

Some writers have more of a penchant for this indefinite use of the term instinct or some derivative form of the term than others. A few selections from Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class will serve to give some idea of the liberality of this usage. ". . . there is no question but that all wellbred people (in the Occidental civilized communities) instinctively and unaffectedly cleave to the one (the high gloss of a gentleman's hat) as a phenomenon of great beauty, and eschew the other (a similarly high gloss on a threadbare sleeve) as offensive to every sense to which it can appeal,"[72] also, ". . . we instinctively insist upon at least some measure of wasteful expensiveness in all our consumption, even in the case of goods which are consumed in strict privacy and without the slightest thought of display."[73] The study of the development of a child's interest in clothing reveals the fact that this interest is acquired as a means to display. Once the habit of wearing expensive clothing has been acquired this habit remains effective in private as well as in public,

( 132) especially when a private situation is liable at any moment to be transformed into a public one because of the arrival of callers. We have here a habit rather than an instinct, although the habit may be more or less distantly based on instincts. In the following passage from Veblen [74] — "Any other than expensive material is instinctively odious to us,"habit rather than instinct is clearly indicated; for it can scarcely be maintained that we have an instinctive capacity for recognizing expensive clothing. Even those who have had expert training in such matters are sometimes deceived. Veblen also says, "The opposition of the (leisure) class to changes in the cultural scheme is instinctive . . . it is an instinctive revulsion at any departure from the accepted way of doing and looking at things."[75] Yet among the leisure class —  perhaps members of the same race, therefore, with the same instinctive equipment— in another community the accepted ways of doing things, held just as tenaciously, may be quite different. Since the revulsion against change is a function of the existing adjustment and not a thing apart from it existing in vacuo, as it were, it would seem that a learned or habit adjustment rather than instinct plays the dominating rôle. This sort of confusion of instinct or inherited tendency with acquired attitudes is equally patent in the two following quotations: ". . . with a glance of the eye we estimate instinctively the age of a " passer-by,"[76] and "It is recognized that a person may unwittingly break a regulation of custom or that he may, as in the case of Uzzah, instinctively or without premeditation put forth his hand and receive a deadly shock from a sacred object."[77] Such vagueness in the use of the term instinct and its derivatives precludes any system or order in its employment and makes an intelligible defini-

(133) - tion of instinct on a biological inheritance basis impossible. Although it is not infrequently thus employed by persons of eminence in the social and allied sciences, there is of course no sanction to be found in the experimental sciences of psychology and neurology for such usage.

Another employment of the term instinct recognizes its definite stimulus-response character and treats it as any automatic or habitual type of activity, whether inherited or acquired. This appears to be the second most frequent of the improper uses of instinct which are current among the social scientists and other writers, if indeed it is not the most common. Frequently writers in the social and allied sciences fail to distinguish inherited activity mechanisms from acquired habits in their descriptions of supposed instinctive processes. Examples of this sort of confusion were included in a preceding paragraph. Other examples are easily cited, as for instance the following passage from Warner's American Charities: "Intermittently from the first, the altruistic instinct seems to have been reënforced, or its acts counterfeited, by egoistic instincts, originating in educational, or political, or religious considerations."[78] It would appear from this passage that its author believes that instincts may be acquired through experience. A similar assumption is implicit in the writings of the biologist Conn, who has ventured into the interpretation of social phenomena. While he speaks of instinct as the expression of inherited structure ,[79] a few pages further on is to be found the following passage: "These examples show that such individuals acquire not only the customs and habits but also the methods of thinking, and even the moral instincts of the human beings with whom they have been in contact during their early years."[80] In another passage this writer shows very

( 134) clearly that he does not distinguish between instinct as an inherited activity and acquired habit. He says, "Thus, in the human race, as well as in animals, it is the instinctive side of the nature which frequently controls our actions. After our habits are once formed, we follow them unthinkingly for the rest of our lives." [81] Another member of the biological fraternity speaks of a "careeristina instinct," which he says is "the fruit of the practice of so many generations" that it cannot be uprooted "by the good intentions of a mere statesman."[82] A neurologist thinks it will be possible, "by careful supervision of industry and by giving intelligent assistance to those applying for positions . . . to reduce the number of persons who develop antisocial instincts as the result of occupying positions in which it is impossible for them to experience any sense of achievement or satisfaction in the performance of their daily tasks."[83] Münsterberg, in speaking of the difficulties of professional reporters, complains that the externally imposed requirements of their vocation "train in them instincts which are sapping their finest impulses."[84] According to Münsterberg and Conn, therefore, instincts can be produced as the result of training. Another writer offers a "list of instincts peculiarly developed by play."[85] Professor Hayes falls into the same error in speaking of Utopias: "Herein also lies the main obstacle to the various social Utopias, which require a subordination not only of individual interests, but also of class interests, to common principles to which the instinctive morality developed by personal groups is not only inadequate, but to which it is often antagonistic."[86] A like conception of instinct as embodying acquired habit is displayed in the defense

(135) of a New York City school teacher to the charge that he had been disloyal. His defense runs, " . . . that the said —— considers it not to be his duty to develop in the students under his control instinctive respect for the President of the United States as such, the Governor of the State of New York as such and other Federal, State and Municipal officers as such."[87] Another example of newspaper use of the term instinct with a similar confusion of meaning occurs in the following: "Those German soldiers have still in their blood the military discipline taught to their forefathers by Frederick the Great, and they go to slaughter without wincing." [88]

Another phase of the indefinite usage regarding instinct —  one in which the mechanism is regarded as inherited, although the term is used very loosely— may be illustrated by the theories of Hocking.[89] He speaks of specific and general instincts. The former are apparently relatively definite inherited stimulus-response processes,[90] although even they probably require some education to cause them to function completely in any particular situation.[91] The general instincts, however, are those in which "both the end and the process are to be described in general rather than specific terms."[92] He cites fear as an example. It "expresses itself not alone in flight but in contraction, concealment, rigidity, etc. Yet it also has a definable end; and its unity seems further guaranteed by its genetic position at the head of a group of defensive reactions. I should recognize fear as the (rather inaccurate) name of an instinct of still higher generality."[93] Again, in further elucidation of this viewpoint, he says, "I should . . . be inclined to group

( 136) all the assertive and outgoing instincts under one highly general instinct of activity, or expansion, and all the negative instincts under a highly general instinct of aversion or fear. Pugnacity would be a general instinct, comparatively late in development, uniting in itself the qualities of aversion and expansion."[94] Thus we see that the general instincts are really, in many cases at least, syntheses or combinations of the simpler and more specific ones.[95] But, unfortunately, as the last quotation shows, this synthesis often becomes a synthesis of qualities or values, instead of a synthesis of processes or action patterns. Because of this fact, his general instinct is frequently nothing more than an anthropomorphic valuation of activity processes, or, at best, a habit complex organized under the direction of these anthropomorphic valuations.

Hocking recognizes the difficulty of getting a structural unity, as well as a moral or human value unity, out of these general instincts. Speaking of curiosity, he says, "Yet if we ask what we should regard as the `stimulus' in the case of curiosity, we find it impossible to bring it under the usual reflex scheme."[96] He quotes McDougall to the effect that "there is no one class of objects to which it is especially directed, or in the presence of which it is invariably displayed."[97] He continues: "And if we ask what we should regard as the 'response,' we find a similar difficulty. Curiosity has its manifestations in physical behavior like any other instinct; but the behavior is now of one kind and now of another, — listening, peeking, testing with hands and mouth, pulling apart, smelling, shaking, tiptoeing and creeping up upon, or later, reading, asking questions, `stopping to think,'there is no one-to-one correspondence between the impulse of curiosity and any type of physical action."[98] He rejects

( 137) the easy solution— too easy in most cases— of the difficulty involved here, which holds that such an instinct as curiosity is merely the general name for multiple combinations of "a multitude of fragmentary instincts." He also rejects McDougall's hypothesis of the unchangeable central process,[99] which holds "that we are dealing with a purely psychical process which has no complete physiological expression."[100] His solution, as finally suggested, would not be disputed by the environmentalist. It would give due recognition to the fact that many of the activities included in the responses to curiosity above enumerated are of an acquired nature. Because of the acquired character of many of the responses the "multitude of fragmentary instincts" theory would not hold. McDougall's hypothesis would not be disturbed by the acquired nature of stimuli or responses, but McDougall's unchangeable central segment theory does not square with the facts of neurology.[101]

Hocking's contention is "that we must recognize a kind of process in which the `stimulus' as well as the `response' are primarily central. It is the existing state of consciousness which determines whether, and in what quarter, curiosity shall be aroused, and what constitutes its satisfaction. In physiological terms, curiosity is a function of the condition of the centers."[102] This may be granted; is, in fact, urged by those who deny that there are such general instincts as those claimed by the author. Consciousness does determine the stimulus and the response in all complex acquired activity processes, at least until they have become automatic, or unless they have been organized subconsciously. But the content of consciousness is not instinctive and unless it is instinctive the activity organizations which it determines

( 138) or which eventuate as the corresponding overt manifestations of it cannot be spoken of as instinctive.

His next statement, although intended to corroborate the above explanation and lead over to and clinch the final argument for the unitary and real character of the "general instincts," actually has no necessary connection with what precedes. He says, "It seems probable that there is a group of such (central) tendencies, quite as native as any modes of muscular behavior. If certain central conditions are natively unsatisfactory and certain others natively satisfactory (which can hardly be doubted), it is a question of organization whether there will also be native ways of bringing about a change from the former to the latter of these conditions. Whether we extend the word instinct to them, in view of their deviation from the primary pattern, is a matter of choice in definition. They might well be distinguished as 'central instincts,"' because they depend not upon specific routings of nervous energy, but on the nature of the nervous system itself.[103] The difficulty with this last passage is that it ignores the fact that all activity processes must depend on specific routings or connections in the nervous system. This is as true in conscious or acquired central control as of purely instinctive control of responses. All action has its central neural organization as well as its peripheral or muscular and glandular response aspects. If this central organization is inherited, we may call the activity process instinctive; if it is acquired, we must call the action pattern habitual. Where consciousness directs the response we may be sure that the action pattern is not inherited but is acquired. If the central "conditions," as Hocking calls this neural organization, are inherited, we have instincts like any other instincts, and there is no point to calling them "central instincts." All instincts are central in the sense that they have central "conditions" or organization,

( 139) however simple or however complex they may be. Hence, this avenue out of the difficulty imposed by the discreteness of the stimuli and the responses of the "general" instincts is a blind alley and the sooner it is abandoned and closed at the entrance the better it will be for clear thinking. Hocking is simply attempting to do what so many others, uncritically influenced by the biological viewpoint, have attempted— to make instincts out of habit complexes.

The author proceeds a step further in advance. This line of reasoning justifies him, he seems to think, in legitimizing the now defunct general "instincts" of self-preservation and self-assertion. These are central to the personality, hence to the will. He says, "Will exists when, and in so far as, any instinctive impulse has first to obtain the consent of a ruling policy before pursuing its course. The policy of a self is its acquired interpretation of its own central and necessary interest. And thus, if men are alike in nature, we should be able to perceive at the center of all `central instincts' and `necessary interests,' and indeed within all instincts whatever, a nucleus of common meaning which we would be justified in calling the fundamental instinct of man, the substance of the human will."[104] This he calls the will to power. By this process of generalization of instincts into a general will to power the author has generalized away from all concrete unity of structure or mechanism, which is essential to an instinct, and has only the unity of value or abstract concept left. There can be no form of action which corresponds to the "will to power." It is as multiform and as elusive in structure as the conditions of life themselves. By this process the author has reduced instinct to an abstraction; and instinct can only be a concrete structural reality. He has passes out of the realms of the biological and the inherited into those of consciousness and habit. Some light may be thrown upon the

( 140) ease and relative unconcern with which he has done this if we examine his definition of habit. He says, "A habit might indeed be fairly described as an acquired (and usually comparatively specific) instinct."[105]

This extended analysis of the views regarding instinct sponsored by Hocking has been undertaken because they are typical. If Hocking has met his difficulties more squarely and has attempted to find a way out, while other writers have ignored or been ignorant of such problems, it only makes our illustration all the better. This confusion of habit or value complex with instinct is one of the most common facts of the day in social psychology and educational psychology, as well as in more general fields of writing. Its origins go far back into history, but McDougall probably is more responsible than any other one person for giving it a sort of respectability based on the reverence or awe which everyone has for a logical classification and a fairly definite application of principles to problems. This chapter must content itself primarily with an exposition of the usage. Another chapter will undertake to criticize it in greater detail.

Nowhere has there been more confusion and difference of opinions regarding instinct than in the various attempts at making a list of the genuinely tested instincts, viewed from the standpoint of a strictly scientific classification. These lists vary all the way from one or two major or dominating instincts to a score or more of supposed instincts, and in the treatment of Thorndike [106] there is an indefinite number. Those philosophers or propagandists who have a unilateral explanation of society or who offer some universal panacea usually limit the number of instincts pretty closely. They conceive of practically all impulses as arising from a few native springs of conduct. Sometimes this source is the property or posses-

( 141) - sive or acquisitive "instinct."[107] At other times it is the instinct of constructiveness.[108] In other cases still the instincts of play,[109] of nutrition,[110] of sex,[111] or of the herd.[112] The psychoanalysts are, at the present time, conspicuous among those who narrow the instincts most decidedly. Freud recognizes two fundamental instincts or groups of instincts, the sexual and the ego or self-preservative.[113] As subsidiary to these, however, he mentions hunger, thirst, life-preservative instinct, and the instincts to eat, to watch and to mastery.[114] A. A. Brill says, "Everything in life may be reduced to two fundamental instincts: hunger and love; they are the supreme rulers of the world."[115] Jung makes use of the nutritional, sexual and herd instincts as primary,[116] and speaks incidentally of the egoistic, altruistic, animal and art groups of instincts in addition.[117] He also mentions a religious instinct[118] and an instinct of self-preservation.[119] Jelliffe adopts the "instincts" of reproduction and self-preservation as the basic ones,[120] but accepts from McDougall[121] and Shand [122] the following subsidiary instincts: fear, repulsion, pugnacity, curiosity, self-abasement, self-assertion, tenderness, reproduction, gregariousness, acquisitiveness, hunger,

(142) sympathy, suggestion, play and imitation.[123] A. G. Tansley speaks of "three great fundamental instincts,"[124] but he also accepts McDougall's twelve [125] as simple instincts subsidiary to these. [126] Among the endocrinologists Bandler adopts McDougall's list and explains it.[127] He, like many other writers, makes little use of the instincts; but since it is now the fashion to have instincts in order to appear more systematic or scientific each writer on human behavior borrows for himself a set of instincts from some convenient handbook.

For ten or a dozen years after 1908, William McDougall's Introduction to Social Psychology was the convenient storehouse from which most writers on education, ethics, industry, sociology or social psychology drew their supplies. McDougall is sure of only seven full-fledged instincts: flight, repulsion, curiosity, pugnacity, self-abasement, self-assertion, and the parental instinct. To these he adds as more doubtful cases, reproduction, gregariousness, acquisition, construction and some innate complex tendencies like emulation, suggestion, imitation and play.[128] J. B. Watson has with considerable misgivings, made a tentative list as follows:[129]


Those below the line are submitted as highly doubtful. S. S. Colvin makes up a list, in the approximate order of their development, as follows:[130]

It is interesting and informing to observe the differences in details of content among these various classifications. William James, following Preyer and Schneider in the main [131] has a longer list still: [132]


Thorndike mentions many more unlearned or instinctive tendencies than James. Under the three headings of reflexes, instincts and inborn capacities,— all three categories being of

(145) the same essential quality but differing in degree of generality [135] —  he discusses or mentions literally scores of instinctive actions. They are far too numerous to list here.[136] On the other hand Meyer lists only eight instincts or original forms of behavior, as follows:[137]

  1. Locomotion in a straight line in response to lack of food.
  2. Turning the body axis sidewise in response to an obstacle.
  3. Positive localization in its two forms.
  4. Negative localization.
  5. Grasping.
  6. Adjustment of the sense organs.
  7. Signaling.
  8. Sleeping.

These various forms of behavior, which are sometimes quite complex, he analyzes and describes in detail. Certain so-called instincts he disposes of by resolving them into one or more of the above behavior forms. Thus the "instinct of hunting" he finds to be a habit based essentially upon (r) and (a), with some contributions from (3) and (5).[138] Acquisition and hoarding seem to be habits based on (3) and (5).[139] Manipulation and construction have the same bases.[139] Fear, in the form of running away, is based on (4), negative localization.[139] Attention is founded on (b) and (3),[140] sociality on (7)[140] and idleness on (8).[140]

It may be observed that there is a fundamental, although not an absolute, difference between the last two and the preceding lists of instincts.[141] In the main, the instincts in the ear-

(146) -lier lists have been general or source categories and valuations of action, while those mentioned by Thorndike and Meyer may be considered as specific or structural material out of which habits, the dominant content of everyday action, may be built. The one class represents the synthetic categories, the other the structural materials, in the main. Thorndike in particular is seeking constantly to reduce native activity processes to their lowest or simplest forms and thus to lay bare the structural materials out of which habits in action, the acquired adjustments of man, are to be built. Meyer is attempting to do the same thing, but his list consists of class or group terms rather than of specific unitary processes. Perhaps if he resolved these group terms into their constituent reflexes [some of them, such as (z) and (5) and possibly (8) are already so reduced], he would probably get down closer to the raw materials of habits in much the same way as Thorndike does. The "instincts" of the other lists also doubtless in some degree represent attempts to get down to basic or ultimate inherited action patterns. But quite obviously they are general categories of activity complexes, not composed exclusively of native or inherited processes. They are rather indiscriminate mixtures of inherited reflexes, or chains of reflexes, and habits. The further we go back in the lists towards those who have one or two or three dominant "instincts," often with subsidiary or minor ones, which are frequently themselves mixed habit and instinct complexes, do we find this composite character of the processes obtaining, with little or no discrimination as to the inherited and the acquired elements in the content.

The tendency at the present time is to break up these general or composite complexes and to separate the habit and the inherited or instinctive content. It is only by doing this that

( 147) it will be possible to use the activity categories or elements most effectively and with a minimum of confusion. In this connection both Meyer and Thorndike, without producing final structural categories and results, have rendered good service.


  1. Principles of Western Civilization, 53.
  2. E. Zola, Rome, I, 219.
  3. Ibid., 1, 133.
  4. Ibid., I, 321.
  5. B. Pares, Russia and Reform, 92.
  6. G. F. Nicolai, The Biology of War, 443.
  7. D. Starch, Educational Psychology, 24.
  8. H. J. W. Hetherington and J. H. Muirhead, Social Purpose, 73.
  9. Arthur Symons, Introduction to the Study of Browning, 60.
  10. M. Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee, 304.
  11. 1bid., 244.
  12. The Nation, 109:199.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid., 108: 904.
  15. Ibid., 108: 313.
  16. Ibid., 108:689.
  17. Richard Feverel, 283.
  18. Ibid., 162.
  19. Ibid., 211.
  20. Man of Property, 70.
  21. Ibid., 339.
  22. A. Forel, The Sexual Question, 94, 198; W. Lippmann, Preface to Politics, 81; A. G. Tansley, The New Psychology, 50, etc.
  23. Tansley, op. cit., 24, 260, etc.
  24. C. H. Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order, 30, 160, 312, 349; Forel, op. cit., 502, etc.
  25. Forel, op. cit., 198, 366, etc.
  26. H. Ellis, Affirmations, 232, 237, Man and Woman, 292, Task of Social Hygiene, 207; D. Hume, Human Understanding, 433, 436, 442 (Harvard Classics); Hetherington and Muirhead, Social Purpose, 136; F. Nietzsche, Thoughts Out of Season, 90, 95; II. Ibsen, Rosmersholm, 78; R. Rolland, Jean Christophe, IV, 67, etc.
  27. Dunton, Reconstruction Therapy, 182, 183; Ellis, Affirmations, 138; Tansley, op. cit., 63; W. A. White, Mental Hygiene of Childhood, 97, etc.
  28. Alice S. Green, Irish Nationality, 39; Nation, 109:21, etc.
  29. Ellis, op. cit., 25; J. K. Hart, Community Organization, 195, 200, etc.
  30. For the frequency of occurrence and the number of "instincts" of this type see Chap. IX. In the immediately preceding citations no effort at completeness was made. The purpose was to show the variety of the types of writers employing the usage.
  31. B. Pares, Russia and Reform, 26.
  32. G. Meredith, Richard Feverel, 375.
  33. L. Villari, Italian Life in Town and Country, 62.
  34. Pares, op. cit., 38.
  35. D. Starch, Educational Psychology, 15,
  36. G. F. Nicolai, The Biology of War, 8.
  37. F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 137.
  38. A. Symons, Introduction to the Study of Browning, 21.
  39. Pares, op. cit., 26.
  40. The Nation, 108: 986.
  41. B. Kidd, Social Evolution, 174.
  42. Adolescence, I, 351.
  43. Arthur Reade, Finland .and the Finns, 137.
  44. Zuleika Dobson, 332.
  45. L. S. Hollingworth, The Psychology of Subnormal Children, 164.
  46. Price Collier, England and the English, 171.
  47. Ibid., 165.
  48. Pares, op. cit., 292.
  49. Op. cit., 66.
  50. The Gilded Age, 195.
  51. The Man of Property, 35.
  52. Minneapolis Daily Journal, May 12, 1918.
  53. For additional examples see Chap. IX.
  54. American Patriotism, 88-89.
  55. Sociology in Its Psychological Aspects, 13-14.
  56. Colonization, 54.
  57. General Sociology, 23
  58. Colonization, 257.
  59. C. A. Herter, Biological Aspects of Human Problems, 201.
  60. Münsterberg, Psychology and Industrial Efficiency, 12.
  61. W. S. Davis et al., Roots of the War, 171.
  62. A. W. Benn, History of Ancient Philosophy, 90.
  63. Graham Wallas, The Great Society, 347, note.
  64. Leo Perla, What Is National Honor, 90.
  65. Public International Unions, 8.
  66. Child Problems, 282.
  67. History of the English Poor Law, Vol. I, p. 53.
  68. Low and Public Opinion in England, 446. Compare also pp. 454-455 and 462.
  69. Human Nature and the Social Order, 124.
  70. Perla, op. cit., 127.
  71. For a summary of cases of this type, see Chap. IX.
  72. Loc. cit., 132.
  73. Ibid., 156.
  74. Ibid., 169.
  75. Ibid., 199.
  76. A. Keith, Man, 130.
  77. I. King, The Development of Religion, 282-3.
  78. Loc. cit., 4.
  79. H. W. Conn, Social Heredity and Social Evolution, 282-3.
  80. Ibid., 285.
  81. Ibid., 216-217.
  82. Louis Berman, The Glands Regulating Personality, 8.
  83. Stewart Paton, Human Behavior, 444-5.
  84. American Patriotism, 30.
  85. Walter Wood, Children's Play and Its Place in Education, 196.
  86. E. C. Hayes, Introduction to the Study of Sociology, 77-78.
  87. Reported in the daily press, New York City, Nov., 1917.
  88. The Minneapolis Journal, April 18, 1918.
  89. Human Nature and 1ts Remaking, part II.
  90. Ibid., ch. 9, and p. 115.
  91. Ibid., 151.
  92. Ibid., 53.
  93. Ibid.
  94. Ibid., 54.
  95. Ibid., 62.
  96. Ibid., 51.
  97. Ibid.
  98. Ibid., 62-3.
  99. McDougall, An Introduction to Social Psychology, ch. 2.
  100. Hocking, op. cit., 63.
  101. See C. J. Herrick, An Introduction to Neurology, chs. XIX-XXI.
  102. Hocking, op. cit., 63.
  103. Ibid.
  104. Ibid., 71-2. See also pp. 74, 75, 147.
  105. Ibid 153-4
  106. The Original Nature of Man.
  107. For an interesting and sensible refutation of this instinct by an instinctivist see F. W. Taussig, Inventors and Money-Makers, especially ch. 3.
  108. T. B. Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship.
  109. Karl Groos, The Play of Man, 1.
  110. C. G. Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious, 148-9, 160-1, finds that nutrition is the original instinct.
  111. S. Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, 356 ff.
  112. W. Trotter, Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War.
  113. Op. cit., 356 ff.
  114. See the writer's "Instinct and the Psychoanalysts," Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, Jan.-Mar., 1923.
  115. Fundamental Conceptions of Psychoanalysis, 32.
  116. Op. cit., 146, 148-9, 160; also Analytical Psychology, 231.
  117. Analytical Psychology, 160, 231; Psychology of the Unconscious, 145 .
  118. Psychology of the Unconscious, 71.
  119. Ibid., 145.
  120. S. E. Jelliffe, Technique of Psychoanalysis, 66.
  121. Introduction to Social Psychology.
  122. Foundations of Character.
  123. Loc. cit., 67.
  124. The New Psychology, 177. These are the sex, ego and herd instincts.
  125. Loc. cit., 180.
  126. Loc. cit., 180-3.
  127. S. W. Bandler, The Endocrines, 232-8.
  128. Loc. cit., ch. 3.
  129. Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist, 254-61.
  130. The Learning Process, 35.
  131. According to J. B. Watson, Op. Cit., 254.
  132. Psychology, II, 403 ff.
  133. Although the same word (clasping) governs these two types of clasping, an instinct is a matter of structure fundamentally, and since the fingers and the toes necessarily use different neural structures in the clasping act, there must be at lease two instincts instead of one included under this general heading of "clasping."
  134. Also divisible into more than one type, depending upon the differences in the neural structures used.
  135. The Original Nature of Man, 5 ff.
  136. For a partial list of Thorndike's instincts see ch. 16.
  137. Max F. Meyer, Psychology of the Other One, 210 ff.
  138. Ibid., 210-11.
  139. Ibid., 211.
  140. Ibid., 212.
  141. No attempt has been made to offer an exhaustive review of lists of instincts. Only typical examples have been sought after and reproduced here. The reader will find other lists in the chapter on the classification of instincts, or in the standard text-books which are familiar to everyone.

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