Instinct: A study in social psychology

Chapter 15: Some False Instincts Exposed — Play, Fighting, Construction, Etc.

Luther Lee Bernard

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In the last two chapters those reputed instincts which have the largest organic content have been analyzed with a view to discovering the extent to which they contain instinctive elements and the extent to which they are acquired. These activity and value complexes were selected because the method of analysis which would give a successful refutation of their claims to instinctive character would obviously be applicable to other activity complexes with admittedly less instinctive content and thus obviate a good deal of repetitious analysis and reasoning. We may now consider in less detail some of these other "instincts." Three of these activity complexes or series which may well be grouped together are pugnacity, play and construction. Each of these complexes is widely, although not equally widely, accepted as an instinct and all three have been used extensively as illustrations of instincts by writers in social psychology.[1] We may consider these three supposed instincts from a somewhat different angle from that from which the preceding examples were viewed. In Chapter XII the matter of the mixture of inherited and acquired traits in the same activity complex was under consideration. In Chapter XIII we considered false instincts from the standpoint of their violation of the unity of inheritance. In chapter XIV the problem of the dominance of the activity was to the fore and we were forced to conclude that the social situation

(342) rather than the inherited elements determined the name and character of the organization and the end of the activity series. In the present and the following chapters we shall be mainly concerned with the interchangeableness of activities which enter into the supposed instincts. The three complexes above mentioned have been selected to afford illustration of this fact of interchangeability.

The three conditions mentioned in the preceding chapters as being incompatible with a true instinct can easily be shown to exist in connection with fighting, play and construction. Each of these terms, as used by the writers who classify them as instincts, is an abstraction. There are as many ways of fighting as there are instruments of combat and objects to be fought. There are even more ways, for the resulting number of methods would more nearly approximate the product of a multiplication than of an addition of these two terms. The same is true of play and of construction. There is no one general, all-inclusive act which we can call play. But there are separate play acts which we may call tennis, chess or hide-and-seek. Even these acts are in themselves vastly complex and involve much variation in their execution under varying conditions. Consider, for example, the complexity of an instinct to play tennis or to play chess. It is said that the number of possible moves in the game of chess is practically infinite. Each of these moves must therefore involve a different hand and eye coördination, to say nothing of numerous other accessory coördinations connected with the perception of how one's opponent is moving or has moved, the present state of the game and the like. When in the history of the human race did man acquire this general instinct of chess playing with all its multifold structural coordinations? Another complicating factor in this connection also is that these coördinations are made, not automatically as befits a true instinct, but on the basis of careful reasoning

( 343) or upon the basis of habit which is obviously the result of previous rational processes. Very few chess players have the "instinct" complete, that is, know how to make all the possible moves. Also every one seems to learn how to make the moves which he does make, although of course, it might be contended that this fact merely indicates delayed inheritance rather than the dominance of the environmental pressures. If such is the correct explanation, we must conclude that this "instinct" manifests a remarkable variability as to the degree of delay in different individuals and in a large portion of mankind it does not appear at all. Perhaps the same combination of time of appearance and of number of moves never occurs twice in the human race. Such a peculiar instinct would indeed be phenomenal. We must therefore conclude that rational elements are mixed in with the instinctive. Also it seems clear that the development of any form of this activity complex known as chess playing is dominated by external or environmental pressures, for we have no records of people learning to play the game without guidance from others or from books. Possibly, however, it might be contended Ç that only the inventor of the game had the true "instinct of chess playing." But, on the other hand, we know that the game is the result of an evolution rather than the product v of the mind or inheritance of a single inventor. In many of us it is wanting altogether.

Many instinctivists will be impatient with us for what they would term so flippant an analysis as the one given above. They may contend that they have not spoken of an instinct of chess playing, but of an instinct to play. In that case we shall be compelled to repeat our former statement that play represents no concrete describable and definable unitary or structural fact, unless it connotes a concrete method of playing. Play is a word, an abstraction, even more of an abstraction than chess playing itself. It is a synthetic concept, a

( 344) word image, symbolizing all or more than one of the concrete ways of playing. The word play, when signifying an instinct, either represents structurally all the ways of playing or it represents less than all. If it represents less than all, it should be described in terms of those activities and structures which it does represent and not in terms of the general word play.

It is of course likely that those who speak of play or fighting or construction (workmanship) as instincts would want to limit the activity which they think of as inborn or inherited to some concrete act or set of movements which are more or less common to all the acts which are described under the general abstractions play, fighting or construction. In this way the instinctivist might appear to justify his objection to the inclusion of chess playing as a part of the instinct of play. He would substitute the "core" of the activity complex for the complex itself and name the whole complex after the "core." We have already shown that this is not justifiable unless, possibly, it can be shown that there is a "core" and that this "core" dominates the whole of the complex in its formation or organization and in its execution. That there is no such specific domination, even in the activity complexes which have a high organic inheritance content, has already been shown. If there were such domination, however, it is not conceivable that we should have such essentially different play activities as chess and singing, or as ninepins and versemaking, resulting from this dominating "core." Furthermore, it is not conceivable that any specific "core" common to such diverse activities or complexes can be found. In the highly socialized activity complexes here under consideration still less could there be such dominance. Where environment so greatly differentiates the resulting expressions of the mythical "core" impulse is it not better to speak of environment as the dominating factor?

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There are, however, certain common activity elements or non-specific "cores" in these various activity complexes which we generalize under the terms play, fighting and construction. What are these common elements? If we take such diverse types of play as tennis, chess, hide-and-seek, puzzle-working and tuba-playing; of fighting, as fist-fighting, gun-fighting, bomb-throwing; of construction, as designing an evening gown, building a battleship or making dry-goods boxes, we may be inclined to think there is not much in common in each class of activities, much less in the whole series of the three activity or value complexes taken together. The common "core" reduces to very small proportions. If we have difficulty in finding it, the trouble is that we have been accustomed to look for things too large and too completely organized in such connections. This attitude of expectancy is a product of our over-emphasis of the pseudo-instinctive or acquired content in these reputed instincts.

The content common to all of these classes of acts seems to consist of some simple eye-movements and possibly wrist manipulations and other body flexions generally called random movements. Even these are developed into definitely, coördinated movements through the learning processes of sensory and motor localization. The child has no definite eye or hand correlations by means of which he can control his environment until he learns them. Furthermore, the hinds of correlations which he develops depend wholly upon the environmental pressures, or needs, which operate as the stimuli in this localization-adjustment process. This would seem to constitute ample proof that the complex specific correlations are not instances of delayed inheritance; also that the common elements or "cores" in these activity complexes are not dominant, but merely tributary to the outside demands and organization.

The human organism is inherently, if not specifically and

(346) definitely, active. The constant metabolism going on in the cells causes the infant to be almost constantly in action through all parts of its external organs during its waking hours. Its extremities, especially its arms and legs and hands and feet, are moving almost ceaselessly and it also exercises its other organs. Only later in life does the activity of the human organism slow down, this slowing-up process becoming more and more marked as old age and death approach. This spontaneous activity takes place under two different types or forms of tendencies; differentiated or specialized and undifferentiated or general or random movements. In most cases the normal differentiated or specialized movements of the child at birth may be regarded as instincts or reflexes, for the number of habits acquired before birth is probably not very great and such organic habits as are formed before birth certainly are not usually complex. Some of these specialized or inherited activities manifest at birth are quite complex. This is especially true of the vegetative functionings, such as breathing, circulation, digestion, assimilation and excretion. Nursing and swallowing are only less complex and less definitely formed at birth. Others, such as crying, are relatively simple. Most are very simple indeed. These are the very numerous simple reflexes in response to tactual and temperature sensations, to light and sound, such as winking, opening the eyes upon hearing a sound and the like.

The undifferentiated or random movements may also be described as instinctive or inherited. They are responses for the most part to internal stimuli or to internal stimuli acting in concert with external stimuli. They take place on the basis of definite structural equipment, but they lack definite or meaningful external correlations. Also they probably lack definite central neural control organizations, these being formed only when these random movements are organized into habits under the pressure of the environment. That is

( 347) why we say they are organic responses to internal or external stimuli and call them random movements. They have often been accounted for as the result of surplus energy, and this explanation is true in the sense that they are made possible by the internal explosion of energy which is not yet applied to meaningful or socially useful external correlations or adjustment adaptations. But the energy is not surplus in the sense that it is not useful or cannot be used. Without this energy, thus expended, the child could not develop its future adjustments on a learned basis; it could not survive. It is the chief basis of all the specialized neuro-muscular adjustment technique which the child acquires in after life. It is one of the two forms of raw materials of action out of which he organizes his habits. The other supply of raw materials for action consists of the instincts and reflexes, as well as the habits previously formed. In the child's earliest activities, this random expenditure of energy is guided only by the inherited structures of the infant body, such as its joints, muscular, organic and other tissue correlations. Even these structures can be modified to some extent, for bones can be reshaped and tissues be developed or atrophied within certain limits. The guidance of the expenditure of this energy, other than that consequent upon the fact of confinement to the limitations of the inherent structures mentioned above, comes from the outside, and it operates both through direct impact of the external physical and chemical environments and indirectly through the neural and other physiological structures of the organism as influenced by external conditions.

Society is made up of psycho-social environmental pressures which function as stimuli to take hold of and guide this spontaneous tendency of muscle and neuron to be active. The motive force comes from within and bears a large conditioning relationship to food and consequent metabolism, and to

( 347) the chemical composition of neurons, secretions, etc., as may be apprehended from the most casual observation. The molding process, however, comes primarily from without. Natural environment itself offered to primitive man some guidance of the sort that this external organization affords. The modern psycho-social environment, with its institutions and its cultures, acting alone or in reaction upon the natural environment, offers infinitely more guidance. Indeed the civilized man is the product primarily of his civilized or cultural environmental pressures, which organize his random movements into correlated or meaningful and socially directed actions. Where these civilized environmental pressures drop out man reverts to savagery and to animalism, that is, he comes again primarily under the dominance of his instincts instead of under the direction of his artificial or cultural and socialized environment. It may even be shown that man could not survive to maturity if all of these artificial or cultural formative controls dropped out, so greatly has even his heredity been modified through the selection of traits which fit him for survival in an artificial or socialized environment, by adjusting his organic structure and organization to cultural instead of to instinctive or purely natural controls. This hypothesis was advanced in the preceding chapter and need not be repeated here in detail.

This process, by means of which the environmental pressures select and guide certain random movements into socially useful or survival correlations, we may call localization. In this way practically all our external technic adjustments are made. These resulting correlations are not inborn, are not instinctive. They would not exist except for the previous occurrence v artificial, that is, externally organized, institutional. or non-institutional social pressures which have selected and fixed them to make survival through conformity and efficiency possible. The fact that the tendency to random move-

(349) -ment is, broadly speaking, inherited (though necessarily stimulated through metabolism) does not signify that the activity structures built upon this instinctive basis are also inherited. The three activity complexes above referred to— play, fighting and construction— grow up within and from out of this molding process. In fact they constitute the molding process itself, though after they are once developed as practice in correlation they become means to other ends or they become merely ends in themselves (aesthetic activities) and are repeated over and over again merely for the subjective satisfactions they afford. In inception, the play, fighting and construction processes are original or end-object creations. It is only after these acts have been created or constructed in the functioning of the adjustment process, that they become merely means to newer acts of play, construction or fighting, or other ends, or that they are repeated for exercise or are perverted into mere hedonic repetitious wastes of energy and wealth.

Play has been spoken of as practice for life adjustments and such indeed is its primary function, teleologically considered. We ordinarily think of play as less serious activity than most forms of endeavor, which are carried on for personal or social benefit. Play is not, however, directly economic or political or anything else useful in intrinsic or conscious purpose. But it is all of these in its ultimate results. Immediately and organically it is merely the process by means of which a great mass of adjustments or technique, which will be ultimately or immediately useful in the wider adjustments of life, are acquired. Through it the random movements cease to be random and become purposive, but their purposiveness is not usually directly and consciously such. However, net all practice correlation in play is general. In fact, most of it is more or less specific, being carried on as concrete imitative adjustment. Thus the child plays at something rather than just

( 350) merely plays. Its play consists in part of attempts to imitate activities which it has seen performed, or has heard described, that is, it plays at being a merchant, policeman, school teacher, bandit, etc. It copies a model which serves as the stimulus for its more refined and extended localizations. Play also makes use of original experience-getting activities or adjustments. The child satisfies his curiosity by going beyond the known into the unknown, thus trying out new adjustments or correlations (localizations) and adding them to the total fund of adjustments which it already possesses.

The golden age of play is childhood. It is at this period that most adjustment correlations have to be made. Each movement offers a new experience, and harmonious syntheses of experiences are pleasant. As the child becomes older more of the correlations which it is capable of making— both from the standpoint of its bodily structural limitations and from the standpoint of social structural limitations— are completed and new experiences are not so easily had. Play becomes less nearly constant. Especially is there less spontaneous play in the later years because of the increasing limitations to new experiences. But even more effective than the increasing limitation of experience possibilities with increasing age in the narrowing of play activities is the decreasing supply of random or unorganized energy and movement. As the child grows into the adult his habits become organized, with the result that there is less of free or random activity to be organized anew or to remain in the partially or wholly unorganized condition which makes it available for play. With the organization of the overt expressions of activity goes also the organization of the neural correlates, according to the principles developed in a preceding chapter. Thus increasing, maturity makes less easy even mental play or the tentative organization of ideas, a facility which normally outlasts the capacity for physical play. Young children prefer spontaneous play to

( 351) organized games, but the older individuals play standard games more and more as age increases and usually they settle down in extreme age to one or two favorites, becoming the slaves of monotonous repetition. This is what we should expect, not only because of the fact of the working up of adjustments which may be imitated from the social environment, but also because of the fact that there is less surplus energy available in old age.

What has been described as happening in games, involving external structural expression, occurs also, therefore, in connection with the internal structures, especially the neural correlations. More and more of the incompleted synapses are made complete through the acquisition of new adjustments. In old age practically all of the neural connections that can be made are completed,[2] and new adjustments, ideational or physical, become exceedingly difficult or impossible. The mind of the child teems with fancies and imaginations; it scarcely knows the difference between the real and the pretended; it falsifies for the mere love of mental exercise. The child asks questions endlessly, its mind playing upon every possible phenomenon coming within the range of its senses or ideational processes. Adults become "sober" in their thinking and the old ordinarily fear new ideas and experiences, because they make greater demands upon them for readjustment than their energies and their moral and ideal adjustment systems will bear. Truth becomes fixed for them along rigid lines, partly because scientific investigation has tended somewhat to fix it there and partly because their habits of thinking have become relatively immutable through the acquisition of prejudices and effective as well as affective alignments. Play is the raw material of life adjustments and it diminishes when sufficient

( 352) of the raw material has been made into finished products to enable the living process to be carried on effectively. Where games once learned, that is, where the practice once built up out of the random movements or from the neurons with uncompleted synapses, are carried on as ends in themselves, we have an abnormal condition, unless indeed such exercise is a part of the standardized life adjustment processes. Play which is no longer preparation and which consumes energy that should go into the making of necessary social adjustments and which does not create health, or skill correlations that ultimately so serve, is wasteful.

What has been said of play is also very largely true of fighting. However, fighting has two aspects; it is a form of play and it is also a purposive struggle for advantage or defense. Play also frequently casts itself in the form of struggle for advantage or defense in which it is imitative, for the function of normal play is practice. Competitive play and fighting among children (and often among adults) can be distinguished only at the extremes. The two utilize much the same movements and other coordinations, and, to a very large extent, they develop the same localization processes. When competitive play develops violence in connection with anger and aims at the assertion of superiority for external gains of some sort or other, it is ordinarily termed fighting, but the distinction cannot be made with complete clearness. War has always been a sport to the military and noble or leisure classes,[3] and it is not without its recreational features even to those who bear the brunt of it. Where it becomes "earnest" and ceases to be play it still employs the manual and mental and bodily coördi-

( 353) -nations and correlations developed in play. The chief distinction between the two, almost the only one perhaps, must be made in terms of social significance and valuations. It will be recognized of course that play develops a wider range of coordinations and correlations than are utilized in fighting, for play is a preparation for all life; not merely for that part which is based on struggle.

On the other hand, of course, fighting may lose its normal spontaneity which so closely correlates, or even identifies, it with play. Like play, it may become work. This transformation may come about in either of two ways. If spontaneous fighting is prolonged, because of the necessity for defense, beyond the point where the organic exercise is pleasureable, and the body and mind become fatigued or exhausted, it may become exceedingly irksome. Fighting is truly recreative only if it results successfully or if it is desisted from before a radical degree of fatigue sets in. And as much can be said regarding play. In a second sense, fighting may be transformed into work, when it is carried on as a profession or occupation. The exercise of any professional or occupational technique may be recreative at first or until weariness sets in, especially if a surplus of energy is available and if its exercise involves a change, and even more particularly if the technique involves a form of social contact, as is the case in fighting. The healthy body and mind ordinarily go to work, after a sufficient period of rest and after refreshment, willingly or eagerly. But ultimately monotony and fatigue set in and the process which was play becomes a task.

Construction or workmanship is, if possible, even more closely related to play than is fighting. It is as general as play, in that it utilizes all of the coordinations which the individual ever develops. All play is, or may be, construction [4] in some

(354) form or other, but not all construction is play. Play is practice and is properly creative, consisting of the putting of things together in a new way, thus giving a new experience subjectively and a new coördination between the individual and his environment objectively. Construction does that also, at its best, but it may be merely repetitive as well as creative. Much construction is merely copy instead of creation, and it is often carried to the point of monotony and fatigue, to the extent that it becomes repulsive rather than stimulating. The work of the world cannot always be a game. Some social theorists and educators have thought that they could make all construction or workmanship a matter of creative play, but they misconceive the nature of society. The new must always be much smaller in volume and in contemporary significance than is the old and the monotonous and the repetitious. Yet, many more of the tasks of life could be given the aspect of creative play than now possess it. It is in this sense of creative play that many writers use the term construction.[5] When they so use it there is no valid reason for distinguishing it from play. When, on the other hand, it passes out of the category of play into application it uses the same elements of acquired technique or learned adjustments as those developed in play.

We are now ready to estimate the common activity elements in these three adjustment complexes so frequently called instincts. We find them peculiarly alike in the overt activity and mental technic processes which they employ. In fact, we observe that in large sections they are identical in the matter of technique, while at other points the fighting and construction activities make use of the technic processes developed in play. The technic processes of all three, however, are devel-

( 355) -oped originally out of the random movements and the basic reflexes and instincts and previously functioning habits of the child under the molding influences of environmental pressures. Sometimes these environmental pressures act as units which become models for the imitation of the playing animal. At other times the pressures are imposed more or less disconnectedly or in multiple forms, in which instances we speak of the player as gaining experiences at random or under less controlled conditions. That is, he imitates less completely and more selectively and with more originality. But in either case his play is being built out of the random and other elemental tendencies, motor and neural, physiological and anatomical, under the organizing direction of a social environment. This situation may be diagrammed as follows:

the sychosocal environment

For those who maintain, on one ground or another, that these activity complexes are instincts, some difficult questions must arise. The unsatisfactoriness of explaining the fact of the external environmental organization of the acts from the standpoint of instinctive dominance has already been pointed out in earlier chapters. The problem of harmonizing the fact that most of their constituent activity elements are learned With the supposed fact of the instinctive character of the activity complex as a whole cannot be solved, unless the difficulty just stated in this paragraph can be satisfactorily removed in favor of the instinctivists. But even if it should be

(356) claimed that these complexes are instincts because they have a common instinctive basis or "core," it still remains to explain by virtue of what facts they may be regarded as separate instincts, since they all have the same instinctive basis or "core" in the random and the definite inherited and acquired tendencies. To be sure there are some definite inherited activity organizations which are utilized in these activity complexes (at least in many of their forms, although not in all), such as locomotion, biting, grasping, crying, but these are as common to one of the three divisions as to the other and cannot be said to give a characterizing quality to either division of activity or so-called instinct. Indeed, we should speak of these original units of activity as the true instincts and not of the organizations of activities which make use of them as instincts by virtue of their presence as constituent elements. Thus, fighting, playing, construction, each under various conditions, makes use of the instincts of biting, grasping, locomotion, crying, and the like, as well as of the random tendencies and acquired habits, which they organize into definite adjustment correlations.

This fact brings us back to a fundamental truth which has already been stated and which should now be clear from the abundance of illustrations. This is the fact that all the great synthetic socially organized activity and value complexes are made up of a mass of unit activities, some of which are inherited, but the great mass of which are acquired. Furthermore these activities, of either the general random class or of the type of specific adaptations, are interchangeable. The interchangeability of these units is the fact to be emphasized here. They do not belong to any particular activity complex or reputed "distinct." They are utilised by any of these activity complexes according to the need or the problem in adaptation. This fact becomes apparent upon the analysis of any other supposed "instinct" of the same general type as those consid-

( 357) -ered here. We have had a tendency to think of activities as wholes, that is, as units, when often they were merely abstractions divisible into unit activities, which in turn must be subdivided and re-subdivided before it is possible to come to the ultimate indivisible organic structural units. When these are reached we find the true reflexes, some of which are organized into inherited series or instincts. These we find distributed again and again throughout all the larger complexes ordinarily termed instincts, either as original unit organizations or as subdivided elements entering into these acquired combinations. [5]

It is necessary to refer only casually to some of the other more common "instincts" in order to indicate their non-inherited character. Sociologists still speak of the gregarious or herd instinct, including therein groups of associative habits or tendencies together with certain instinctive responses. There are the tropic responses to temperature and tactual sensations, to those of odor and sight and sound. These tropisms undoubtedly play a part in the gregariousness complex. But it could not be seriously maintained that these tropic responses explain or dominate the most complex organizations of man, such as the upbuilding of our cities.[6] If they have the

( 358) power to bring people together in cities how can people stay apart in deserts? Why would they not come together there and perish? Why do they build individual houses for themselves in cities and protest so strongly against overcrowding, which only the silk-stockinged reformer imagines to be sought after by the poor? Is not rather the secret of large-scale associations (such as are typified in cities) to be found in the fact that social and economic and political environmental pressures encourage it in some places and discourage it in others? A melodrama or burlesque performance, grand opera or a political speech, will bring multitudes together, but who will say they come for the sake of the proximity to each other rather than for what they expect to secure from the performance in the way of the individual satisfaction of their emotions or mental interests? There is really less spontaneous association on the basis of instinct in a city than in the open country. In the city all sorts of precautions are vigorously employed to avoid the close instinctive contacts and to preserve a high degree of anonymity. The uncommunicativeness of the fellow traveler in crowded thoroughfares is puzzling to the ruralite, but it is puzzling to him because he has not yet experienced the destructively fatiguing effect of over-stimulation of the constituent gregariousness tropisms caused by their constant utilization and repetition in an unregulated crowd life of the city. Manifestly the crowding in the city is the product of external factors and that explanation which attributes it to inborn or instinctive factors must appear superficial indeed to those who are familiar with the nervous exhaustion and the consequent

(359) disgust with any sort of social contacts which over-gregariousness tends to produce.[7]

The so-called altruistic instinct has as little evidence to support its existence as has the supposed instinctive character of gregariousness. That there are strong altruistic attitudes in man no one could deny. Yet we find no definite correlation between this shifting complex of attitudes and the types of acts which call it forth. A beggar may at one time receive relief from our purse and elicit our tears. At another time we become angry at the sight of him and call the police. On the basis of an instinctive explanation of altruism it would be difficult to account for the fact that among one people parents are eaten and among another carefully guarded through old age to death and buried with the tenderest ceremonies after death; or the fact that your own dog is always welcome and a strange dog is chased away. Manifestly, altruistic activities and attitudes are mainly selected by a social or a personal evaluation on the basis of association or experience. If altruism were instinctive, the altruistic act would be performed toward the tramp quite regardless of whether he were socially desirable, whether he was your friend or a stranger. Reason would not have to come in to decide the merits of a case if an instinct were in control.

We also face the difficulty of defining the altruistic act. If it were an instinct it must assuredly be a unit act, characterized by its own structure and functions. But we find no such act, however long or far we search for it in the dictionary of altruism. On the contrary, any act may be altruistic under some circumstances. Even taking the lives of others may be altruistic, at least to some one, as in war or where a death-to-death personal struggle is going on. There is likewise no act

( 360) which may not also constitute revenge under certain circumstances and there is no act which constitutes revenge under all conditions. Yet revenge is commonly classified as one of the instincts. More distressing still, the same act, performed by the same person, in the same instant may be both altruistic and revengeful with reference to different persons. What, then, constitutes the altruistic or revengeful nature of this act? Obviously it is not its external or internal structural constitution, for that is identical with reference to both meanings or definitions. It is, then, necessarily the social valuation which gives it character and this varies according to the object or effect of the act. Since any act whatever may play this dual rôle we cannot properly regard either altruism or revenge as an instinct. Both are rather qualities, perceived by society or the individual in its or his estimation of the values of the activity. The assumption of an instinct character for the act in this connection could further be controverted by means of analyses of the constituent elements of the act according to the methods utilized in this and earlier chapters; but this may be left to the reader himself, should he be interested.

The "instinct of self-preservation" is one of the most interesting of all the so-called instincts. It embraces every act that man may undertake which has a survival value. We have already shown that these same acts may be altruistic or revengeful, and we might as easily prove that they are criminal or virtuous, as circumstances warrant. If the analysis in the preceding paragraph be assented to, the "instinct of self-preservation" must perish by the same token as that by which the so-called instincts of altruism and revenge perished. Yet we do not deny the existence of acts of self-preservation when they are directed toward certain survival ends which can be clearly defined. We further maintain that activities under the control of reason, and especially learned activities under

( 361) rational control, are on the whole much more effective for self-preservation than are inborn activities in this modern complex world of explosives, street-cars and stock salesmen. Yet there are also instinctive acts and attitudes of a much simpler character which have self-preservative value. The tendency of the organism to be convulsed and to jump upon receiving a sudden shock or sound is one of these. With a certain amount of intelligent education this unreasoning reaction built up for employment in a relatively simple world of natural dangers can be made into an effective leap from in front of an automobile or otherwise made to preserve life under complex modern conditions. By analogy it may be said that some of the tropismatic attitudes, reflexes and simple instincts which function in gregariousness may function also in altruism. But the affective attitude which is so characteristic of conscious altruism is mainly or wholly acquired from association and is always attached to concrete objects and is in no way general, except as it may be abstracted to cover a class of concrete objects, in which case it is obviously derived instead of instinctive.

The fact seems to be, again, that the constituent acts utilized in self-preservative activity processes, whether instinctive or acquired, are not peculiar to or exclusively characteristic of these self-preservative processes. They belong to, or are utilized by, a multitude of other processes also. In fact, the activities which may be called self-preservative are so numerous and so all-embracing, in so far as type and organization of structure are concerned, that they may include within their scope, most other complex functional processes utilized in human activity. Consequently, the absurdity of speaking of an activity value, which i5 nut even a 61ilgle activity type in the aggregate and which has no structural individuality of its own, as an instinct must be immediately manifest. The activity content of self-preservation is even more interchange-

( 363) able than that of altruism or revenge. The only individuality which it may be said to possess is moral; that is, it resides in the value of any activity process, whatever its structural organization, which may be calculated to promote the interests and integrity of the individual or group concerned.

The "instinct to freedom,"[8] is very similar to the "instinct of self-preservation," and may be disposed of by means of a similar analysis. The same is true of a large number of "instincts " belonging to the self-assertive and kindred groups.[9] The so-called acquisitive instinct, so often made use of by economic writers, has no firmer ground to stand on. In addition to what has been said above, we may point out in this connection the fact that each one tends to manipulate that which interests him. This is a part or function of the localizing processes. At first the baby focuses its localizations toward its mouth, because that organ is most frequently used in making adjustments to its major infantile interest, food. Later the hands become the chief organs of localization under the dominance of experience-getting through the tactile sense. Later still the two higher exteroceptive senses, sight and hearing,[10] dominate the localization processes, because localization, or coördinating adjustments, develop beyond the exclusive range of the tactile sense organs. But there remains a strong tendency to correlate these sight and hearing localizations with those of the hands, or rather to reinforce them with touch. The person who deals primarily in abstractions, such as the scholar, may lose this tendency wholly or with respect to all things except rare bindings or ancient editions. But those of us who live a more concrete and material existence never lose it with respect to the great majority of the objects which surround us, and those of us who are most material have it

( 363) strongly developed. We like to handle things. We like to be able to handle them again, and therefore we store them. Most of us are collectors of something, if it be only postage stamps or family histories. We of course collect what we are most interested in, that is to say, what our cumulative relationship to the great world around us seems to have emphasized as most valuable to us. Thus those with financial or economic traditions or experience, as well as those who have learned the value of money from bitter experience, collect money or credit, while others collect horses or jewels or beer steins and curiously carved pipes. It is very significant, in the light of our argument, that ordinarily those who are "closest fisted" are the persons who in their early days had a hard struggle to "get on" in the world.

The collecting or acquisitive "instinct" therefore is really only a habit complex, resulting from localization of experiences, the object of our collecting interests being determined by our dominant experiences in life. If we desired to argue against the existence of such an "instinct" on other grounds we might easily show that it is not an original unit but is a composite act and that it is dominated by the social situation. The chief instinctive content is the act of grasping, but we do not grasp everything indiscriminately. Nor do we literally grasp everything which we collect. We grasp for collecting purposes only those things which our experiences— our social environmental pressures— have taught us to value. If a child collects more different things than an adult, is it not because of the virgin and undisciplined and non-regimented character of his responses which are being organized under the direction of his play localizations? He has not yet standardized and delimited his experiences in conformity to the irrevocable and insistent demands of his narrowed adult environment. He seeks all experiences because he has not yet had all experience, and therefore all things look valuable to him— at least for a

( 364) while. But the collections— material and mnemonic— even of childhood are thrown aside in after life, because the standards of value— once so real— under which they were made have been dispossessed by a sterner and more insistent set of environmental needs.

The so-called or false instincts analyzed in this and the preceding chapters obviously constitute only a small number of those to which these types of analysis might properly be applied. But since our purpose is not to analyze all of the false instincts for the purpose of showing up the unscientific character of their claims to be included in a list of true instincts, but rather to select typical examples of erroneous usage as an illustration of our arguments, we need not proceed further in this particular direction. The reader or the student of instincts may now undertake to follow out a more complete analysis of doubtful instincts on the basis of the methods here illustrated, if he so desires. Meanwhile we may turn to an analysis of the instinctive elements in various types of activity and value complexes, with a view to illustrating two facts more clearly than has been possible hitherto. The first object is to show how small a part of the activity content of these activity complexes is really instinctive. The other object is to illustrate the interchangeability of the instinctive activity contents of these complexes.


  1. See, for illustration, summary of list of instincts in Chap. IX.
  2. This does not mean that all the free neural Processes are used lip, It has been estimated that hundreds of millions of them never are used. But, for one reason or another, they remain dormant and uncompleted. They fail to materialize or function in the adjustment process.
  3. See the war poems of Alan Seeger for an expression of the game or play spirit in battle. Many poems and books in the nature of panegyrics of war as the great game in which the human spirit comes into its own were produced, either as forms of self-expression or as propaganda, while the recent great war was in progress.
  4. Of course some play is destructive; but even destructive play may serve as training for construction.
  5. For illustrations of the interchangeability of activity elements within these three complexes here compared see the following chapter, especially the table of comparisons at the end of the chapter. Frequently the same constituent action pattern appears in all three of the complexes.
  6. McDougall, however, is of the opinion that the growth of cities is due to the gregarious instinct (Introduction to Social Psychology, 8th ed., ch. 12). It should be noted, however, that cities followed primarily upon the economic requirements of the industrial revolution and that those who have sufficient wealth to enable them to do so escape from the crowded life of the cities by removing their residences to the country, while their businesses remain in the city. But even if people were attracted to the city more by the wish for the satisfaction of the gregarious impulses and desires than by the motive of economic gain, this fact would not prove that gregariousness in any of its sophisticated and complex forms, such as we know it, is instinctive. The same compelling or driving satisfactions arise from habit organizations as from instinct organizations. The fact of the increasing correlation of the functioning neural processes is alike true in either case, provided the activity is "successful, " that is, if it is not interrupted by some external factor or by some internal conflict. See M. F. Meyer, "The Nervous Correlate of Pleasantness and Unpleasantness," Psy. Rev., 15:366; also L. L. Bernard, The Transition to an Objective Standard of Social Control, ch. 1. For an explanation of the growth of cities not based on the "instinct" of gregariousness see E. A. Ross, Social Control, 19.
  7. W. T. Councilman (Disease and Its Causes, 240) has some pertinent remarks applicable to this subject.
  8. H. W. Nevinson, The Growth of Freedom, 71.
  9. See Chap. IX.
  10. Bernard, op. cit., ch. 2.

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